Utilising relevant teaching tools in primary education may be a useful practice, and STEM is one of the approaches. According to Aldahmash, Alamri and Aljallal (2019), STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, and in the context of this system, learners’ creativity and critical thinking are encouraged. As El-Deghaidy and Mansour (2015) note, Rita Colwell, in collaboration with other scientists, was the first to offer to use of this term. Despite the evident importance of technology, science and engineering, the subject of mathematics is discussed actively in the context of how many environment-related challenges can be solved (El-Deghaidy and Mansour, 2015; Islam, 2017). Every human activity or occupation involves the use of this exact science to a certain extent, which makes mathematics teachers a valuable societal asset.
Teachers expose their students to the importance of mathematics and provide them with multiple opportunities to develop a passion for STEM-related subjects and contribute to the society in the best ways possible (Khorsheed, 2015; Madani and Forawi, 2019). This paper aims to outline the rationale for assessing STEM in Saudi primary education with a specific focus on mathematics teachers. The proposal is based on the idea that STEM education and activities are used by mathematics teachers in Saudi primary education when the learning process is both fun and motivating not only for students but for teachers as well.
According to the existing literature on the subject, an open discussion of what affects mathematics teachers most may help identify the list of factors that allow for the proper application of STEM (Alghamdi, 2017; Islam, 2019; Wiseman, Abdelfattah and Almassaad, 2016). As Margot and Kettler (2019) and Larson and Murray (2017) recommend, there should be timely team meetings focusing on professional learning outcomes since the lack of a collaborative dialog would never lead to positive outcomes. This statement is objective in the context of the existing problem and is the rationale for an intervention. Thus, the role of teachers becomes essential in the process of integrating mathematics into a variety of other subject areas (Alsoliman, 2018; Hill, 2019; Pavan, 2016; Yamada, 2018). According to Alqahtani, Daghestani and Ibrahim (2017), there is a strong need to assess the gap in how teachers view STEM, and the cognitive theory the authors cite confirms the relevance of the constant replenishment of knowledge. When analysing fails, the lack of information about this system and its features is of key importance. This, in turn, influences specialist motivation negatively and leads to students’ adverse academic outcomes.
As a result, both students’ performance and the overall value of STEM-based educational programs decrease. While assessing these issues in a more global context, one can note that mathematics teachers mainly align their course topics against current scientific updates, ignoring engineering and technology (Al Ghamdi, Samarji and Watt, 2016; Krug and Shaw, 2016). Therefore, STEM education could be a challenge for many specialists who are willing to support the existing standards of education without addressing the need to innovate and bring more entertainment into classrooms (Aldahmash, Alamri and Aljallal, 2019; Thebaud and Charles, 2018). In general, employees of this profile may become the leading force of STEM education while motivating students and innovating the teaching process. However, there are challenges, for instance, the lack of experience and knowledge, which may avert school employees from focusing on STEM curriculum.
Aims and RQs
The central aims of the proposed research are to evaluate the contribution of mathematics teachers into STEM education, outline the key challenges that Saudi mathematics teachers meet in primary school environments and define the biggest opportunities that could have a beneficial impact on the current state of affairs in Saudi primary education. The research questions for the proposed research are as follows:
- What are teachers’ perceptions of applying STEM education to teaching mathematics?
- What are the perceived challenges and opportunities of utilising STEM for teaching mathematics in primary schools for mathematics teachers?
- What can be done to overcome the teacher-related challenges of utilising STEM for teaching mathematics?
The current Doctoral project is expected to follow the mixed methodology – a quantitative type of research by applying questionnaires and a qualitative approach (semi-structured interviews with Saudi primary education mathematics teachers). The rationale for this choice is to close the existing research gap in the area and collect the data of different types to answer the research questions, while taking into consideration both factual data and teachers’ exclusive feelings and aspirations regarding STEM (Kallio et al., 2016; Paine, 2015; Pathak and Intratat, 2016). Study participants will be identified via the list of graduates of pedagogy universities in the field of exact sciences. The researcher will contact them via email and engage in the project by offering them an opportunity to study the features of the methodology under consideration in detail. There are no special needs related to equipment and technology to utilise during the research process. The data collected from this research will be analysed through coding the obtained information into several categories associated with teachers’ perceptions, challenges and opportunities.
The current Doctoral project will follow the timeline presented in Table 1, with the key stages being a comprehensive literature review, interviews with mathematics teachers and data processing and analysis. The annual completion expectations include developing a qualified meta-analysis of existing literature on the subject of challenges and opportunities that mathematics teachers might meet when applying STEM to their professional practice. In addition to this, the researcher also expects to conduct several interviews with interested parties and draw conclusions concerning the challenges and opportunities that are characteristic of STEM application in Saudi education. The critical difficulties with the completion of the proposed Doctoral project are (a) the absence of STEM experience in Saudi teachers and (b) the lack of objectivity in teacher interviews. In order to overcome these challenges, the practice of additional training for specialists will be applied, and the key principles of assessment will be explained in accordance with the system of evaluating student academic outcomes.
Table 1: Doctoral Project Timeline.
|Year 1||Year 2||Year 3||Year 4|
|Define research questions|
|Monitor literature and add to review|
|Talks with the local experts|
|Development of research tools|
|Postgraduate and ethics approval|
|Awaiting study approval|
|Finalisation of data collection and cleaning of data|
|Refine article with supervisors|
|Submit article for publication|
Contribution to Knowledge
The current proposal outlines a Doctoral project that contributes to discussing how mathematics teachers could help children within the primary education setting to acquire many valuable skills and useful knowledge. This would not be possible without teachers being motivated enough to enhance the quality of education they provide. Since this area is transforming dynamically in Saudi Arabia, it may be safe to suppose that an amalgamation of new technologies and STEM curriculum will subsidise to the value of teaching profession positively and encourage mathematics teachers to maintain achievement-inducing classrooms and perceive the subject under consideration as a crucial aspect of human existence. Given that the future of the global economy and international relations depends on children, Saudi schools should view such a curriculum as one of the ways of promoting the value of mathematics, while reducing the impact that STEM application challenges might have on teachers.
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