In the two preceding chapters we reviewed research that can inform the development of effective integrated STEM programs (Chapter 3) and, based on this research, identified strategies for designing programs (Chapter 4). In this chapter we consider the broader context for implementing integrated STEM education, taking account of factors at the school, district, state, and national levels. We examine three elements of the education system that can advance or limit opportunities for providing integrated STEM: standards, assessment, and teacher education and professional development, including the importance of collaboration. We also briefly touch on other contextual factors that might affect efforts to implement integrated STEM education.
The most recent standards for mathematics and science education, the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSSM; NGACPB 2010) and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS; NRC 2013a), can support efforts to make connections across the disciplines. The CCSSM call for students to use mathematics in applied contexts and identify practices in mathematics that can link to those of science and engineering. The NGSS explicitly include practices and core ideas from engineering and technology. The increased focus on
applications of math and science concepts, the emphasis on practices in mathematics, science, and engineering, and the addition of engineering design as a central aspect of the NGSS all provide strong support for more integration of STEM in math and science curriculum and teaching. Likewise, the Standards for Technological Literacy: Content for the Study of Technology (ITEEA 2000) spell out learning goals related to engineering design and emphasize the need for students to understand technology’s connections to science, engineering, and mathematics.
The committee recognizes that not all states will adopt the CCSSM or the NGSS. Even so, the standards have the potential to influence approaches to mathematics and science education, even in states that do not formally adopt them. The standards call for the engagement of students in authentic tasks that require integration across the STEM disciplines and support for the development and application of conceptual knowledge and reasoning.
The NGSS, based on the NRC’s Framework for K–12 Science Education (NRC 2012), identify eight practices in science and engineering that may serve as starting points for integrating science, engineering, and mathematics. Engineering practices are described alongside scientific practices, several of which offer opportunities to link to mathematics, including “modeling” and “using mathematics and computational thinking.” The Framework and NGSS also describe core ideas related to engineering design. The goal of including practices and ideas related to engineering, technology, and applications of science is to help students understand the similarities and differences between science and engineering by making the connections between them explicit (NRC 2012).
The Framework and NGSS also outline seven crosscutting concepts relevant to both science and engineering; two of these concepts—“Patterns and Scale, Proportion, and Quantity”—have clear links to mathematics. The NGSS identify connections to elements of the CCSSM and provide examples (Appendix L) of the use of mathematics in the context of science.
The standards for mathematical practice outlined in the CCSSM also have potential links to the scientific and engineering practices in the NGSS (see Table 5-1). For example, one of the standards, “Using appropriate tools strategically,” calls for students to select tools appropriate for solving a mathematical problem; the tools can include computer software as well as “hard” technology. Knowledge of what the technologies can and cannot do in a given situation and how to use estimation are essential for the effective use of technology in mathematics. For high school students, “modeling” is a conceptual category in CCSSM; as described in the overview of this cat-
TABLE 5-1 Mathematical Practices in the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics and Scientific and Engineering Practices in the Next Generation Science Standards
|Mathematical Practices||Scientific and Engineering Practices|
1. Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them
2. Reason abstractly and quantitatively
3. Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others
4. Model with mathematics
5. Use appropriate tools strategically
6. Attend to precision
7. Look for and make use of structure
8. Looking for and expressing regularity in repeated reasoning
1. Ask questions and define problems
2. Develop and use models
3. Plan and carry out investigations
4. Analyze and interpret data
5. Use mathematics and computational thinking
6. Construct explanations and design solutions
7. Engage in argument from evidence
8. Obtain, evaluate, and communicate information
egory, the modeling cycle can also be viewed as an engineering design cycle: It involves making choices, assumptions, and approximations. The use of technology is also inherent in modeling; computer-assisted design programs and 3D modeling applications, for example, are tools that are often used in the modeling process.
A potential challenge of taking advantage of the apparent overlap in the practices identified in the CCSSM and NGSS is clarification for students of the similarities and differences in the two disciplines (e.g., Davidson et al. 1998). For example, argumentation in mathematics differs from argumentation in science. Students will need to develop the ability to engage in argumentation in each and to understand how the two types of argument differ. Whether skill in one form of argumentation can enhance skill in another is an open, empirical question.
In addition to standards for mathematical practice, the CCSSM identify concepts in 11 domains and describe what students should understand in these domains at each grade level. Many of the concepts are critical to science and engineering. For example, according to CCSSM standard 8.G.4, 8th-grade students are expected to understand congruence and similarity in mathematics using physical models, transparencies, or geometry software. This standard may support achievement of the 8th-grade endpoint in engineering design outlined in the Framework, to consider possible constraints on design solutions (ETS1.A). Students in 8th grade are also expected to learn
to investigate patterns of association in bivariate data (CCSSM, 8.SP.1). This concept links to the crosscutting concept of patterns in the Framework and NGSS and is important to scientific investigation and engineering design.
