International Conference on Engineering Education for Sustainable Development (EESD) (7th : 2015)

Developing integrated science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) projects in education DeCoito, Isha Jun 30, 2015

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DEVELOPING INTEGRATED SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, ENGINEERING AND MATHEMATICS (STEM) PROJECTS IN EDUCATION Isha DeCoito Western University, Canada idecoito@uwo.ca  Abstract: Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) is an emphasis which stresses a multidisciplinary approach for beter preparing al students in STEM subjects, and increasing the number of postsecondary graduates who are prepared for STEM occupations. The ability to understand and use STEM facts, principles, and techniques are highly transferable skils that enhance an individual’s ability to succeed in school and beyond, across a wide array of disciplines. This study focuses on STEM project-based learning  which integrates  engineering  design  principles,  mathematics,  science,  and technology concepts with the K-12 curriculum. The infusion of design principles enhances real-world applicability and helps prepare students for post-secondary  education,  with an emphasis on making connections to  what STEM professionals actualy do in their jobs. This study adopts an integrated approach to teaching STEM education and is grounded in  situated cognition theory which  highlights the fact that understanding how knowledge and skils can be applied is as important as learning the knowledge and skils itself, as wel as recognizing that the contexts are critical to the learning process. This study is unique as it examines the atributes of STEM education using an organic approach to curriculum development and a unique focus on  STEM  concepts  borne  of the  motivation to reinforce  and integrate  engineering,  math,  and  science concepts. To be efective, teachers need content knowledge and  expertise in teaching that content,  but research suggests that science and mathematics teachers are underprepared for these demands; weak initial teacher preparation heightens the importance of continuing professional development. This mixed-methods study explored teacher candidates’ development of 15 digital STEM projects focusing on various topics, including the environment and sustainability, health and wel-being, energy eficiency, and climate change. Through the development of STEM projects, findings reveal that teacher candidates’ interest and engagement in  STEM increased,  and their  understanding  of  STEM  education  and learning  of  STEM concepts were positively impacted as they designed curricula addressing STEM education.  1 INTRODUCTION The  science, technology,  engineering  and  mathematics (STEM)  paradox  of  having too  many  open positions that require STEM skils, but not enough graduates and qualified professionals who are applying to fil those positions remains a concern in both Canada and the United States (Ford, 2012). STEM jobs wil grow almost twice as fast as any other profession, with over 1 milion jobs by 2018 in STEM fields, but only 16% of Canadian degrees awarded wil be in STEM specializations. Research indicates that the low number of graduates in STEM areas can be atributed to students’ atitudes and interest in science and mathematics,  combined  with  a ‘negative image’ in the  early  years.  Achieving  greater  STEM  proficiency begins in the  K–12  educational  system,  where in  many  countries including  Canada,  students  have demonstrated  poor  progress in  math  and  science from  2003-2013 (Richards,  2014). In  2007  Canada’s participation in  STEM  education  at the  postsecondary level  was  awarded  a “C”  grade,  based  on the relatively low  proportion  of  graduates in these fields (Conference  Board  of  Canada,  2013; Orpwood, Schmidt, & Jun, 2012). Statistics Canada (2013) indicates that at the post-secondary level, STEM fields represent  18.6% of al fields of study. Globaly, Canada ranks 10th out of 16 peer countries in terms of EESD’15   The 7th International Conference on Engineering Education for Sustainable Development Vancouver, Canada, June 9 to 12, 2015  041-1 STEM graduates. In 2010, Canada’s proportion of overal graduates emerging from STEM disciplines was 21.2%, the third year of decline. These trends have ramifications in terms of satisfying labor demand and promoting  business innovation.  The  Conference  Board  concluded that  Canada  needs  more  graduates with  advanced  qualifications  and  more  graduates in  STEM fields  as these  graduates  are  necessary to enhance innovation and productivity growth, and ultimately to ensure a high and sustainable quality of life for al Canadians (Conference Board of Canada, 2013). 1.1 Teacher Education and STEM STEM  has long  been  an  area  of  confusion for  some  educators.  While they  can  see  many  of the conceptual links between the various domains of knowledge, they often struggle to meaningfuly integrate and simultaneously teach the content and methodologies of each of these areas in a unified and efective way for their  students (Duschl,  Schweingruber,  &  Shouse,  2007;  Thomasian,  2011).  Essentialy the questions are: How can the content and processes of four disparate and yet integrated learning areas be taught at the same time? How can the integrity of each of the areas be maintained and yet be learnt in a way that is complementary? How does teacher confidence or knowledge of STEM translate to students’ interest in  STEM  careers?  