Becoming STEM Teachers: Examining Changes in Science Teachers’ Conceptual Understanding about Earthquake Engineering
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This multi-paper dissertation reports results from three related research studies centered on the development and use of an authentic measure, concept mapping, to assess changes in workshop teachers’ conceptual understanding of earthquake engineering. My review of the literature indicated few research studies examining how traditionally trained science teachers develop STEM-related understandings about the complex relationships between concepts associated with STEM-related contexts, such as those existing within the context of earthquake engineering. STEM researchers currently know little about how teachers develop deep conceptual understanding of complex and interdisciplinary content knowledge. To address the gap I found in the literature, I designed three studies to: (1) conduct a modified Delphi study to create a list of key concepts as a knowledge base in earthquake engineering, (2) examine changes in science teachers’ conceptual understanding of earthquake engineering as a result of their participation to an engineering-oriented teacher professional development (EOTPD), and (3) investigate changes in the quality of science teachers’ argumentation discourse after their participation in a week-long EOTPD. Researchers suggest identification of key concepts in critical engineering content areas for high school science teachers to increase their engineering content knowledge. In my first study, I identified and verified key concepts in earthquake engineering necessary for high school learners to acquire a basic understanding of earthquake engineering. Results included a key concepts list and an interdisciplinary strand map with 35 earthquake engineering key concepts in five domains. Furthermore, stakeholders suggest providing opportunities for STEM teachers to improve their conceptual understanding in critical engineering areas within EOTPDs. In my second study, I developed a conceptual framework, Meaningful Conceptual Learning, for successful conceptual understanding of complex and interdisciplinary content knowledge, implemented the framework into an EOTPD on earthquake engineering, used individual and group concept mapping as authentic assessment method. Results indicated science teachers enhanced their conceptual understanding of the earthquake engineering content knowledge after the EOTPD. Stakeholders in science education also emphasize the critical role of using argumentation discourse in teaching science and indicate most science teachers still lack the pedagogical skills to introduce and enhance students’ argumentation discourse skills. In my third study, I implemented argumentation discourse with a procedural guideline involving EOTPD participants’ reasons for the inclusion of various concepts in their concept maps. I used a modified method for collecting and analyzing discourse data and found significant enhancement in teachers’ argumentation discourse levels after the implementation.
SubjectEarthquake engineering education
Engineering knowledge base
Key concept list
Meaningful conceptual learning
Engineering-oriented teacher professional development
STEM teacher workshop
Group concept mapping
Argumentation discourse in engineering
Cavlazoglu, Baki (2016). Becoming STEM Teachers: Examining Changes in Science Teachers’ Conceptual Understanding about Earthquake Engineering. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from
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