STEM education focuses on preparing students to solve real-world problems, but also equips them with skills, such as critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and communication [1
]. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, and is a student-centered approach, which effectively substitutes conventional lecture-based teaching methods with more inquiry- and project-based teaching methodologies [2
]. The activities that students engage in while learning are in line with their everyday lives and involve social and physical interactions among them [3
The environmental and social concerns of the twenty-first century, which affect international security and economic stability, might be the driving force behind the urgent need for improved STEM education worldwide [4
]. The integration of STEM in education can prepare the new generation to meet the problems of the twenty-first century [5
]. However, the enthusiasm of students in pursuing STEM occupations has decreased or remained unchanged [6
]. As a result, the demand for STEM workers has exceeded the number of students entering the labor force [7
] and countries will have difficulty developing due to a lack of skilled and professional workers [8
The current interest in STEM education is also influenced by the results of pupils’ achievement on national and international exams [9
]. Compared to other countries, the Greek scores in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) assessment were rated lower than the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average in Chemistry, Mathematics, and Physical Sciences [10
]. Therefore, Greece is currently undergoing a period of changes in its education system, which promotes a modern model of education and training, harmonized with the needs created by international competition, the transition to the green and digital economy, and the shift in the division of labor between humans and machines. Because of automation and the digitalization of operations processes, the fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) will result in a sharp drop in the demand for many jobs, particularly those requiring manual skills and physical capabilities, and the creation of new skilled jobs by 2025 [11
]. In order to accomplish its goals, the Greek Ministry of Education (MoE) introduced, for the 2021–2022 school year, the Skills Workshops in the context of which the STEM module will also be implemented. STEM education is a student-centered pedagogical model based on interdisciplinary, exploratory, and experiential learning, teamwork, computational thinking, and problem-solving (problem-based learning, or PBL). It is consistent with the country’s mission to produce excellent human capital and to improve the education system. Children learn Science and Mathematics in a realistic, meaningful, and creative context through the application of technology. In addition, the students’ learning is enjoyable and effective, involves hands-on activities, and provides a direct experience that stimulates them to think [13
], while teaching them ways to solve real-world problems in their everyday lives [14
When it comes to implementing reform in education, teachers play a crucial role, given that the objectives set forth by the MoE would be difficult to be achieved without their active participation. Before implementing STEM education, teachers who will serve as mentors must become sufficiently conversant [15
] and pedagogically ready in order to effectively impart knowledge, whereas they should also be aware of the challenges and hitches that pupils face [16
]. The insufficient preparation of teachers can lead to a number of shortcomings making it difficult to meet MoE goals.
In the STEM process of teaching and learning, readiness
is crucial, particularly for educators who have to adapt to any new challenging framework. Teachers should be prepared from a didactic and knowledge-based perspective to transform content information into pedagogically effective forms, which also need to be flexible enough to accommodate a range of student backgrounds and skills. Passive instructive methods may hinder students’ comprehension and prevent them from accomplishing learning objectives [17
The above highlights the crucial role of teachers’ readiness that justifies the increasing interest and the inquest for a firm theoretical framework for answering any challenging question about how the respective changes in the curricula will be attained, which, however, has not been established. Ergo, research has taken this responsibility and explores primarily the conjectures concerning teachers’ attitudes and readiness to implement STEM education. Probing these latent variables presupposes valid means of measuring them, and, on this issue, the present paper contributes by developing and proposing an instrument to assess the readiness of Greek teachers to adopt STEM in their teaching practices.
1.1. Teachers’ Level of Readiness
One’s beliefs, goals, and perceived ability to carry out educational reforms are mainly the factors that impact one’s readiness for change. This personal attribute expresses the degree of groundwork and a final guarantee that the teachers are change-ready. Research on teachers’ preparation for STEM instruction is limited and this area by far needs a theoretical premise based on accumulated empirical evidence. Theoretical elaborations have been attempted, focusing on understanding the dimensions of readiness leading to the cognitive, affective, and behavioral readiness of teachers to implement STEM education [19
]. It is worth examining these aspects of readiness because they are associated with measurement issues and the construction of scales. In the present work, further theoretical elaboration in conjunction with a scale development is attempted and, within the following sections, the description of the underlying dimensions is presented, providing a deeper understanding of the processes involved in ensuring and maintaining readiness. These dimensions are as follows: affective conditions (AC), cognitive conditions (CC), self-efficacy (SE), and STEM commitment (SC).