One challenge of implementing both the CCSSM and NGSS is to ensure the development of discipline-specific knowledge while also supporting connections across STEM. As reported in Chapter 3, analyses of math and science integration have found fewer benefits for math outcomes compared to science outcomes (e.g., Hartzler 2000). Therefore, as the CCSSM and NGSS are implemented, research on approaches to integrated STEM education will be necessary to enhance learning outcomes for all the disciplines. For example, students in high school are expected to apply geometric concepts in modeling situations involving design problems (G.MG.3) and to conduct calculations of density based on area and volume (G.MG.2)The teacher could use a science- and engineering-based lesson to meet these standards with an engineering project in which students use a design-based approach to develop or redesign a fuel-efficient gas tank to meet new environmental standards and minimize human impacts on Earth systems (ESS3.C). A research-based assessment of this integrated lesson would measure improvements in student thinking and learning in mathematics, science, and engineering.
Assessments—from formative assessments at the classroom level to large-scale state assessments for accountability—can limit the extent to which integrated STEM can be incorporated into K–12 education. This is because it is challenging to design assessments that are effective for both discipline-specific and integrated learning. Historically, assessments have focused on concepts in a single discipline, with little attention to disciplinary practices or applications of knowledge. Large-scale assessments used for accountability pose the biggest challenges, although some innovative examples do exist and we touch briefly on those in this section.
Designing Systems of Assessment for Integrated STEM
Assessments of integrated STEM education should be balanced, using multiple levels of assessment (e.g., formative, interim, and summative measures of student performance) in a coherent and continuous manner to address student needs, inform instructional adjustments, and guide long-term edu-
cational improvement.1 A coherent assessment system would connect integrated STEM goals, curricula, and assessments in programs and projects as well as across different levels of the system (classroom, school, district, and state); a continuous system would use multiple assessments over time. Ideally, balanced systems of assessment would be designed to connect evidence of learning from particular integrated STEM programs to more generalized, summative assessments of learning across a range of integrated STEM initiatives. The development of balanced integrated STEM assessment systems will be particularly challenging, because of the many possible permutations of disciplinary knowledge and practices in integrated STEM learning environments. This challenge is exemplified in student performance expectations spelled out in the recently published NGSS, which combine disciplinary core ideas and cross-cutting concepts with scientific practices. Assessment of this “three-dimensional learning” will require tasks that allow students to demonstrate their proficiency with scientific practices and that reflect the connected use of different scientific practices in the context of interconnected disciplinary ideas and crosscutting concepts. A systems approach to assessment will be needed in which a range of assessment strategies are designed to answer different kinds of questions with appropriate degrees of specificity to provide results that complement one another (NRC 2013b).
Current assessments of STEM learning tend to be either standardized tests of content knowledge in the separate disciplines or evaluations of project-specific student performance and/or products in particular interventions. Standardized assessments typically include items only partially aligned with an integrated STEM curriculum or projects, whereas assessments of integrated STEM education tend to measure very specific outcomes, and often details of the tests and their technical quality are not reported. As integrated STEM projects and curricula become more widely implemented, more attention will need to be paid to appropriate uses of data from conventional large-scale tests and to procedures for developing and establishing the technical quality of measures for specific interventions. Research on the reliability and validity of assessments is needed (AERA et al. 1999).
Integrated STEM programs and assessments of them should identify the knowledge and skills to be monitored during learning activities and tested at the culmination of a project (Crismond 2001). An important related consideration is whether the intended integrated STEM outcomes are all at the
1 Balanced assessments are discussed in detail in the NRC report Systems for State Science Assessment (NRC 2005).
same grade level for each component discipline or related hierarchically by drawing on knowledge and skills attained in earlier grades.
The design of integrated STEM assessments should be firmly grounded in research from the learning and measurement sciences, which has led to a shift from emphasis on questions about discrete, factual content to questions about interactions among concepts and to tasks that require integration of reasoning and inquiry in the context of significant, applied problems. Thus integrated STEM assessments should feature tasks that provide real-world contexts for using and integrating discipline-specific knowledge while engaging in engineering and scientific practices.
The NRC report Knowing What Students Know: The Science and Design of Educational Assessment (NRC 2001) incorporated cognitive research findings into systematic test design frameworks, based on evidence from tasks that enable the observation and measurement of learning. The framework can help to structure and focus both the design of integrated STEM learning activities and the systematic, rigorous assessment of specified learning outcomes.
Integrated STEM assessment designs will vary depending on the purpose of the assessment (e.g., formative monitoring, summative accountability measures) and the particular disciplines to be assessed, but all would specify (1) what would count as evidence of learning and (2) the types of contexts and tasks that would elicit such evidence. Ideally, design of both the activities and assessments would occur simultaneously, accompanied by iterative cross-checking to ensure that the learning activities are designed to promote the specified STEM knowledge and scientific and engineering practices and incorporate systematic assessments of progress in all the target areas. Assessments should also allow for appropriate adjustments in instruction, including the learning supports, or scaffolding, provided to students.
Large-scale assessments of students’ ability to integrate knowledge and practices related to science, technology, and mathematics are difficult to design, given the possible combinations. At present, the Technology and Engineering Literacy Framework for the 2014 National Assessment of Educational Progress (TEL; NAGB 2010) is the primary example of assessment design that integrates technology and engineering. It could be adapted to integrate mathematics and science.
