Date of Award

June 2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching and Leadership


John W. Tillotson


education, integrated, phenomenology, secondary, STEM

Subject Categories



Integrated STEM education comprises an exploration of the interconnections between science, technology, engineering and mathematics in order to reflect on how each discipline operates within real world contexts. Students benefit from the integrated STEM approach because it values students’ real-life experiences and hands-on applications that mirror professional STEM work. However, Integrated STEM instruction remains ill defined, with many gaps in the existing research. The school setting central to this study was a suburban public middle school with a nationally recognized integrated STEM program. Through the use of hermeneutic phenomenological inquiry, I focused on both teachers’ and students’ experiences of participation in one integrated STEM model. I analyzed data using thematic moment clusters and event mapping to look at patterns of experiences across time. I found that participation in this integrated STEM model included six common experiences: (1) project-based learning, (2) flexible instructional time, (3) consistent co-teaching with two or more teachers, (4) social skills development, (5) extensive use of computer-based technology, and (6) the use of school spaces beyond the classroom for instruction purposes. The students viewed their involvement in the integrated STEM model positively and many noted an interest in pursuing a STEM-related career in the future. The teachers reported an enhancement of their professional repertoire through consistent planning, co-teaching and observational practices. After five years of enactment, challenges that persisted for this integrated STEM team included pressures to adhere to state and district demands, as well as the need for non-traditional spaces to engage students in creative ways. This model provides further evidence of the need to reorganize school content, space, and time.


Open Access

Included in

Education Commons