- Year 2016
- NSF Noyce Award # 1136414
- First Name Karen
- Last Name Renzaglia
- Discipline Mathematics, Science
Lingguo Bu, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, firstname.lastname@example.org
Harvey Henson, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, email@example.com
Sedonia Sipes, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, firstname.lastname@example.org
Lingguo Bu, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, email@example.com
Travis Neal, Department of Plant Biology, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, firstname.lastname@example.org
STEM education has an intrinsic aesthetic component that characterizes participants’ experience in multiple dimensions from content to emotion and imagination. Whether it be numeric patterns, visual beauty, symbolic simplicity, design ingenuity, or unexpected discoveries, aesthetic engagement is both the means and the goal of sustainable STEM education, hence STEAM as a framework to conceptualize STEM education and incorporate the social and emotional aspects of human learning. A STEAM perspective is well grounded in the history of STEM development and is supported by emerging educational technologies. In the case of preservice teachers, however, an alarming gap exists between their prior STEM experience and the targeted goal of meaningful STEM teaching and learning. A large percentage of preservice teachers come into their teacher education program with a persistent view of STEM, particularly mathematics, as facts, rules, and formulas, which is not only unproductive to their own learning, including their feelings and emotions toward STEM, but is also potentially harmful to their future students. From a theoretical point of view, preservice teachers’ preconceptions and misconceptions are embodiments of their limited or lack of genuine STEM exposures in their K-12 schooling and life experiences. There is a striking lack of playfulness or artistic appreciation on the part of preservice STEM teachers in problem solving or scientific inquiry. How can STEM teacher educators reignite and cultivate the artistic talents of preservice teachers so that they will personally benefit from their ongoing encounters with STEM and further role-model STEAM exploration in the future teaching?
The Noyce Master Teaching Fellowship Program in Southern Illinois (NSF: 2011-2017) is a six-year teacher professional development project aiming to establish Problem-Based Learning practices among inservice and preservice STEM teachers and teacher educators in the rural region. In bridging inservice and preservice teachers, we took on the issue of art in STEM education as a starting point to stimulate preservice teachers’ STEM learning and pedagogical reflection, as one of our Noyce Project objectives. We sought to use art integration as a stepping stone for preservice teachers to get out of their preconceptions about STEM teaching and gradually join our community of problem solvers to experiment with new ways of STEM learning. During the 2014-2016 academic years, we introduced the following key activities with support of our Noyce faculty and teacher participants: (1) origami paper folding and mathematical modeling; (2) modeling with dynamic learning technologies such as GeoGebra; (3) mobile app development; and (4) 3-D design and printing.
STEM learning is a human task, deeply conditioned by our experiences with STEM activities. Our work with preservice teachers is informed by the theories of embodied cognition and model-centered learning. A great many preservice teachers have not had opportunities to engage with STEM inquiries in their prior schooling and thus do not possess the metaphors or models for sense-making in a STEM context. Worse yet, they have little or no aesthetic experience with STEM. If anything, they have persisting anxiety about problem solving, which again is grounded in their prior encounters with not-so-real STEM learning. It is a daunting endeavor to transform roughly two decades of prior learning and habits of mind. In light of the inviting nature of art, we decided to employ art projects to provide hands-on STEM experiences, followed by guided modeling, exploration, and design activities. In our initial preservice outreach, we aligned the art projects with the new state standards for STEM content and literacies and implemented them as part of the regular curricula for teacher preparation. We also collected preservice teachers’ feedback through online surveys.
As is expected, we found that few preservice teachers had experiences with art-based STEM education. While they were hesitant about using art in STEM teaching and were concerned about the perception of other stakeholders, they were personally responsive and excited about the innovative ways of STEM learning. Through a series of origami paper folding activities, they developed hands-on experience with spatial reasoning as well as geometric literacy. Through mathematical modeling, they started, with productive struggles, to think about paper folding from a higher level. With mobile apps, they generated mathematical art and explored the use of simulation for problem exploration. And finally, they were thrilled at 3-D design and printing and expressed interest for further investigation. As key deliverables, we have designed one dozen origami/paper folding activities that serve two math methods classes. We have designed and released 15 Android apps that targeted K-8 STEM art and literacies. We are in the process of developing a series of 3-D design activities appropriate for preservice and inservice teachers.
Preservice STEM teachers hold the key to the success of future K-12 STEM education. As we assess their STEM knowledge and design educational innovations, we need to consider the affordances of art in STEM learning because art does not only affect their understanding of content but also shapes their feelings and emotions toward STEM, which have significant influences on students at all levels. At a regional level, we have established some curricular practices to integrate art into STEM teacher education with concrete materials and technology support. At a global level, we have started an experiment to use art as a catalyst to stimulate preservice teachers’ STEM exploration and pedagogical reflection. We have also shared our activities and findings at regional and international education conferences. Our digital innovations are available to all STEM educators through the Google Play® store while the source codes are available at MIT AI 2. Through a community of Noyce STEM problem solvers in the region, we will continue to strengthen the collaboration among preservice and inservice STEM educators and university faculty in design, development, and research.
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