- Year 2023
- NSF Noyce Award # 2042641
- First Name Virginia
- Last Name Chambers
- Discipline STEM Education (general)
Mark Marnich, Kamryn York
In today’s global and technology-rich world, STEM education provides a necessary foundation for daily life and the changing 21st century workforce. STEM jobs are growing faster than any other profession, but students are underprepared. In 2016, nearly half of the 2.1 million high school graduates who took the ACT test expressed an interest in STEM majors or careers (The Condition of STEM Report, 2016). However, only 26% of those graduates met or surpassed the ACT College Readiness Benchmark in STEM. Young people may show interest in science, but without engaging, accessible learning experiences, that interest wanes and they miss opportunities for success (Remake Learning, 2020). Educators have the responsibility to provide students with STEM education that holds their interest and develops STEM skills and literacy (Sarama, 2018; Stohlmann, 2012). There is a need for STEM teachers who can effectively teach with integrated approaches across the disciplines and who can help all students achieve success with STEM learning (Stohlmann, 2012). Elementary educators, in particular, have an opportunity to create early educational experiences for students that can improve attitudes toward STEM subjects, develop higher level and critical thinking skills, and improve proficiency in mathematics and science. In-service and pre-service teachers often identify a need to boost their prior experience with STEM or recognize an anxiety associated with STEM instruction due their lack of understanding of STEM pedagogical content (Wu, 2019).
The Principal Investigator (PI) and co-PIs will identify advances in methodologies in maker education through an interdisciplinary constructivist approach to STEM teaching and learning that combines faculty development. The PI and co-PIs hypothesize that with more professional development opportunities and training, PPU faculty members will improve their STEM teaching in pre-K–4 core and methods courses and will then better prepare pre-service students to integrate STEM learning and teaching. Students who engage in STEM learning in a makerspace environment will improve their understanding and implementation of STEM education. By developing, implementing, and assessing this new pedagogical approach, PPU will engage students in relevant coursework that will better prepare them for the growing needs in today’s classroom pertaining to STEM development. PPU will ask the following research question: What do pre-service teachers (education students) and faculty members identify as areas of pedagogical growth in STEM learning and teaching in a makerspace environment? The PI and co-PIs will collect data through surveys, reflection statements, peer evaluations, and observation rubrics.
Year 1: An education faculty cohort comprised of faculty who teach pre-K–4 undergraduate education core and methodology courses in reading, mathematics, science, social studies, and special education will receive professional development in STEM learning in makerspaces. With the help of faculty content experts at the institution (STEM faculty trainers), the education faculty cohort will revise course content and develop assignments and assessments based on the professional development on STEM learning in makerspaces. Integrating STEM education includes a deliberate blending of STEM disciplines into an authentic learning experience in order to improve student understanding of various subject areas, implement learning in socially relevant contexts, and increase interests in STEM careers (Ryu, 2019). STEM education professional development, which is rooted in authentic learning experiences, is essential for pedagogical content knowledge necessary for effective STEM learning (Wu, 2019). STEM classes also demand rigor and relevance in the curriculum so that student learning outcomes reflect critical thinking and problem-solving. Effective models of quality professional development for STEM education provide coaching and expert support, offer feedback and reflection, include coherence across experiences, a focus on pedagogical content knowledge, authentic learning, and adequate time (Stohlmann, 2012; Huling, 2020).