1.1.1. The Readiness of Teachers from a Cognitive Aspect
In the preceding section, the readiness of a person was described as the property of being prepared for any action, and this situation involves, among other things, cognitive aspects. Thus, cognitive readiness
can be defined as an organized process and/or the resulting state that involves adaptability, communication, creative and critical thinking, decision-making process, metacognitive strategies, pattern recognition, problem-solving skills, resilience, situational awareness, team cohesion, and interpersonal skills [21
]. Therefore, the ability of a teacher to think critically and creatively when developing an idea to solve problems or overcome difficulties is referred to as cognitive preparedness. To implement a new STEM curriculum, teachers must possess the necessary knowledge and be capable of handling and use a new notion effectively once they have acquired and understood it. Then, from a cognitive perspective, they are considered to be prepared and can support the growth and expansion of the pupils’ understanding [20
]. If the degree of the teacher’s cognitive preparedness falls short of what is required by the curriculum, then the STEM implementation will fail or be delayed.
Thus, it is crucial that instructors not only understand strategic methods to make an amendment but also have the necessary skills that allow them to conform to the new educational perspective. Otherwise, any attempts to reform will lead to resistance to change [23
1.1.2. The Readiness of Teachers from an Attitudinal Aspect
The teachers’ response to educational reform is closely tied to readiness from the behavioral perspective, where attitude and beliefs are crucial variables for the effectiveness of the reform’s implementation in any substantial endeavor involving classroom teaching [24
]. The way that changes in behavior could be enacted, that is, smoothly or abruptly, is not just a practical issue, but an important theoretical and methodological concern, apt to the complexity and dynamics of human experience. According to Bandura [26
], people’s behaviors are impacted by their perceptions of their capacities, or self-efficacy, to carry out an activity in specific domains. Self-efficacy is an indicative facet and a potential predictor of how much effort one will put into learning and practicing an activity, how persistent one will be throughout the process, and how hard one will work to get over ensuing obstacles [27
]. Research has shown that teacher self-efficacy is positively correlated with behaviors and practices that contribute to high-quality teaching; i.e., strong beliefs and confidence in one’s knowledge and abilities to support children’s needs motivate the implementation of scaffolding tactics, leading to the desired outcomes [28
The teachers’ decision on STEM instruction and furthering its effective implementation is crucially dependent on behavior aspects that, in turn, are related to self-efficacy beliefs. The latter determines a kind of behavioral intention or preparation [29
], the lack of which undoubtedly hinders any planned process of transformation, while postponement or suspension issues may arise.
1.1.3. Level of Readiness of Teachers from the Affective Aspect
The affective dimension describes how instructors’ ability to perform their responsibilities may be impacted by their emotions. Affective readiness can be classified into three main aspects: positive, negative, and neutral. Positive affect refers to emotions and moods such as joy and enthusiasm, whereas negative affect consists of adverse emotional states and moods such as boredom, disappointment, stress, and anxiety. Neutral affect is referred to as a state in which no emotion is elicited at a specific moment by a circumstance [20
It has been observed that teachers’ emotions have a significant impact on the effectiveness and quality of their teaching and learning [30
]. When released from their feelings of emotional labor burnout, STEM teachers will be influential allies in promoting and putting into practice STEM reform proposals. The moderate association between teacher professional development and the advancement of STEM education may be more effectively promoted in the future if more STEM instructors transform and shape their professional profiles [31
]. Research in psychology has shown that emotions are crucial latent factors affecting behavior in undesirable ways associated with nonlinear and abrupt behavioral change [32
1.1.4. Significance of Teachers’ Commitment to STEM Education
Commitment, in relation to teachers’ work, includes the following characteristics: (a) ideals that affirm loyalty to one’s profession; (b) holding oneself to high standards; (c) ongoing reflection; and (d) significant participation [33
]. Dedicated educators concentrate more on their profession, place a higher priority on meeting academic goals, and continue their education, while a lack of devotion has been linked to absences, burnout, and turnover. Additionally, committed teachers influence students’ performance and goal achievement [34
], by communicating with them, showing sincere concern for their growth, and meaningfully working to build their aptitude in various ways [35
A significant predictor of educators’ commitment is self-efficacy, a different construct [36
] which is closely associated with dedication to teaching [37
], and with the willingness to acquire new teaching techniques, as well [38
]. Regardless of the difficulties the teachers have to confront in implementing STEM activities, their commitment is a primary asset and crucial to maintaining their teaching practices [39
1.2. The Aim of the Present Researc
The preset work is committed to STEM education, a field of increasing interest, at the national and global level, where innovative research is nowadays by far needed within the challenged contemporary school system. Teachers’ attitudes and readiness to implement STEM are among the factors determining a successful integration of STEM, and research on probing these latent variables presupposes a valid means of measuring them. The present paper contributes to the field by developing and proposing a valid instrument to assess the readiness of Greek teachers to adopt STEM in their teaching practices. Thus, the main goal was to identify the dimensions of readiness and including them into a usable instrument to explore its psychometric properties. Additional research questions in this inquiry are related to potential associations among the dimensions of readiness and the crucial measurement invariance. The latter was carried out for gender, age, years of service, school level, and university degrees. The TRi-STEM scale is an essential and applicable tool to ensure validity in educational research and to support further hypotheses testing.
