interconnected STEM education. These options vary in terms of ease of implementation:
Ad hoc infusion, or introduction, of engineering ideas and activities (i.e., design projects) into existing science, mathematics, and technology curricula is the most direct and least complicated option, because implementation requires no significant changes in school structure. The main requirements would be (1) willingness on the part of teachers and (2) access to instructional materials. Ideally, teachers would also have a modicum of engineering pedagogical content knowledge to deliver the new material effectively. The ad hoc option is probably most useful for providing an introductory exposure to engineering ideas rather than a deep understanding of engineering principles and skills.
Stand-alone courses for engineering, an option required for implementing many of the curricula reviewed for this project, presents considerably more challenges for teachers and schools. In high schools, the new material could be offered as an elective. If that is not possible, it would either have to replace existing classes or content, perhaps a science or technology course, or the school day would have to be reconfigured, perhaps lengthened, to accommodate a new course(s) without eliminating existing curricular material. Stand-alone courses would also require teacher professional development and approval of the program at various levels. This option has the potential advantage of providing a more in-depth exposure to engineering.
Fully integrated STEM education, that is, using engineering concepts and skills to leverage the natural connections between STEM subjects, would almost certainly require changes in the structure and practices of schools. Research would be necessary to develop and test curricula, assessments, and approaches to teacher professional development. New integrated STEM programs or “pilot schools” might be established to test changes before they are widely adopted.
These three options, as well as others that are not described here, are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, the committee believes that implementation should be flexible, because no single approach is likely to be acceptable or feasible in every district or school.