The TEL framework was developed within the constraints typical of large-scale assessments: limited testing time and the need to assess knowledge and skills acquired across a wide range of curriculum programs. It will be administered by computer and the specifications call for short (12-minute) and long (25-minute) scenario-based item sets. An example of a scenario-based item, a simulation of a nuclear reactor developed for the Programme of International Student Assessment (PISA) to assess science, appears in Figure 5-1. It asks students to set the generator valve at a specified level and determine how far the control rods need to be lifted for the power plant to supply a continuous output of megawatts without the safety valve opening. The TEL framework suggests the item can be modified to assess engineering design and systems learning goals, such as analyzing potential hazards of the reactor or determining safe levels of temperature and power.
Two other large-scale assessments that provide examples of tasks to assess integrated STEM learning are the revised advanced placement (AP) biology exam from the College Board (2013) and the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Interactive Computer and Hands-On Tasks Science Assessment (NCES 2012).
Most assessments at the state level test the STEM disciplines separately, although they may include performance tasks that assess science or math in the context of an applied design problem. For instance, a released science item from the 2009 Connecticut Academic Performance Test involves hands-on investigation of the effects of enzymes on the production of juice from applesauce or pears (CSDE 2009). Responses are rated on the credibility of the design of the investigation and interpretation of the data, measuring only scientific investigation practices. Another performance assessment asks students to conduct an experiment to determine the most durable material for a public sculpture. Scientific concepts and practices are the intended targets, and the evidence weighed aligns with scientific inquiry standards rather than standards for engineering design.
The Use of Information and Computer Technology in Assessment
Thanks to the rapidly advancing capabilities of digital and networking technologies, assessment functions related to authoring, delivering, collecting, and reporting measures of learning are becoming more efficient and economical. Technologies can expand the range of outcomes tested and support designs
FIGURE 5-1 Interactive science item from the Framework for NAEP Technology and Engineering Literacy (TEL). Source: OECD 2010. Reprinted with permission.
of innovative tasks that can be used to assess progressions in integrated STEM learning (Quellmalz et al. 2012) or allow portfolio-based assessment of STEM practices, such as engineering design (Abts et al. 2013). Technology can also help align learning and assessment targets in an integrated STEM program with STEM standards and with embedded formative assessment items and summative tests.2Box 5-1 describes strategies for applying digital and networking technologies to support assessments of integrated STEM instruction.
The expertise of educators, whether in classrooms or in after-/out-of-school settings, is a key factor—some would say the key factor—in determining whether the integration of STEM can be done well. At the most basic level, educator expertise combines knowledge of the subject matter with an understanding of effective approaches for teaching it to students with diverse learning styles. Such approaches include not only teaching strategies but also the skill with which educators plan lessons and work collaboratively to support student learning. Teachers’ subject-matter knowledge is directly correlated with students’ learning (e.g., Hill et al. 2005).
Because integrated STEM education is a relatively recent phenomenon, little is known from research about how best to support the development of educator expertise in this domain specifically. However, much that is known about the successful preparation of educators and about professional development generally is likely to be relevant to integrated STEM education. Research on K–12 STEM educators’ expertise can provide insight into challenges and opportunities for preparing them to teach integrated STEM.
The following sections present a synthesis of research on three factors of particular relevance to the implementation of integrated STEM instruction: teachers’ content knowledge, self-efficacy, and opportunities for collaboration. Where possible, we refer to research or cite examples from studies that tie directly to integrated STEM education. Preparing effective, confident teachers in single academic subjects is no easy task, and the task is likely to
2 Embedded assessment attempts to measure knowledge or skill as part of the learning activity rather than as a separate step (i.e., test) after the fact. Formative assessment is typically employed by educators during the learning process to inform changes in instruction that will improve student understanding. Formative assessment typically involves qualitative feedback, rather than scores. Summative assessment (e.g., an end-of-unit exam) seeks to monitor educational outcomes, often for purposes of external accountability.
Possible Strategies for Leveraging Technology to Assess Integrated STEM Learning
The high school course Engineering the Future (http://legacy.mos.org/etf/) by the Museum of Science, Boston, engages students in four 8-week projects on concepts of energy. Problems include how to use insulation to create an energy-efficient building by minimizing loss of thermal energy and how to design a boat engine based on understanding of energy transferred through pneumatic and hydraulic systems. Readings from first-person narratives by engineers and technicians provide background on how to apply engineering standards. The readings are keyed to sections in an engineer’s notebook, in which students record their drawings, design briefs, scale models, and prototypes. Math and science concepts are brought in as prototypes are tested.
The engineer’s notebook permits embedded formative assessment of students’ learning of engineering design, technology, science, and math as they work through phases of the problems.Rubrics, or criteria, for evaluating paper-based entries (e.g., design briefs, sketches of prototypes, worked calculations) provide evidence of progress and of outcomes needing feedback and additional scaffolding to guide improvement. Rubrics may be used by students, teachers, and/or external experts. Progress reports on integrated STEM concepts and practices can be entered into the notebooks and in a teacher class-level assessment record.
A digital version of the engineer’s notebook could deliver questions and problems designed to test the engineering design, science, math,
be more challenging for educators capable of guiding students in integrated STEM education.
Teachers’ STEM Content Knowledge
The prospects for widespread implementation of integrated STEM in and out of the classroom may be limited by educators’ STEM content knowledge. While there is no universal measure of such knowledge, all indications are that a significant percentage of educators have inadequate STEM content knowledge in the individual STEM fields that they teach.
