Teacher Professional Development on Self-Determination Theory–Based Design Thinking in STEM Education

Thomas K.F. Chiu*, Ching Sing Chai, P. John Williams, Tzung Jin Lin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Design thinking has become increasingly important in the context of the current movement toward integrated STEM education. Allied teaching practices often take the form of project-based learning, which represents a major shift in the teaching and learning process and poses challenges for many teachers during implementation. Many professional development programmes for STEM teachers focus on the development of teacher beliefs and content or technological knowledge. Teachers may not have enough opportunities to gain sufficient knowledge of how to foster students’ intrinsic motivation for project-based learning. The teacher-support dimensions – autonomy, structure and involvement – distinguished in self-determination theory (SDT) can foster student motivation, and the teaching experience can allow for feedback and reflection. Accordingly, this study aimed to investigate how to design a PD programme consisting of a workshop and actual teaching experience as a way of using SDT-based design thinking in teaching STEM project-based learning. Specifically, the study comprised two interventions designed to examine how teacher/student learning is affected by workshops alone and actual teaching experience, respectively. The participants were 60 teachers and 358 secondary school students. The findings revealed that it is beneficial for teachers to apply what they learned from workshops in classroom teaching and that SDT-based design thinking benefits students more than non-SDT-based design thinking. Hence, this study suggests that professional development should occur over a sustained period, enhance teacher capacity to support students’ needs, and offer multiple opportunities for feedback and reflection. Consequently, a model of pedagogical design thinking for professional development programmes is proposed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153-165
Number of pages13
JournalEducational Technology and Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Design thinking
  • Motivation
  • STEM education
  • Self-Determination theory
  • Teacher professional development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Engineering


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