Investigating Teachers’ and Students’ Perceptions of STEM Education in Private Elementary Schools in Abu Dhabi
One of the furthermost essential reforms in education is STEM education. It comes as a priority in the well-industrially and economically national agendas of the developed nations, as it is acknowledged for preparing scholars for the technological revolution that the world is experiencing. In the UAE, many initiatives were taken by the STEM promoters to implement effective STEM education as the UAE economy is moving from being oil-based to knowledge-based and that requires more students to graduate as scientists and engineers. STEM education must be implemented starting from the early years as this period is critical for the children's cognitive, social, and academic development. For STEM to be implemented effectively at the elementary level, the teachers must be well equipped to face the complicated and entangled web that enshrouds the STEM education field. Additionally, identifying teachers’ perceptions of STEM education is considered as one of the ultimate significant processes that need to be considered by the STEM education stakeholders as the teachers’ STEM practices are highly influenced by their perceptions of STEM. Similarly, the students’ perceptions and practices of STEM education and the student's motivation to pursue careers in STEM fields are highly affected by teachers’ perceptions of STEM education. The purpose of this study was to explore the current provisions that are on offer in relation to STEM education and to investigate the teachers’ and the students’ perceptions of STEM education in Abu Dhabi private elementary schools. No studies had been conducted in the UAE context on this topic. The researcher conducted an empirical study with an exploratory sequential mixed methods design to meet the purpose of the study. The mixed research methods included both qualitative and quantitative methods including document analysis, teacher questionnaire, and student questionnaire. The document analysis reported eight themes related to the STEM status and implementation in private elementary schools in Abu Dhabi: (1) Integrated STEM-based curriculum, (2) Project-based learning, (3) Technology and Engineering Integration, (4) Teacher willingness to implement STEM, (5) 21st century skills and STEM, (6) Authentic STEM classroom environment, (7) Authentic STEM Assessment, and (8) School Administration support of STEM integration. Results from the teacher and student questionnaires revealed that most of the elementary teachers and students in STEM private schools in Abu Dhabi have positive perceptions of STEM education. Also, elementary students were interested in STEM careers. Furthermore, quantitative findings related to the teacher questionnaire revealed that the majority of the elementary teachers in STEM private schools in Abu Dhabi strongly understand what STEM education is and they strongly agree that STEM competencies are extremely important. Yet, half of the teachers agree that they find difficulties in implementing STEM education. Qualitative data related to the teacher questionnaire revealed that these difficulties were related specifically to the lack of STEM resources, the constraint of time, and the need for professional development. The study ends by discussing the findings of the study, highlighting the researcher’s recommendations, and by outlining the limitations of this study.