Sarah Lilly , Jennifer L. Chiu , Kevin W. Mcelhaney
DOI: JANT Vol.24(No.3) 137-173, 2021
Research and national standards, such as the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in the United States, promote the development and implementation of K-12 interdisciplinary curricula integrating the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and computer science (STEM+CS). However, little research has explored how teachers provide epistemic support in interdisciplinary contexts or the factors that inform teachers’ epistemic support in STEM+CS activities. The goal of this paper is to articulate how interdisciplinary instruction complicates epistemic knowledge and resources needed for teachers’ instructional decision-making. Toward these ends, this paper builds upon existing models of teachers’ instructional decision-making in individual STEM+CS disciplines to highlight specific challenges and opportunities of interdisciplinary approaches on classroom epistemic supports. First, we offer considerations as to how teachers can provide epistemic support for students to engage in disciplinary practices across mathematics, science, engineering, and computer science. We then support these considerations using examples from our studies in elementary classrooms using integrated STEM+CS curriculum materials. We focus on an elementary school context, as elementary teachers necessarily integrate disciplines as part of their teaching practice when enacting NGSS-aligned curricula. Further, we argue that as STEM+CS interdisciplinary curricula in the form of NGSS-aligned, project-based units become more prevalent in elementary settings, careful attention and support needs to be given to help teachers not only engage their students in disciplinary practices across STEM+CS disciplines, but also to understand why and how these disciplinary practices should be used. Implications include recommendations for the design of professional learning experiences and curriculum materials.