Secondary school counselors' perceptions of STEM education
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The purpose of this study was to investigate perceptions of secondary school counselors in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. The understanding gathered from this study was necessary because, as the Science and Technology Council’s 2018 report elucidated, the American economy is not able to support itself due to a domestic shortage of qualified STEM workers who lack STEM-related skills, which is further complicated by ethnic, gender, and socioeconomic disparities in STEM fields (Belasco, 2013; Davis, 2015; Schmidt, Hardinge & Rokutani, 2012). In this study, a deeper understanding of perceptions surrounding complex social phenomena of how school counselors perceive STEM education was structured upon research questions designed to gather counselors’ perceptions of and their role in STEM education, as well as their perceptions of professional development related to STEM education. A qualitative methodology that employed case study design, comprised of semi-structured interviews with purposeful sampling of school counselors in New York secondary schools, was followed by snowball sampling and then combined with observation and analysis of archived data. Thematic analysis was implemented. Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory (BEST) was used as a framework to explore counselors’ perceptions of STEM education, as BEST takes into consideration the variety of influences that impact children’s lives (1977). Key findings from this study included secondary school counselors conveying the importance of providing all students with opportunities in STEM education. The participants overwhelmingly reported lending additional support to traditionally underrepresented minorities. School counselors’ perceptions of their role in STEM education was inclusive of encouraging all students to explore course, college, and career opportunities related to STEM. STEM-based professional development was largely absent for counselors, despite a strong desire to participate in such opportunities. Additionally, it was uncovered that PLTW and STEM were widely used interchangeably. This work may advance the field of education by making meaning of secondary school counselors’ perceptions of STEM via pattern matching, as counselors are a contributing factor in the successful implementation of STEM education. Understanding counselor perceptions is necessary in enacting STEM-related reform by educational leaders, in an effort to foster domestic participation in courses and careers related to STEM.