There is an opportunity to improve STEM thinking skills by integrating STEM concepts throughout the curriculum using an interdisciplinary approach. For example, existing reading methods courses can integrate STEM literature; or literature and writing courses can integrate engineering concepts through hands-on learning in a makerspace. TIME for STEM will provide approximately 15 professional development training sessions to the five members of the education faculty cohort. Faculty trainings will be facilitated by community partners (Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and the Allegheny Intermediate Unit of Pittsburgh) and STEM faculty trainers from PPU’s Department of Natural Sciences, Engineering and Technology (NSET). Training topics will include STEM education in a maker environment for elementary students; best practices in STEM pedagogy and maker education; integrated approaches to STEM instruction; incorporation of tools, technology, and materials; and development of STEM thinking for classroom teachers. NSET faculty at PPU will facilitate sessions on building a foundation of STEM understanding and thinking. Examples of sessions with NSET include mathematical reasoning in which faculty will create both inductive and deductive proofs for mathematical ideas; modular arithmetic in which faculty will be able to create a makerspace to help students learn elementary modular arithmetic as it relates to time and distance; and statistics in which faculty will create a makerspace that helps elementary students calculate the mean, median, and mode of data using only counting.
The Children’s Museum will facilitate 8 to 10 sessions on makerspace education. Sessions will include Cultivating a Maker Mindset, Maker Education Bootcamp, and Pixar in a Box. The Math and Science Collaborative from Allegheny Intermediate Unit (AIU) will facilitate 4 to 6 sessions on bringing innovative and effective approaches in curriculum and instruction to the classroom by preparing educators to support all students for the 21st century workforce. All training sessions will be STEM focused and designed to meet the needs of elementary students while following Pennsylvania Department of Education standards.
With the help of content experts from NSET (the STEM faculty trainers), the education faculty cohort will collaborate to revise a sequence of 10 interdisciplinary core and methods courses to emphasize STEM experiential learning through makerspace pedagogy. Currently, PPU’s education curriculum does not formally integrate STEM learning across the courses, and there are no common STEM techniques language, or methodologies used in the existing courses. The revision of the proposed courses will address PPU’s need to integrate STEM skills across the required pre-K–4 curriculum using pedagogical approaches and activities in its makerspace lab.
Faculty will develop two formative assessments and one summative assessment for each course integrating STEM learning in the makerspace lab. The courses selected for revision are part of the required education curriculum for pre-K–4 teaching certification students, and they already incorporate interdisciplinary learning in the STEM fields as well as project-based learning. The course sequences range from introductory courses to methods courses, exposing students to the makerspace environment throughout their college career. Three of the courses (EDUC 101, EDUC 120, and EDUC 251) are required for all education majors and are open to other majors as part of PPU’s General Core requirements. Therefore, grades 4–8 and secondary education majors as well as noneducation majors will also benefit from course revisions. Each course will be revised for STEM integration of course objectives, content, and assessments. At least one STEM learning objective will be added to each pre-K–4 course with an activity and assessment aligned to the course goal. The course revisions will focus on how an integrated approach can develop STEM thinking in future teachers by providing students with extended learning experiences connected to different content areas. TIME for STEM will revise several School of Education courses.
Year 2-3: Pre-K–4 teaching certification students will use the guiding principles of experiential learning to frame their teaching and learning in makerspaces (Kolb, 1984; Eyler, 2009; Gerstein, 2016; Kuk & Holst, 2018). TIME for STEM is designed to ensure pre-service teachers are prepared for the next generation of learners and to develop effective strategies for STEM learning in makerspace environments. This exploration of STEM learning and teaching in makerspaces can be replicated at other higher education institutions and serve as a guide for teacher preparation programs and pre-K–12 school settings. Incorporating STEM concepts in lesson plans can be overwhelming; however, using experiential learning theory allows for the opportunity to strengthen the instruction that capitalizes on the strengths within the teacher certification program and methods courses (McCarthy, 2018). Data suggests that fundamental components for implementing STEM experiential learning opportunities are as follows: preparation, staying small, organization, communication, motivation, and acknowledgement (McCarthy, 2018). STEM learning in a makerspace environment, paired with lesson implementation with pre-K–4 students and reflection opportunities, will offer pre-service teachers the experiences needed to successfully enter the workforce and effectively deliver STEM education.
