in K-12 Education
STATUS, PROSPECTS, AND AN AGENDA FOR RESEARCH
Committee on Integrated STEM Education
Margaret Honey, Greg Pearson, and Heidi Schweingruber, Editors
NATIONAL ACADEMY OF ENGINEERING AND
NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS 500 Fifth Street, NW Washington, DC 20001
NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.
This study was supported by a grant between the National Academy of Sciences and S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation and Stephen Bechtel Fund. Additional support was provided by the National Science Foundation (Contract/Grant No. DRL-1114829), Samueli Foundation, and PTC, Inc. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations or agencies that provided support for the project.
International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-29796-7
International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-29796-6
Library of Congress Control Number: 2014931444
Copies of this report are available from the National Academies Press, 500 Fifth Street, NW, Keck 360, Washington, DC 20001; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313; www.nap.edu.
Copyright 2014 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Printed in the United States of America
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine
The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences.
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The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. C. D. Mote, Jr., are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council.
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COMMITTEE ON INTEGRATED STEM EDUCATION
MARGARET A. HONEY (chair), New York Hall of Science, Queens
LINDA ABRIOLA, Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts
SYBILLA BECKMANN, University of Georgia, Athens
SUSAN HACKWOOD, California Council on Science and Technology, Riverside
ALFRED L. HALL II, The University of Memphis, Tennessee
JENNIFER HICKS, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana
STEVE KRAK, Ohio STEM Learning Network Battelle, Columbus
BILL KURTZ, DSST Public Schools, Denver, Colorado
RICHARD LEHRER, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee
BETH MCGRATH, Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey
BARBARA MEANS, SRI International, Menlo Park, California
DONNA MIGDOL, Oceanside School District, New York
MITCHELL NATHAN, University of Wisconsin, Madison
MARK SANDERS, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg
MICHAEL TOWN, Redmond High School, Duvall, Washington
GREG PEARSON, Study Director and Senior Program Officer, National Academy of Engineering
HEIDI SCHWEINGRUBER, Study Codirector and Deputy Board Director, Board on Science Education, National Research Council
JAY LABOV, Senior Advisor for Education and Communication, The National Academies
CAMERON H. FLETCHER, Senior Editor, National Academy of Engineering
MARIBETH KEITZ, Senior Program Associate, National Academy of Engineering
REBECCA KRONE, Project Associate, Board on Science Education, National Research Council
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This report is the final product of a two-year study by the Committee on Integrated STEM Education, a group of experts on diverse subjects under the auspices of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and the Board on Science Education of the National Research Council (NRC). The committee’s charge was to develop a research agenda for determining the approaches and conditions most likely to lead to positive outcomes of integrated STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) education at the K–12 level in the United States. In fulfilling that charge, the committee identified and characterized existing approaches to integrated STEM education, in both formal and after-school and informal settings. It also reviewed the evidence for the impact of integrated approaches on various parameters of interest, such as greater student awareness, interest, motivation, and achievement in STEM subjects; improved college-readiness skills; and boosts in the number and quality of students who may consider a career in a STEM-related field.
Over the past decade, the STEM acronym has developed wide currency in US education and policy circles. Leaders in business, government, and academia assert that education in the STEM subjects is vital not only to sustaining the innovation capacity of the United States but also as a foundation for successful employment, including but not limited to work in the STEM fields. Historically, US K–12 STEM education has focused on the individual subjects, particularly science and mathematics. Reform efforts, including
development of learning standards and, more recently, large-scale assessments, likewise have treated the STEM subjects mostly in isolation. The relatively recent introduction of engineering education into some K–12 classrooms and out-of-school settings and the 2013 publication of the Next Generation Science Standards, which explicitly connect science concepts and practices to those of engineering, have elevated the idea of integration as a potential component of STEM education. Recognizing that education within the individual STEM disciplines has great value and that efforts to improve discipline-centered teaching and learning should continue, this project considers the potential benefits—and challenges—of an explicit focus on integration.
The report’s primary audience is education researchers and those working in the cognitive and learning sciences. It is these individuals to whom the committee’s research agenda is directed. However, the report contains much more than the agenda. It should also prove useful to the large, diverse set of individuals directly involved in or supportive of efforts to improve STEM education in the United States. These include educators, school leaders, curriculum and assessment developers, and those engaged in teacher education and professional development, as well as policymakers and employers.
