Investigating Saudi Arabian high school science teachers perceived challenges and concerns related to the integration of science content, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) into science teaching

Aljuwayr, Yousef Farraj M.
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Since the establishment of Saudi Arabia, the educational system has gone through numerous reform efforts to improve teachers’ practice and students’ learning. One of the key challenges facing the educational system in Saudi Arabia is the question of how to prepare teachers to use innovative approaches in science education. Several studies have examined science teachers’ concerns related to teaching and learning in general; however, few studies have directed specific attention to science teachers’ concerns about curriculum integration. Therefore, this study investigated Saudi Arabian high school science teachers’ perceived challenges concerning the integration of separate domains within STEM, including science content and pedagogy, technology, engineering, mathematics, and STEM as a whole. This study also explored potential differences in teachers’ perceived challenges based on their gender and geographical region. The researcher collected data from six geographic regions of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: Makkah, Tabuk, Aseer, Hail, Kahrj, and Zulfi. These regions were purposefully selected to reflect the geographic and diverse views of teachers across the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. An explanatory sequential mixed methods design – including quantitative and qualitative methods— was conducted to investigate Saudi Arabian high school science teachers’ perceived challenges regarding integrated STEM instruction. The quantitative data were collected from 1,207 participants using four scales: science content and pedagogy integration, technology integration, engineering integration, and mathematics integration. The qualitative data were collected from twenty participants through face-to-face interviews. Descriptive statistics and grounded theory methodology were conducted to analyze data obtained from the participants. Results revealed that science teachers rated themselves as 1) fairly competent in the areas of science content and pedagogy integration and mathematics integration; 2) having fairly low competence in the area of technology integration; 3) “undecided” in the area of engineering integration; 4) slightly incompetent with regard to the integration of other science disciplines (physics, chemistry, biology, and geology) into science teaching practices; and 5) generally unfamiliar with the integration of STEM in science teaching. The findings of the study revealed no significant difference among participants that can be attributed to gender or geographic region. Other challenges from the qualitative study are presented, such as teachers’ negative misconceptions and attitudes toward integrative approaches, students’ lack of skills and knowledge that are required for successful STEM integration, curricula incompatibility with STEM approaches, and the lack of resources required for integrative activities. The results of the study suggest an implementation of a systemic reform that focuses on STEM education in Saudi Arabia. The findings of this study may have significant implications for policymakers and educators who are considering implementing integrative approaches in science education