One important indicator of content knowledge is an undergraduate degree in the subject being taught, but a significant proportion of elementary
and technology knowledge and practices involved during the phases of the project. These questions and problems could include text, graphics, photos and videos of sample designs, calculations, and prototype sketches. Some of the newly designed embedded assessment tasks and items could be automatically scored; some designs and drawings could be displayed for peer review and assessment. For the auto-scored tasks and items, the system could provide individualized feedback and scaffolding related to problematic concepts and practices, and generate progress reports.
The summative assessment tools are print self-evaluations, concept maps,a and end-of-project tests that can be administered electronically, with automatic scoring and rubric-based ratings generated for student and teacher analysis.
An alignment table could show the links between the intended learning targets and the different forms of evidence from the concept maps and end-of-project tests. The table would also document the extent to which learning targets for the distinct STEM disciplinary concepts and practices were at the same or different grade levels. A more ambitious summative assessment effort could develop brief simulation tasks for each unit to test whether students correctly apply the STEM concepts and practices to other integrated STEM design problems about energy concepts related to insulation and engines.
a Concept maps show relationships among different concepts and are a way to organize and structure knowledge.
teachers of science and mathematics are deficient by this measure. According to the 2012 National Survey of Science and Math Education (NSSME; Horizon Research 2013), just 5 percent of elementary teachers had a degree in science or science education, and 4 percent had a mathematics or mathematics education degree. Among middle school science teachers, 41 percent reported having earned a degree in science or science education, and 35 percent of middle school mathematics teachers had a degree in mathematics or mathematics education. The comparable figures for high school teachers were 82 and 73 percent for science and mathematics, respectively.
Some science and mathematics teachers without degrees obtain certification to teach those subjects, and this provides a proxy for content knowledge. For example, data from the 2007–2008 school year indicate that 12 and 16 percent of high school science and mathematics teachers, respectively,
without a college degree in their subject received state certification to teach those subjects (NCES 2010).
Beyond majors and certifications, the professional associations representing K–12 science and mathematics teachers have proposed specific course-background standards for elementary and secondary educators. According to NSSME, the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) recommends that elementary teachers take coursework in each of three areas: life, Earth, and physical sciences. Among elementary teachers, 74 percent have taken courses in at least two of the three recommended areas, NSSME found, and 73 percent of middle school general science teachers had taken courses in at least three of the four NSTA-recommended areas: life and Earth sciences, physics, and chemistry. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) suggests coursework in five areas for elementary teachers: number and operations, algebra, geometry, probability, and statistics. NSSME found that 10 percent of elementary teachers met this standard, 42 percent of mathematics teachers at the secondary level took coursework in at least three of the areas, and 49 percent of middle school mathematics teachers took courses in all or five of the six areas recommended by NCTM. Guidance for the mathematical education of teachers is also offered by the Conference Board of the Mathematical Sciences (CBMS 2012).
Although they are in the majority by a wide margin, science and mathematics teachers are not the only teachers of K–12 STEM. Some 45 undergraduate programs in the United States prepare technology teachers (CTETE 2012), most of whom will be working in middle and high schools.3 The technology teacher education curriculum includes mathematics and science coursework, though specific requirements vary. A survey of technology teacher preparation programs (McAlister 2004) found that most required between 2 and 8 credits of mathematics and 6 to 8 credits of science. The curriculum also includes coursework in specific areas of technology—such as communications, manufacturing, transportation, construction, and medicine and health—and on the relationship between technology and society. The basis for most programs’ curricula is Standards for Technological Literacy: Content for the Study of Technology (ITEEA 2000). With the exception of teachers licensed under emergency certification programs, states require technology teachers to have a bachelor’s degree in technology education or in industrial arts.
3 Technology education is discussed in Chapter 1.
Over the last decade, technology educators have begun to teach aspects of engineering, and engineering coursework is now offered by some teacher education programs (Fantz and Katsioloudis 2011). Courses such as engineering math and statistics include mathematics and science content; others address engineering design as well as more narrow subjects, such as thermodynamics and mechatronics.
A teacher’s self-efficacy depends on adequate background in the STEM subject(s) being taught, the ability to effectively transfer that knowledge and understanding to students—what is called pedagogical content knowledge (Shulman 1987)—and confidence in both areas. Self-efficacy, research shows, is a major determinant of teacher effectiveness (e.g., Berman and McLauglin 1977; Gibson and Dembo 1984; Woolfolk Hoy and Davis 2005).
Not surprisingly, educators who are or feel deficient in their content knowledge are less likely to believe they can teach the material effectively (Peterson et al. 1989; Rubek and Enochs 1991). The literature reports abundant data showing that many teachers are reluctant to teach science (Wenner 1993) and to a lesser extent mathematics, especially in the elementary and middle grades. Several studies suggest that efficacy is a significant factor contributing to this reluctance (Baker 1991; Riggs and Enochs 1990; Wenner 2001).