The committee met five times, sponsored three data-gathering workshops, commissioned several reviews of the relevant research, and studied a subset of programs and projects judged to be engaged in some form of integrated STEM education. Beyond this data gathering, the report reflects the personal and professional experiences and judgments of committee members.
Although our report falls far short of an unequivocal endorsement of integrated approaches to STEM education, I know I speak for my committee colleagues in noting the exciting potential of leveraging the natural connections between and among the four STEM subjects for the benefit of students.
Margaret A. Honey, Chair
This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the NRC’s Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their review of this report:
Rodger W. Bybee, Executive Director (Retired), Biological Sciences Curriculum Study
David Crismond, Teaching Learning and Culture: Science Education, The City College of New York
L. Berkley Davis, Chief Consulting Engineer, Systems, GE Power Generation Products
Lucille E. Davy, Senior Advisor, The Hunt Institute
Kim Day, Health, Science and Mathematics Branch, The Department of Defense Education Activity
David Heil, David Heil and Associates, Inc., Portland, OR
Mackenzie D. Hird, Engineering Systems Division, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Marie Hoepfl, Department of Technology and Environmental Design, Appalachian State University
William Hunter, Center for Mathematics, Science, and Technology, Illinois State University
Joseph Krajcik, College of Natural Science and College of Education, University of Michigan
Richard C. Larson, Engineering Systems Division, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Richard S. Muller, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, University of California, Berkeley
Anthony Petrosino, Mathematics and Science Education, University of Texas, Austin
Amy Sabarre, PK–12 STEM and PK-5 Science, Harrisonburg City Public Schools, Harrisonburg, VA
Norman H. Sleep, Department of Geophysics, Stanford University
Roberta Tanner, Physics and Physical Science, Loveland High School, Loveland, CO
Although the reviewers listed above provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Lawrence D. Brown, Department of Statistics, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania and Carlo Parravano, Executive Director (retired), Merck Institute for Science Education. Appointed by the National Research Council, they were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.
In addition to the reviewers, many other individuals assisted in the development of this report. David Heil and Associates, Inc. (DHA) oversaw an ambitious synthesis of literature related to the outcomes of integrated STEM education. DHA received considerable help on this task from Kenneth Welty, University of Wisconsin, Stout, who performed a detailed analysis of the literature related to formal education, from Cary Sneider, Portland State University, who conducted a similar analysis of literature in the informal
education arena, and from Eli M. Silk and Christian D. Schunn, University of Pittsburgh, who reviewed the cognitive sciences literature related to integrated STEM education. DHA also prepared summaries of a number of projects or programs engaged in integrated STEM education, and the firm conducted in-depth interviews with individual stakeholders in STEM education on the committee’s behalf. Both efforts were important input for committee deliberations.
Inverness Research conducted the project’s formative and summative evaluations. The firm prepared detailed summaries, including feedback from participants and Inverness’s own observations, of two of the committee’s workshops. These documents helped clarify the committee’s thinking on a number of points. Inverness will also track impact of the committee report.
The committee benefited greatly from several commissioned papers. Mary Gauvain, University of California, Riverside, prepared a paper on the social context of learning and integrated STEM education; K. Ann Renninger, Swarthmore College, wrote a paper addressing the development of interest in integrated STEM education; Angela Calabrese Barton, Michigan State University, contributed a review of identity research in science education and its implications for integrated STEM education experiences; Edys Quellmalz, WestEd, addressed the issue of assessment of student learning in the context of integrated STEM; and Steven Marc Weisberg, Temple University, explored embodied cognition approaches in integrated STEM education. The committee’s report is much richer for these contributions. The committee also wishes to thank the many other experts and practitioners who took the time to attend the project workshops and share their perspectives on integrated STEM education.
Thanks are also due to the project staff. Maribeth Keitz managed the study’s logistical and administrative needs, making sure meetings and workshops ran efficiently and smoothly. Christine Mirzayan Science & Technology Policy Graduate Fellow Kristen Coakley did extensive background research on previous efforts to describe STEM education in the United States. NAE Senior Editor Cameron H. Fletcher substantially improved the readability of the report. Greg Pearson, at the NAE, played a key role in conceptualizing the study. He and study codirector Heidi Schweingruber, of the NRC Board on Science Education, ably guided the project from its inception.
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