Contemporary STEM Issues: Engineering Training of Pre-Service Teachers for Middle School STEM Curriculum Development (Evaluation)
Essential to meeting the challenge for a “world-leading STEM workforce and a scientifically, mathematically, and technologically literate populace” is the effective integration of technology and engineering in K-12 curricula. Key to this process is current teachers, and even more critical, future teachers (pre-service). This work is particularly interested in the engineering training of pre-service teachers during their engagement with middle school students, their understanding of their role in strengthening the engineering pipeline, and their development of STEM lesson plans. Engineering faculty instruct pre-service teachers to explore STEM issues in a capstone course entitled “Contemporary STEM Issues”. Successes and challenges of the course are presented relative to 1) pre-service teachers’ preparation (through a capstone course) to effectively incorporate engineering into their curricula; 2) the Engineering Design Cycle approach in STEM and relevance to real-world problems; and 3) the five sequence stages for teaching and learning [Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate (5E’s)] integration into a STEM Lesson Plan (course product).
The goal of the course is to provide high impact experiences for middle school pre-service teachers in their preparation to development and teach STEM curriculum and engage future STEM innovators. The course is driven by problem-solving, discovery and exploratory learning that requires pre-service teachers to actively explore the nature of technology, engineering design, systems thinking, independent and collaborative projects, critical thinking, and innovative instructional strategies. The key deliverables used to evaluate the impact of the course include the completion of a technology research paper, reflection paper, and Instructional STEM unit. The reflection paper is a critical self-assessment about “how the learning experience has changed them” or “how did their impression of STEM teaching change as a result of the course” or “how will they use the learning to influence their teaching”. At the conclusion of the course, pre-service mathematics and science teachers should be able to:
(1) Describe different skills and knowledge that scientists, mathematicians, engineers and technologists explore in technological advancement of new products and processes.
(2) Work within an interdisciplinary group to design a new product or process using an engineering design cycle.
(3) Describe different ways STEM activities can be incorporated into curricula and extra-curricular activities by developing a grade-appropriate instructional STEM unit.
Implementation and evaluation of the CSI course in conjunction with other components of a STEM Middle School Residency Program have led to the successful career placement of pre-service teachers (up to 100% in 1 cohort), excellent retention (82-100% over 4 cohorts), and integration of STEM into lesson plans.
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