Lack of confidence in mathematics and science knowledge (Diefes-Dux and Duncan 2007) and fear of engineering (Cunningham 2007) have been tied to educator reluctance to engage in professional development related to engineering. The NSSME (Horizon Research 2013) found that only 4 percent of elementary teachers4 and only 6 and 7 percent of middle and high school science teachers, respectively, felt very well prepared to teach about engineering. By comparison, 39 percent and 77 percent of elementary teachers reported that they felt very well prepared to teach science and mathematics, respectively. Depending on the specific topic,5 between 5 and 58 percent of
4 The survey defined engineering broadly as “nature of engineering and technology, design processes, analyzing and improving technological systems, interactions between technology and society.”
5 Teachers rated their confidence in teaching 19 specific topics across earth/space science, biology/life science, chemistry, and physics. The lowest level of confidence by far for both middle and high school teachers was in “modern physics (e.g., special relativity).”
middle school teachers and 19 and 83 percent of high school teachers felt very well prepared to teach science. For mathematics topics,6 high confidence ranged from 48 to 88 percent for middle school teachers and from 30 to 90 percent of high school teachers.
In a specific illustration of the problem, William Hunter of Illinois State University told the committee about the development and implementation of the iMaST (Integrated Mathematics, Science, and Technology) curriculum.7 It includes 195 learning cycles, 107 readings, and 16 thematic modules that have been tested and revised for grades 6 through 8, but most teachers have been reluctant to fully implement the program, he reported. Math teachers were especially hesitant because of their lack of confidence in teaching science.
It is highly likely that educator self-efficacy will play a critical role in effective integrated STEM education (e.g., Koirala and Bowman 2003). Research is needed to determine how best to address the challenge of inadequate self-efficacy among teachers of integrated STEM, but, as described in the next section, some programs are available for enhancing teacher’s STEM content knowledge, which may contribute to self-efficacy.
Developing Expertise for Teaching Integrated STEM
Because integrated STEM education must address at least two of the four disciplines, one basic question is to what extent a teacher must be responsible for (have expertise in) multiple STEM content areas. As we note above, even in the individual STEM subjects, K–12 teacher expertise is often lower than what professional organizations in the field recommend. It is therefore important to determine ways to help K–12 educators develop substantive understanding of more than one STEM field.
Although expertise related to the individual subjects is important for integrated STEM, content knowledge alone is not sufficient. Teachers also need to know about and become expert in pedagogical strategies that support students in integrated experiences. For example, as discussed in Chapters 3 and 4, teachers need to know how to provide instructional supports that help students recognize connections between disciplines. They also need to
6 Teachers rated their confidence in teaching algebraic thinking, the number system and operations, functions, measurement, geometry, modeling, statistics and probability, and discrete mathematics. The lowest level of confidence for both middle and high school teachers was in discrete mathematics.
7 For more information: http://cemast.illinoisstate.edu/downloads/imast/glance2011.doc.
be able to assist students in developing proficiency in individual subjects in ways that complement and support students’ learning in integrated activities.
Examples of Preservice Teacher Preparation in Integrated STEM
A small number of teacher education programs around the country are making efforts to prepare prospective or current K–12 teachers with appropriate content knowledge in more than one STEM subject. One of them is UTeachEngineering (www.uteachengineering.org/), at the University of Texas at Austin (UT), a collaboration among UT’s Cockrell School of Engineering, its Colleges of Natural Sciences and Education, and the Austin Independent School District.
UTeachEngineering is modeled after the UTeach Natural Sciences program (www.uteach.utexas.edu/), which encourages undergraduate STEM majors to pursue careers in secondary-level mathematics and science teaching. UTeachEngineering provides a broad content foundation in STEM for physics, mathematics, chemistry, and engineering majors to teach grades 8–12 under a new Texas Education Agency certification, 174 Mathematics/ Physical Science/Engineering 8–12 (TEA 2011). Students seeking this certification who are majoring in physics, chemistry, or mathematics must supplement core content coursework in their major with upper-division classes in the other two subjects (e.g., a mathematics major must add coursework in chemistry and physics) and successfully complete three upper-division engineering classes that teach fundamentals in the context of design problems. Engineering students seeking the same certification must fulfill all of their engineering degree requirements and complete additional content coursework in chemistry, physics, and mathematics (e.g., structure of modern geometry; foundations, functions, and regression models). All students in the UTeach program, regardless of their major, complete professional development coursework and a teaching apprenticeship.
The 174 certification is relatively new; UT Austin was approved to offer it beginning in 2012. To date, four UTeachEngineering graduates—three in physics and one in engineering—have earned the certification, and at least seven students in physics, chemistry, and mathematics are pursuing it, as are some of the 37 engineering majors enrolled in UTeach courses (Cheryl Farmer, UTeachEngineering, personal communication, March 1, 2013).
Nearly half of the other 32 institutions around the country involved in UTeach Natural Sciences replication programs are enrolling engineering students: at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, 16 of 71 UTeach students
are engineering majors; at the University of Kansas, 21 of 307 students are engineering majors; and at Southern Polytechnic State University, 5 of 29 are engineering majors. In spring 2013, the University of Colorado, Boulder, announced creation of CU Teach Engineering, which will offer general engineering majors the opportunity to earn a license to teach secondary science or mathematics (UCB 2013). Similar programs are being implemented at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, and the University of California, Berkeley.