In addition, measurement invariance was carried out for gender, age, years of service, school level, and university degrees. The TRi-STEM scale is an essential and applicable tool to ensure validity in educational research and to support further hypotheses testing.
Teachers are the most significant determinants of the educational process and their responsibilities in the classroom include acting as mentors, motivators, role models, and organizers of effective teaching [46
]. Particularly in STEM education, their role is associated with facilitating learning strategies and supporting students in the development of concepts and abstractions, as well as in the de-contextualization of ideas for use in a range of authentic contexts in various real-world situations [47
]. Teachers’ knowledge and attitude are two crucial areas for the successful implementation and sustainability of STEM education [48
]. Knowledge and pedagogical expertise influence affective conditions and the behavioral intentions and attitudes towards STEM education [49
], along with a variety of individual differences [48
], such as self-efficacy and the associated affective states. Teaching scientific and technological content might be perceived negatively by instructors who tended to feel bored, anxious, and worried. Emotions have a crucial role because are linked [55
] and correlated with their self-efficacy views. Moreover, educators’ self-efficacy and cognition are correlated with their commitment. A teacher who has greater self-efficacy beliefs is more invested in their work, emotionally, physically, and cognitively. Teachers that are highly involved exhibit tenacity, professionalism, and dedication [56
]. To ensure that students are acquiring valuable knowledge, teaching is a profession that necessitates total commitment and enduring innovation. Instructors require thorough subject knowledge as well as pedagogical content expertise in one or more of the STEM disciplines in order to effectively construct learning activities that combine different information [55
The above comprise a theoretical description of the dimensions of readiness for STEM education, comprising affective conditions, cognitive conditions, self-efficacy, and STEM commitment. The proposed scale is theory-laden and the measurement validity of the degree of readiness and preparedness for STEM education is crucial in research, when a firm theoretical perspective is pursued.
4.1. Limitations and Future Research
This study has some limitations despite its importance and usability. This is one of the first works aiming to satisfy measurement presumptions for valid research, and, as such, further support is needed with additional samples and replication studies. Limitations also originate from the cross-sectional data collection through a self-reported instrument and the specificity of the sample. For gauging educators’ attitudes toward practices in STEM education, scenario-based assessments can be employed in addition to teacher-report questionnaires. To further understand how and why educators may exhibit varying degrees of self-efficacy and competence in teaching STEM or putting an integrated STEM curriculum into practice, in-depth qualitative studies such as teacher interviews and classroom observations can be conducted. For a wider acceptance, to better promote cross-cultural comparison, future study needs to investigate the reliability of this scale in various cultural contexts, and the measurement invariance could be extended to additional individual differences. Furthermore, the proposed factor structure should not be viewed as complete; rather, it could be expanded to incorporate more dimensions that are directed by different theoretical presumptions and to improve the portrayal of the latent attribute of readiness.
In this study, the TRi-STEM, a research tool for measuring teachers’ readiness for STEM teaching, was developed and validated. Exploratory and confirmatory procedures demonstrated satisfactory psychometric properties along with high reliability coefficients. The instrument appeals to the Greek population and includes 24 items, and comprises four dimensions: affective, cognitive, self-efficacy, and commitment. The factorial validity and the high values of internal consistency measures along with the measurement invariance denote that the psychometric properties of the proposed scale secure its implementation in research. TRi-STEM can safely be used to validly measure teachers’ readiness, empower research exploring the factors affecting them, and facilitate intervention programs aiming to realize educational reforms regarding the integration of technology into new curricula. In addition, this instrument may serve as a template for the creation of other instruments that may differ in certain ways depending on the developmental goals and the environment in which they would be utilized. Finally, the TRi-STEM questioners’ utilization in educational research can contribute to predicting the degree of the success of STEM educational reform and support further studies aiming to reveal the profiles and the needs of teachers regarding STEM implementation, so that appropriate training programs and interventions can be organized.