These  are  ongoing  chalenges faced  by  educators,  especialy in the  early grades. For example, failure to motivate student interest in math and science is prevalent in most K–12 systems,  as math  and  science  subjects  are  disconnected from  other  subject  mater  and the real  world, and  students  often fail to  see the  connections  between  what they  are  studying  and  both their  everyday world  and  STEM  career  options (Alexander,  Johnson,  &  Keley,  2012).  Briefly,  efective instruction capitalizes  on  students’  early interest  and  experiences, identifies  and  builds  on  what they  know,  and provides them  with  experiences to  engage them in the  practices  of  science  and  sustain their interest. Ultimately, understanding how to provide students with the support and skils they need to succeed, how students become  aware  of  STEM  career  options,  and  how  educators  can  help  students translate awareness into pursuit of STEM careers, are crucial elements in ensuring the future of a STEM workforce (Subotnik,  Tai,  Rickof,  &  Almarode,  2010).  Currently, learning  strategies in initial teacher  education programs  do  not  prepare teachers to  promote  STEM  careers.  Teacher  education  could  play  a role in establishing these norms, imparting best pedagogical strategies and providing opportunities for teachers to  experience  science  workplaces.  This  study  has the  potential to impact  STEM  education,  especialy areas related to teacher professional development, teacher education, to name a few. 1.2 Integrated STEM and Social Learning Integrating  STEM  subjects  can  be  engaging for  students,  can  promote  problem-solving  and  critical thinking skils and can help build real-world connections. Hence, preparing students with global workforce skils to ensure successful careers in STEM fields wil require new approaches to teaching STEM topics in K-12  classrooms.  Developing  a  conceptual framework for  STEM  education requires  a  deep understanding of the complexities surrounding how people learn, specificaly learning STEM content. The emphasis on social learning as the locus for creating a more sustainable and desirable world is especialy meaningful. Instead of teaching content and skils and hoping students wil see the connections to real-life application, integrated  STEM  education  sees to locate  connections  or intersections  between  science, technology, engineering and mathematics and provide a context for learning the content. Social learning reflects the idea that the shared learning of interdependent stakeholders is a key mechanism for arriving at more desirable futures. Social learning advocate an interactive or participatory style of problem solving, whereby  outside intervention takes the form  of facilitation (Leeuwis  &  Pyburn,  2002,  p.  11).   Thus this research is informed  by  Bandura’s  social learning theory (1977)  situated in the  context  of integrated STEM  project  based learning.  This theory  explains  human  behavior in terms  of  continuous interactions among  cognitive,  behavioral,  and  environmental influences.  Specificaly the focus is  on  active  social learning that is non-hierarchical and promotes co-learning (Glasser, 2009). 1.3 Project-based Learning STEM  project-based learning integrates  engineering  design  principles  with the  K-12  curriculum. Integrated  STEM  project-based learning  builds  on  engineering  design  as the  cornerstone  and  as the foundation  on  which  students  bring their  compartmentalized  knowledge  of  science, technology,  and mathematics to  bear  on  solving  meaningful real-world  problems. The infusion  of  design  principles 041-2 enhances real  world  applicability  and  helps  prepare  students for  post-secondary  education,  with  an emphasis  on  making  connections to  STEM  professionals  and  careers.  Project-based learning  provides the  contextualized,  authentic  experiences  necessary for  students to  scafold learning  and  build meaningful  connections  across  science, technology,  engineering,  and  mathematics  concepts,  while chalenging and motivating students at the same time. Studies comparing learning outcomes for students taught via project-based learning versus traditional instruction show that when implemented wel, project-based learning increases long-term retention of content, helps students perform as wel as or beter than traditional learners in high-stakes tests, improves problem-solving and colaboration skils, and improves students' atitudes towards learning (Strobel & van Barneveld, 2009). In addition, project-based learning enhances  21st century  skils  by fostering  critical  and  analytical thinking,  enhancing  higher-order thinking skils, promoting colaboration, peer communication, problem-solving, and self-directed learning (DeCoito, 2014). Barron  and  Darling (2008)  have identified  several  components that  are  critical to  successful project-base learning: i) identifying  a realistic  problem  or  project, i)  structured  group  work; ii)  multi-faceted assessment; and iv) participation in a professional learning network. 