Developing the Professional Knowledge of Teachers of Technology and STEM in Secondary Schools

Banks, Frank (2022). Developing the Professional Knowledge of Teachers of Technology and STEM in Secondary Schools. PhD thesis The Open University.



The sixteen works presented in the thesis derive from eleven years as a teacher of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in different secondary high schools in England and in Wales, and as a researcher and teacher educator for twenty-seven years, as first an educator of physics teachers at the University of Wales, Swansea from September 1987 and then of technology and science teachers at The Open University beginning in April 1992.

The selected publications provide a unique 33-year arc of development and an interconnected overview of the way that an understanding of the elements of professional knowledge for teachers can be investigated and the results then used in the creation and the on-going development of initial and in-service teacher education programmes. The sixteen publications’ contribution to the field and their resulting impact is demonstrated, for example, by their having been cited 479 times.

Using and exploiting a range of evaluative research methods that can be described as Research and Development (R&D), this thesis considers publications which address the education of teachers in general, and Design and Technology teachers and STEM teachers in particular. The publications coalesce around three interconnected themes that address three critically important research questions:

Theme 1. Teacher Professional Knowledge - Research Question 1 (RQ1): What are the elements of teacher professional knowledge and what is their inter-relationship?

• Empirical research conducted, and the resulting development of a general model of teacher professional knowledge (publications 1 – 4).
• Exploitation of the model as a ‘Graphical Tool’ through an international collaboration in the DEPTH Project (Developing Professional Thinking for Technology Teachers) (publications 5 and 6).

Theme 2. Developing Teachers of Technology - Research Question 2 (RQ2): In what ways can the suggested elements of teacher professional knowledge support the development of teachers of Technology?
• Empirical research on teaching and learning and teacher education in technology education.
• Development of approaches and models in technology teacher education including open and distance learning techniques (publications 7 – 10).
• Comparative classroom-based research providing international perspectives in teaching technology (publications 10 – 13).

Theme 3. Developing Teachers of STEM - Research Question 3 (RQ3): In what ways can the suggested elements of teacher professional knowledge support the development of teachers of STEM?

• Empirical studies and a critical analysis of the relationship between science and technology in the UK.
• Development of strategies both in teaching and in school organisation that need to be addressed when helping teachers meet the challenge of teaching STEM in the secondary school (publications 14 – 16).

Using a research and development (R&D) methodology to evaluate and build on courses to develop teacher professional knowledge and addressing the Research Questions, the key concepts that the thesis contributes to new knowledge are:
• The discovery, verification, and exploitation of a new way to conceptualise the common aspects of teacher professional knowledge across subject domains.
• The development of a graphical tool to explore teacher professional knowledge, and the discovery that teachers can use it to investigate and share professional understandings in their own contexts, demonstrating its applicability across education regimes internationally.
• The development of new open and distance learning techniques for the professional development of Technology teachers through the use of new technologies.
• The exploration, and dissemination of in-school strategies that can be used to develop and support secondary teachers of STEM, wherever they are located, by enabling them to collaborate by ‘looking sideways’ at the work that is done by colleagues in the contributory STEM subjects; and ways in which those developments can be supported by school leaders.

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