Colorado State University (CSU) requires additional coursework of engineering science majors that allows them to obtain teaching certificates in technology education. The program, a collaboration between the university’s schools of engineering and education, has enrolled 35 students so far and graduated 12, all with primary licenses in technology education and additional endorsements in mathematics. More than half of the program’s graduates are women (Michael DeMiranda, CSU, personal communication, February 27, 2013). The MST (math, science, technology) elementary education degree offered by The College of New Jersey (TCNJ; O’Brien 2010) and described in Box 2-7 in Chapter 2, requires students to take coursework across multiple STEM areas. And Boise State University’s (BSU) master of science in STEM education program for in-service teachers requires 33 credit hours, including 14 hours of STEM content courses and a 3-credit course covering fundamentals of education research.
A program at Purdue University educates future secondary school math and science teachers, engineering education doctoral students, and students in a graduate-level engineering course designed to provide strategies for integrating engineering in stand-alone or integrated environments (Carr and Strobel 2011). The program uses a combination of face-to-face and online instruction that models a project-based learning approach, and there are opportunities for students to apply research-based methods of integration and engineering instruction throughout the learning process. Course outcomes, including understanding of concepts, knowledge, and attitudes are assessed using student products, concept maps, and student feedback.
At the National Center for Elementary STEM Education based at St. Catherine University in Minnesota, all elementary education majors obtain a STEM certificate that requires three cross-disciplinary, inquiry-based courses: Chemistry of Life, Environmental Biology, and Makin’ and Breakin’: Engineering in Your World. There have been 76 graduates of the program since 2010 (Patricia Born Selly, National Center for STEM Elementary Education, personal communication, November 8, 2013). The university
also offers a 15-credit graduate STEM certificate program for in-service elementary teachers. The program, which initially served only Montessori teachers but now enrolls teachers from non-Montesorri schools, pairs indepth, hands-on learning for one week each summer with online mentoring and support during the academic year. The graduate program, which since 2009 has awarded 227 certificates, is driven in part by the state’s K–12 science standards, which include learning goals related to the practice of engineering (MDE 2009).Virginia Tech (VT) has taken a different tack with its Integrative STEM Education Graduate Program (www.soe.vt.edu/istemed/). Its goal is to prepare STEM teachers and administrators to design, implement, and investigate integrative approaches to STEM education (Mark Sanders, Virginia Tech, personal communication, February 22, 2013). The program, begun in 2005, currently enrolls about 50 students pursuing master’s, EdS, EdD, or PhD degrees. Most earn a 12-semester Integrative STEM Education Graduate Certificate on the way to completing their degree. More than half of the students are middle/high school science, mathematics, and/or elementary school teachers, or K–12 administrators; the rest are full-time technology or engineering teachers, coordinators, or administrators. Courses are taught on campus, but because most enrolled students are working full-time off campus, interactive video-based class sessions are also conducted in real time via the Web.
Students in the VT program can take advantage of a 2,800-square-foot STEM Education Collaboratory, a laboratory and classroom space for investigating, assessing, and promoting innovative design-based approaches to teaching and learning (Wells 2013). In fall 2011, for example, the collaboratory hosted a professional development session for elementary master teachers from around the country who planned to teach the technology, engineering, environment, mathematics, and science (TEEMS) curriculum developed by Engineering by Design™ (www.iteea.org/EbD/ebd.htm), a program of the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association.
The UT, CSU, TCNJ, BSU, Purdue, and St. Catherine programs indicate that it is possible to enhance the STEM content knowledge of both new and experienced teachers. But it is less clear, because there is virtually no research on the topic, that this additional knowledge is put to use in the classroom or in ways that support students’ ability to make connections between or among concepts and practices in more than one area of STEM. In this regard, the VT program’s goal of supporting teacher and administrator efforts to carry out “integrative” STEM education appears unique. But it, too, lacks empirical study of the impact of teacher certification on student learning.
Having the content knowledge and pedagogical skills to teach STEM in an integrated fashion is only part of the challenge of implementation, however. Even educators who graduate from one of the programs described above will have relatively few options in terms of schools that are equipped to support integrated approaches to STEM education. It is the committee’s sense that, at this time, most educators with broad STEM backgrounds are likely to find themselves teaching single subjects in fairly traditional settings.
Examples of Professional Development for In-Service Integrated STEM Teachers
Professional development can boost the STEM content knowledge of in-service teachers, as teachers with expertise in one area, such as science education, pursue coursework to build knowledge in another area, such as mathematics. While such programs vary in structure and content, research on professional development has found that effectiveness increases significantly if teachers are engaged over extended periods—a week or more—and have access to ongoing support and mentoring beyond the formal training.
A basic premise of many professional development programs reviewed by the committee is that if teachers have not themselves experienced integration of science, mathematics, technology, and/or engineering, they are not likely to teach integrated curricula for these subjects in their classrooms. In short, teachers need an understanding of and experience with integrated STEM if they are to teach in an integrated manner.