1.4 Curriculum Development, STSE and STEM Projects In  Ontario,  science  and technology  curricula for  grades  1-12 require  students to  analyze  socioscientific issues (SSI) through curriculum expectations in which they “relate science and technology to society and the  environment” (STSE  Expectations) (Ontario  Ministry  of  Education,  2008).  Many teachers  avoid the integration  of  socioscientific issues (Forbes  &  Davis,  2008) into the  science  classroom because they possess limited  content  knowledge  and  skils to  deal  with  complex issues, lack teaching  strategies for dealing with these issues, and tend to place more worth in teaching the value-free concepts and skils of science than messy socioscientific concerns (Lee & Witz, 2009). Proponents of STSE education advocate literacy  grounded in the  context  of  ethical, individual  and  social responsibility (Krug,  2014;  Kumar  & Chubin,  2000).   Gray  and  Bryce (2006)  concede that this  new focus  on  complex,  value-laden  science requires a careful consideration of the professional updating of teachers’ knowledge and skils. One way to address the professional updating of teachers’ knowledge and skils is supporting them in learning to efectively use curriculum materials.  Forbes and Davis (2008) suggest that with support, educators can learn to  make  efective  adaptive  decisions regarding  existing  curriculum  materials.  One  way to  support educators’ work with curricula is through the development of educative curriculum materials, or those that are designed to promote teacher learning as wel as student learning. This study examines the atributes of STEM education using an organic approach to curriculum development and a unique focus on STEM concepts borne of the motivation to reinforce and integrate engineering, math, and science concepts.  2 METHODOLOGY A  mixed-methods  design (Mils,  Durepos,  &  Wiebe,  2010)  was  utilized for the  study to  help  meet the overal aim of the project and answer specific research questions related to STEM project development in teacher  education.  The  data  colecting  methods  consisted  of  T-STEM  surveys (Erkut  &  Marx,  2005), student reflections, interviews, and student work. Participants include teacher candidates (TCs) enroled in two science education courses (Science/ Biology, and Physics/Chemistry at the grades 9-12 levels) at a  Canadian  university. In total, thirty-one  science  education  students (19 females,  12  males), ranging from ages 20-47 participated in this study. A total of 15 digital STEM projects focusing on various topics, including the environment and sustainability, health and wel-being, energy eficiency, and climate change were  completed  by  TCs.  Analysis  of  qualitative  data  constituted  an interpretational  analysis framework, executed through the process of thematic coding and constant comparative method (Stake, 2000). STEM projects  were  analyzed  using  content  analysis  with  specific  emphasis  on i)  STEM  disciplines, i)  STEM content, and ii) STEM integration. This paper reports on one STEM project focusing on the environment and sustainability, through the exploration of mountaintop mining and alternative sources of energy.  041-3 3 ANALYSIS OF STEM PROJECT 3.1 Goals and Curricular Focus The  project, Energy  Systems – A  STEM Integrated  Approach, strives to  draw  atention to  energy production,  consumption,  and  engineering  practices,  while  exploring renewable  and  non-renewable energy resources.  Students research  advantages  and  disadvantages  of  various  methods  of  generating power  and  calculate  eficiencies.  Class  discussion include the  environmental impacts,  comparisons between personal usage, as wel as Ontario and Canada’s usage, to other provinces and other countries, and the economic costs of mining.  This pedagogical approach in employed in the hope that students wil gain  a  deeper  understanding  of their  own  energy  consumption  and  come to the realization that their actions impact not only the environment but their own future. Table 1 ilustrates a suggested timeline for the project, including a sequence of lessons along with corresponding STEM topics and content.  Table 1: Sequence of Topics and STEM Content Lesson Sequence             STEM Topics and Content Lesson 1  Renewable and non-renewable sources of energy Research and Discussion Uses of electricity, generation source, energy consumption, how to reduce energy consumption Lesson 2 Energy eficiency and environmental impact Data analysis, terminology, symbols, calculations Lesson 3 Economics and environmental impacts of mining Environmental Assessment and Reclamation Plan for mine site STEM Project - Blade design proposal (blueprints) Lesson 4 Testing initial blade designs Lesson 5 STEM Project concludes Compile data, class discussion, submit new proposal Lesson 6 Class debate on pros and cons of wind power Personal reflection on STEM project and debate  Table 2 is the assessment developed for the STEM project, according the categories of Ontario’s Ministry of Education achievement chart.  