Educators in Industry: An Exploratory Study to Determine how Teacher Externships Influence K-12 Classroom Practices

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This exploratory study investigates the impacts of industry- based externships for K-12 teachers, and reports teachers’ perspectives on how these experiences influenced K-12 classroom practices. The program of focus in this research study is the Educators in Industry: K-12 Externship Program. For four weeks in the summer, teacher-participants are placed at a company whose primary focus is engineering, continuous improvement, manufacturing, or other design or process-oriented activities. Participation in the program also involves completing an accompanying 2-credit university course in the summer, and a 1-credit follow-up course in the fall. In this qualitative research study, transcripts from individual interviews with teacher-participants were analyzed using a grounded theory approach. Results from this study provide empirical evidence that teachers who participated in an industry-based externship program demonstrated an increased understanding of the fundamental importance of skills for problem solving, collaboration, and communication in today’s workplace environments, and expressed commitment to creating classroom opportunities for students to develop these skills through active learning in relationship to authentic, “real world” contexts.

Teacher Externship, Industry Experience, Classroom Practice, Professional Development, 21st Century Skills, STEM Education, Qualitative Methods