In one fairly representative study, Basista and Mathews (2002) describe a small-scale (22 teachers of grades 4–12) university-based professional development program on integrating mathematics and science. The program consisted of an intensive summer institute followed by academic-year support activities and visits to participating teachers’ classrooms. The authors report that a minimum duration of 3 weeks (contact time of 72 hours) was necessary to bring about significant shifts in teachers’ beliefs, pedagogical preparation, and subject content knowledge. Institute courses were team taught by science and mathematics educators, and teachers were “immersed” in inquiry-based learning environments where they worked on integrated science and mathematics units in cooperative groups of three or four. Program assessment, based on before and after evaluations, found that teachers’ content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, and confidence increased. However, because the design did not include a control or comparison group, it is not possible to attribute the results to the program alone, nor are the results
generalizable. Nevertheless, the findings suggest that this approach has the potential to make a positive contribution to preparing teachers for effective integrated STEM instruction.
Daugherty (2009) examined five integrated STEM programs (Engineering the Future–Project Lead the Way, Mathematics Across the Middle School, MST Curriculum Project, the Infinity Project, and INSPIRES) that provide professional development for in-service teachers. Participating teachers agreed on three aspects that contributed to the programs’ effectiveness: (1) hands-on activities, (2) teacher collaboration, and (3) instructor credibility. Given the multiple ways engineering may be portrayed in the classroom, Daugherty suggests that more research is needed to better understand how teachers and students best learn engineering in order to design effective professional development.
A number of K–12 engineering curricula include professional development that familiarizes in-service teachers in technology, science, and mathematics with the engineering design process (NAE and NRC 2009). For example, a 2012 survey of teachers participating in training to teach Project Lead the Way (PLTW; www.pltw.org), one of the largest engineering-focused curriculum projects in the country, found that 32 percent were certified to teach science, 30 percent were certified to teach technology education, and 13 percent were certified to teach mathematics8 (Anne Jones, PLTW, personal communication, March 12, 2013).
Research findings indicate that teacher collaboration and the development of professional learning communities (PLC; Box 5-2) will be important to effective integrated STEM education. Such relationships not only support the development and revision of integrated curriculum and instruction but also nurture communities of practice that may extend beyond the classroom or after-/out-of-school setting. Online tools, particularly the Internet, have the potential to facilitate development of PLCs and to support professional development more generally (NRC 2007).
8 These numbers do not add to 100 percent because some teachers reported certifications in two or all three of the areas of science, technology, and mathematics, and these respondents are not reported here. In addition, 9 percent of teachers indicated that they had a certification in an area other than these three subjects.
Professional Learning Communities
Professional learning communities (PLCs) provide opportunities for teachers to pursue ongoing learning and professional growth, which research suggests are tied to teacher self-efficacy and effectiveness. DuFour (2004, p.9) characterizes PLCs as “a systematic process in which teachers work together to analyze and improve their classroom practice. Teachers work in teams, engaging in an ongoing cycle of questions that promote deep team learning. This process, in turn, leads to higher levels of student achievement.”
For example, when the Martha and Josh Morriss Mathematics and Engineering Elementary School was established in 2007, the Texarkana Intermediate School District introduced a teacher professional development curriculum that provided math content but also empowered teachers to engage in ongoing curriculum design and revision through opportunities for collaboration. In a presentation to the committee, Principal Rick Sandlin and Curriculum Coordinator Rona Jameson noted that elementary school teachers’ lack of confidence and competence in math and science limited their ability to effectively and meaningfully integrate the STEM disciplines. All teachers were therefore required to complete a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction, available through a program created in partnership with the local university. In the summer of 2007, teachers took two courses—Interdisciplinary Curriculum Development and Interdisciplinary Curriculum Delivery—intended to build teamwork and skill in collaborative design and delivery of integrated STEM curriculum units, with support as needed from the principal and the university-based curriculum coach. The Morriss school efforts, reported in a case study by Hunter (2009), have since been adapted in a districtwide curriculum review process that incorporates curriculum and instruction self-evaluation.
An analysis of nine midwestern schools and districts that implement the PLTW curriculum identified teacher collaboration as a key element in developing a “STEM culture” (Meeder 2012). At Thomas Worthington High School in suburban Columbus, Ohio, PLTW teachers and their colleagues in mathematics and science formed a STEM Collaborative Team for lesson planning. Using a curriculum mapping process, the team identified topics
taught across disciplines but delivered at different points in the year and thus coordinated instruction among courses. A mathematics teacher quoted in the Meeder analysis said, “Teaching STEM math has taken lots of extra work to develop the lessons. But the payoff is great…. Working with other teachers makes me a better teacher.”
At Manor (Texas) New Technology High School, all teachers participate in at least 150 hours of professional development yearly (E3 Alliance 2009). This includes specialized training with New Tech’s project-based-learning school model, in which administrators also participate, and training provided by Texas Tech University to implement engineering across the curriculum. Each Monday morning at Manor begins with a two-hour “teacher school,” in which teachers introduce or critique projects, analyze data, and learn about each other’s instructional strategies that have proven effective. By one account, this two-hour period of professional development is critical to the school’s success (ICLE 2010). Although there is a shared library of lessons, rubrics, and course material from the New Tech Foundation, Manor teachers are actively engaged in creating their own project-based lessons and learning activities. Many of the school’s teachers participate in the national Teacher Advancement Program (www.tapsystem.org), qualifying them to pursue other positions such as career counselor, mentor, or master teacher.