Table 2: Assessment of STEM Project Knowledge and Understanding Thinking and Investigation Communication Application Eficiency Calculations Terminology and Symbols Mining Activity  Blade design  Building blades Class Discussions Mine Reclamation Plan Class Debate Personal Reflection Environmental Assessment Final blade design  proposal  3.2 The Engineering Design Process This STEM project is an exploration into the engineering design process, as ilustrated in Figure 1. Most engineering designs can be classified as inventions created by human effort and are the result of bringing together technologies to meet human needs or to solve problems. Design activity occurs over a period of 041-4 time  and requires  a  step-by-step methodology (Khandani,  2005).The  process  aims to  be  an  authentic learning experience, in which students “learn by doing”, as wel as gain insight into project management. The  wind turbine  blade  design  project is  structured  as  mini tasks  at the  end  of  each lesson.   Thus, students have direct experience  with project management, design and the importance of the successful and timely completion of subtasks to the overal success of the final project. This structure also afords an opportunity for formative feedback to assure success across diverse learning needs of the individual.     Figure 1: Engineering Design Process (Khandani, 2005)  The STEM project utilizes a STSE (Science, Technology, Society and Environment) framework which is issues-based in nature and explores mountaintop mining practices on Coal River Mountain in Appalachia. Students are confronted  with a chalenge of designing a profitable mining simulation, but are thrust into internal  conflict (Socha  et  al.,  2003)  between  making  a  profit  and trying to restore the  environment. Figure 2 ilustrates a mountaintop removal mining site and reflects permanent changes to the landscape.  Figure 2: Mountain Top Mining The citizens of Coal River Mountain have proposed a wind power generation instalation as an alternative to the  planned mountaintop removal  mine.  In this  STEM  project, the class takes  on the role  of  design engineers - they design, test  and refine their initial  design  as  a  class  and  write  a  proposal for the  wind turbine blade design.  There are costs associated  with energy that generaly go unaccounted  within the individual’s mind,  especialy in countries  where power is produced cheaply  and is freely  available.  The goal is for  students to reflect  on their relationship to  energy  consumption,  environmental  sustainability, and issues surrounding both renewable and non-renewable energy, including costs related to mining and restoring the  environment. The  sequence  of lessons  cover renewable  and  non-renewable  sources  of energy,  specificaly  energy  production  methods.  Through research  and  class  discussion,  students  are exposed to  diferent  methods  of  energy  generation  and  categorize the  diferent  sources into renewable and non-renewable energy. These topics cover methods of power generation, including advantages and 041-5 disadvantages,  and  explore in  depth  power  distribution  showing the  path from  source to  point  of  use. Students  are introduced to the  Wind  Turbine  project – in  groups, the first task is to  construct the  wind turbine base and stand. The base and stand can be made of wood, but PVC tubing, T’s and elbows are useful for other projects and store easily (assembled in Figure 3). Students are introduced to terminology, symbols, and definitions and are provided opportunities to practice energy eficiency calculations. Class discussion focus  on  addressing  energy  eficiencies  and  advantages  and  disadvantages  of  each  energy generation resource.  Students  continue to  work  on the  design  of the  wind turbine  and in the  next  step, they  set  up the  circuit  needed to  colect  data  and familiarize themselves  with  using  a  multi-meter for measuring voltage and current (Figure 4).                                                  Figure 3: Wind turbine base and stand           Figure 4: Building testing circuit   The Mountain Top Coal mining simulation focuses on environmental assessment and a reclamation plan.  The class explores the topic of mountaintop coal mining through a simulated mining operation. In groups, students  assume the role  of  a mining  company  wishing to  develop  a  mountaintop  coal  mine.  They  are introduced the social, economic and environmental impacts via a video produced by local residents that proposes an alternative, more environmentaly friendly renewable energy wind farm.  The coresponding task toward the final project is to design and produce a draft of the wind turbine blade. This blueprint is to be submited before any testing can commence. Students also prepare a pitch angle protractor (Figure 5) for use to set the various pitches to be tested. Figure 6 ilustrates the testing of a 2-blade configuration.                          Figure 5: Preparing pitch protractor  Figure 6: Testing 2-blade configuration  The need to colaborate continues in the final proposal and class analysis of the design data. After testing and  class  analysis  of the  data is  complete, individuals  compile their initial  design, testing  data  and generate  a  proposal  based  on  class recommendations  derived from  analysis  of the  class  data  set. Students  must  describe their reasoning  and  provide  a rationale  as to  why the  class  design is  an improvement  compared to their tested  design.  As  a final  activity, the  class reflects  on the completed STEM  project  and  debate the  pros  and  cons  of  wind  power  generation.  This  alows  student to  041-6 amalgamate their learnings and experiences within the project to formulate their own informed stance on the issue of wind power generation. 