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AN IN-DEPTH ANALYSIS OF THE TEACHER TALK THAT OCCURS DURING INTEGRATED STEM UNITS
Teacher talk is a powerful pedagogical tool in the science classroom. Educators use their talk to provide information, guide discussions, check for understanding, and develop students' scientific identities. However, few researchers have investigated how teachers use their talk during an integrated science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) unit. This three-study dissertation investigates how teachers use their talk to introduce a new discipline to students and how their talk affects student learning and engagement during an integrated STEM unit. I designed these research studies to answer the overall question: What talk moves do teachers use during an integrated STEM unit, and how does the teacher talk affect student engagement and learning? Study 1 is a multiple case study investigating how teachers guide classroom discussions and how that teacher talk affects student learning during the integrated STEM unit. Results demonstrate the importance of teachers carefully balancing dialogic discussions and providing information during these instructional units. Study 2 is an interpretative qualitative study that investigates how a teacher's autonomy-supportive and/or suppressive talk affects student engagement during the integrated unit. Results show that each student responded differently to the teacher talk that occurred in the classroom. While some became more engaged when the teacher used autonomy-supportive talk, others became disengaged during the same type of talk. Study 3 is a multiple case study investigating the talk moves teachers use when integrating engineering concepts in the curriculum. Results show that the two teachers requested student participation in the conversation about engineering more during the first lesson of the unit than the last. In addition, only one of the two teachers in this study incorporated talk about engineering into the science lessons. The last chapter of this dissertation synthesizes the data from all three studies. This chapter identifies some common themes across the studies, including the complex nature of teacher talk, the influence of non-talk factors, and the importance of dialogic discussion. This chapter also identifies some implications for teaching, including the need to restructure the curriculum units and to coach teachers during their first implementation of an integrated STEM unit.