Perceptions of integration of science and mathematics held by inservice middle school teachers as they engage in an integration-focused online course
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Educators have long recognized that integration of science and mathematics is one way of connecting classroom experiences of students with the way science and mathematics are used in the real world. However, literature documenting use of this approach to teaching is limited. Although this method of teaching has been endorsed by national associations of educators in various disciplines, it is rarely used in schools. Several studies have documented attempts to engage preservice teachers in integration activities. However, very few studies involving inservice teachers were identified. Reports of studies conducted with preservice teachers, inservice teachers, and students using integrated science and mathematics teaching identified benefits as well as barriers to integration. The benefits of an integrated approach to teaching science and mathematics identified for middle school students are consistent with the middle school concept espoused by the National Middle School Association (NMSA, 2003). This study investigated inservice middle school teachers‘ perceptions of teaching science and mathematics in an integrated manner and identified changes in perception as these teachers engaged in an integration-focused online education course. Factors which facilitated or hindered integration efforts were also explored. A qualitative method was used to conduct this research. Multiple methods of data collection were utilized to gather data from manifold sources within the online course. Data was analyzed using a constant comparative method. Results of the study showed distinct changes in participants‘ perceptions of integration as they experienced integration-related activities and explored integrated teaching in their classrooms. Increased knowledge of content and pedagogy acquired through the online course and collaboration with colleagues, coupled with positive student reactions to integrated lessons, convinced these teachers that integration is an effective method of stimulating middle school students‘ interest in science and mathematics, and also of improving student achievement in these disciplines.