Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Lynn Hodge

Committee Members

Stergios Botzakis, Tara Moore, James Martinez


The purpose of this study was to explore STEM teachers’ professional identity development based on the narratives of their lived experiences of participating in informal STEM learning opportunities. This study examined the following: aspects of such informal learning opportunities that are most meaningful for identity development, learning and professional growth that occurs during such informal learning opportunities, and resources necessary to provide effective experiences from such opportunities that benefit identity development. Five STEM educators teaching science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and general STEM in grades K-12 participated in this study. Data were collected through a screening survey and narrative interviews. The narrative interviews were analyzed with general principles of Strauss & Corbin’s methods for grounded theory (1990). Through the analysis of each participant’s interview, underlying domains and themes were illustrated from each participant’s narrative. The researcher assigned four themes emerged for the first research question: fostering relationships and raising expectations for learning, becoming a confident teacher, and transitioning career roles. For the second research question on professional learning and growth, the researcher assigned three thematic domains emerged regarding growth in content knowledge, pedagogy, and leadership. Finally, for the third and last research question on valued resources and supports, themes included community partnerships, school community support, funding for programs, and accessibility to programs. The participants’ narratives shed light on the ways in which their experiences with informal STEM learning opportunities contributed to the development of their professional identities and understanding of their roles and positioning as STEM educators.

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