Aimee Kennedy, principal of Metro Early College High School in Columbus, Ohio, told the committee that teacher education and professional development are critical to her school’s efforts to integrate the STEM subjects. Ohio State University (OSU) and Battelle Industries jointly established the school, and it serves as a research and development site for the OSU College of Education and Human Ecology, “to fundamentally change how teacher and leadership preparation occurs” (Metro fact sheet, n.d.). School leadership priorities for teachers include strong content knowledge, “instructional agility,” and a professional culture that pushes practice (North 2011); Kennedy reported that, in 2010–2011, the focus of professional development was on “design challenges.”
Although standards, assessment, and educator expertise must be attended to in implementing integrated STEM, the larger context of the school or after-/out-of-school entity—its policies, norms, practices, and administrative leadership—is also important. Schools are influenced by the norms, practices, and policies of the school district, and both schools and after-/
out-of-school learning programs are affected by parents, taxpayers, higher education, and business leaders in the community. The community and school district, in turn, are influenced by norms, practices, and policies at the state, regional, and federal levels. To understand how these different factors may encourage or discourage effective implementation of integrated STEM experiences, it helps to view the education enterprise as a complex system with interacting parts (e.g., Confrey and Maloney 2011).
A detailed discussion of all aspects of the education system that might constrain or advance integrated STEM education is beyond the scope of this report, but recent studies of STEM education in general shed light on the topic. The NRC (2011a) report Successful K–12 STEM Education: Identifying Effective Approaches in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics identified elements shared by schools that showed improvements in student learning in mathematics and science (see Box 5-3). And it suggests that districts provide instructional leaders with professional development that helps them create conditions favorable for students’ success in STEM. Similarly,
Elements of School Culture That Support STEM Learning
1. School leadership as the driver for change. Principals must be strategic, focused on instruction, and inclusive of others in the leadership work.
2. Professional capacity or the quality of the faculty and staff recruited to the school, their beliefs and values about changes, the quality of ongoing professional development, and the capacity of staff to work together.
3. Parent-community ties that involve active outreach to make school a welcoming place for parents, engage them in supporting their children’s academic success, and strengthen connections to other local institutions.
4. A student-centered learning climate that is safe, welcoming, stimulating, and nurturing for all students.
5. Instructional guidance focused on the organization of the curriculum, the nature of academic demands or challenges it poses, and the tools teachers have to advance learning (such as instructional materials).
SOURCE: NRC (2011a).
administrators and other leaders in schools or districts that seek to develop integrated STEM programs will need to understand integrated STEM education and strategies they can use to ensure its success.
Although the project’s data gathering did not focus on this dimension of K–12 education, information and communications technology (ICT) is playing an increasingly important role in delivering content, connecting students and teachers, and monitoring learning and other outcomes. Certain types of ICT, such as games and simulations, show promise for supporting student conceptual understanding and motivating interest (NRC 2011b). But overall, evidence regarding improved learning outcomes from blended and online learning approaches is thin (Means et al. 2013), suggesting the need for continuing research on the effective use of these tools for both students and educators.
State adoption and implementation of the CCSSM and NGSS will require a deeper understanding of how to create effective integrated STEM experiences that engage students in the practices of mathematics, science, and engineering while applying disciplinary content knowledge. If done well, the implementation should lead to fundamental shifts in the teaching of STEM in schools as the standards make explicit the connections between science, mathematics, and engineering and provide a framework for schools and informal education programs to integrate STEM education.
Implementation of integrated STEM experiences in school and in after/out-of-school settings will in many cases demand educator expertise beyond that needed to teach any of the STEM subjects individually. Thus, many educators will need additional content and pedagogical content knowledge in disciplinary areas beyond their previous education or experience. Such supplementation will require time, money, planning, and monitoring for effectiveness.
We learned of several programs that provide preservice opportunities to develop educators with deep knowledge in more than one STEM field. But the number of teachers participating in these initiatives is still quite small, and we know little about the extent to which they are teaching in ways that might be considered integrated. For teachers already in the classroom, a number of curriculum projects include professional development to build content knowledge in more than one STEM discipline. Little is known, how-
ever, about how or whether these efforts address teacher expertise related to integrated STEM education.
Evidence does indicate that educators need opportunities and training to work collaboratively to deliver effective, integrated STEM instruction. Collaboration should involve staff in the school (e.g., joint lesson planning among STEM teachers) but may extend beyond the classroom to include STEM and education faculty in postsecondary institutions, educators in after-/out-of-school settings, and STEM professionals in industry.
As noted, the recently published NGSS emphasize the role of engineering design in facilitating student learning of scientific concepts. Given current low levels of confidence among K–12 educators in the teaching of engineering (Horizon Research 2013), it may be especially important for both new and experienced science teachers to become familiar with the engineering design process and how it can be integrated into science teaching.
The quest for integrated STEM programs that engage students in real-world applications of STEM knowledge and practices will require significantly different assessments of learning. To understand the strengths and weaknesses of current assessment practices, analyses need to be conducted of integrated STEM programs and of formative and summative STEM assessments. Analyses of integrated STEM programs may reveal additional opportunities for assessment. Promising exemplars of integrated STEM assessment of individual and team learning could be identified and evaluated. Pilot studies of assessment designs could contribute to the development of next-generation integrated STEM assessments, which are to provide evidence supporting the promise and claimed benefits of integrated STEM teaching and learning.
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