4 DISCUSSION The integrated  STEM  project, Renewable  and  Non-renewable  Resources:  Wind  Turbine  Blade  Design, focusing  on power  generation technologies; the  environmental,  economic  and  societal  costs  of  coal mining;  wind turbine  blade  design  and  optimization was  successful in terms  of  addressing the  goals  of STEM  education,  specificaly the implementation  of  an  engineering  design  process. The  sequence  of topics introduced  students to  various  components  and  STEM  content that  was  essential in  order for students to complete the project. It was necessary to divide the turbine blade design into smal achievable subtasks  as this  alowed for timely feedback  and raised the  overal  success  of the  project. More importantly, this  approach  provided  opportunities for students to gather information through research, learn  mathematical  calculations,  and investigate the  economic  costs  of  mining  by  managing  a fictional Mountaintop coal mine (they were required to purchase a hypothetical coal mining site with limited start-up funds), alongside designing the wind turbine blade.  Hence, these steps reflect the beginning phases of the engineering design process.  Prior to  mining  activities,  students  submited  an  environmental  assessment  detailing the  environment. They  were  provided  with  a  Mountaintop  Mining  Fact Book  as  a resource for  developing  a  mine reclamation  plan,  which  stated  how they  would restore the  environment to its  original  condition. This particular  activity  provides  students  with  a  hands-on  simulation  and  demonstrates the importance  of environmental sustainability and making responsible decisions that wil reduce business' negative impact on the  environment.  This is reflective  of  social learning which  advocates an interactive  or  participatory style of problem solving. Furthermore, the process of developing the wind turbine blade aforded students the  opportunity to assume the role  of  engineers as they designed, tested,  and  calculated the  power generation potential of their wind turbine blade designs by varying the blade angle. Students participated in  knowledge  construction  as they  amalgamated their findings in the form  of a  proposal to  a fictional engineering firm, including the  blueprint  of their  group’s initial  blade  design  and the  class’  conclusions about the optimum blade design, and scientific reasoning as to why the class design was an improvement over their initial design. These steps are imperative to the STEM project design process as they enhance problem-solving and critical thinking skils, creativity and innovation, and colaboration and can help build real-world connections as students integrate their compartmentalized knowledge of science, technology, and  mathematics to  bear  on  solving  meaningful real-world  problems. The infusion  of  design  principles enhances real  world  applicability  and  helps  prepare  students for  post-secondary  education,  with  an emphasis on making connections to STEM professionals and careers, such as environmental engineering in this project.   Participants reported success and chalenges during the development of the STEM projects. Chalenges included integrating  engineering  and  mathematics  content,  and tensions related to  self-eficacy  and confidence in teaching these  content  areas. Successes included  colaboration,  engagement,  self-realization, heightened self-eficacy, enhanced critical thinking skils, multi-literacy, agency, environmental stewardship  and  awareness, fostering  21st century  agents,  and innovation. In this  STEM research, project-based learning provided contextualized, authentic experiences necessary for students to scafold learning  and  build  meaningful  connections  across  science, technology,  engineering,  and  mathematics concepts, while chalenging and motivating them at the same time. The expected impact of this research include direct benefits in terms of i) developing awareness of learning styles related to STEM initiatives; i) identifying and employing instructional and targeted learning strategies designed to enhance learning in STEM; ii)  developing  and incorporating  meaningful  STEM  perspectives  and  activities  when  planning instruction;  and iv) implementing  strategies  and  STEM  activities for  developing  21st  century  skils in students and teachers. This research can inform educators, researchers, policy  makers, and curriculum developers as to benefits, drawbacks, and chalenges of implementing STEM initiatives.                              041-7 References Alexander,  J.  M.,  Johnson,  K.  E.,  &  Keley,  K. (2012).  Longitudinal  analysis  of the relations  between opportunities to learn  about  science  and the  development  of interests related to  science. Science Education, 96(5): 763–786. Barron,  B.,  &  Darling-Hammond,  L. (2008). Powerful  Learning:  What  We  Know  About  Teaching for Understanding. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Conference Board of Canada (March 2013). Education and Skils:  Percentage of Graduates in Science, Math, Computer Science, and Engineering. Retrieved from htp:/www.conferenceboard.ca/hcp/default DeCoito, I. (2014). Focusing on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) in the 21st    Century. Ontario Professional Surveyor, 57(1): 34-36. 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