In Years 2 and 3, 100% of declared pre-K–4 teaching certification students (18–24 students per course) will be enrolled in the 10 revised courses (above). While the primary focus of this project is pre-K–4 pre-service teaching students, grades 4–8 and secondary education majors as well as non-education majors will also benefit from course revisions. In the makerspace lab at Point Park, faculty members will model pedagogical content knowledge in experiential learning, constructivism, STEM education, and maker education. The course revisions will include a three-step approach to makerspace lessons based on the model developed by the National Science Teacher Association focusing on (1) exploration of the intended topic, (2) skill-building sessions with ideas and maker tools, and (3) challenge sessions that focus on creation, collaboration, and application across the content areas (National Science Teacher Association, 2020). Students will be closely monitored and assessed to track their understanding and competency using the three new assessments. Pre-service teachers will then have the opportunity to demonstrate their skills by creating mock lesson plans for their peers in the makerspace lab at PPU while under faculty observation. Faculty will provide constructive feedback using a newly developed PPU STEM rubric modified from the National Institute for STEM Education (NISE) guiding principles and domains (National Institute for STEM Education 2020). After each observation, the student teacher will be evaluated on four domains following a 3-point rubric.
All students pursuing teaching certification need 40 hours of observation and 150 hours of field experience before student teaching (last semester of the program), which is why structured, coherent field experience placements are an essential component of the education methods courses. TIME for STEM will partner with Mt. Lebanon School District and Manchester Academic Charter School to provide pre-service teachers with field experience opportunities to apply their STEM teaching and learning with pre-K–4 students in makerspace classrooms. Students will apply their course knowledge and participate in surveys and reflection opportunities that will capture their feedback and growth. During these field experience opportunities, pre-service teachers will be under the guidance of a certified cooperating teacher at partner schools. With the support of their course professor and the cooperating teacher, pre-service teachers will receive a high level of guidance, mentorship, and constructive feedback. The PPU STEM rubric will also be used to assess student growth and progress in STEM teaching and learning.
The overarching goal of TIME for STEM is to improve the quality and effectiveness of STEM education for faculty and pre-service teachers. The PI and co-PIs will develop, evaluate, and disseminate a study of the impact of makerspace pedagogy on improving STEM education learning outcomes through an interdisciplinary constructivist approach. A critical component to the proposed approach includes the revision of 10 interdisciplinary education methods courses to emphasize STEM experiential learning through makerspace pedagogy. The following table illustrates the measurable goals and objectives, the activities that will achieve them, and the anticipated outcomes.
Table 1. Goals, Objectives, Activities, and Outcomes
Goal 1. Improve STEM education learning outcomes for undergraduate pre-K–4 teaching certification students
Objective 1.1. Improve the methodologies and revise education methods courses to effectively prepare students with STEM teaching and learning concepts, particularly in a makerspace environment.
• Education faculty who teach pre-K–4 core and methods courses in reading, science, math, social studies, and special education will participate in faculty professional development training sessions.
• Faculty training will be facilitated by the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, the Allegheny Intermediate Unit of Pittsburgh (community partners), NSET faculty at Point Park University, and local and national conferences on STEM education and maker learning.
• Training topics will include STEM education in a maker environment for elementary students; best practices in STEM pedagogy and maker education; integrated approaches to STEM instruction; incorporation of tools, technology, and materials; and development of STEM thinking for classroom teachers.
• Faculty will develop course content by participating in professional development, collaborating with NSET faculty and experts in STEM fields, and attending conferences.
• Faculty will develop 2 formative assessments and 1 summative assessment for students for each course integrating STEM learning in the makerspace lab using a rubric adapted from the National Institute of STEM Education assessing 3 competency domains and 15 guiding principles of STEM teaching.
• Faculty will revise 10 interdisciplinary education methods courses to emphasize STEM experiential learning through makerspace pedagogy.
• 100% of education faculty who teach pre-K–4 core and methods courses in reading, science, math, social studies, and special education will demonstrate increased knowledge in makerspace pedagogy, as measured by pre- and post-surveys, reflection questions, and course revision peer evaluations.
• Ten (10) education core and methods courses will be revised to include STEM makerspace pedagogy.
Objective 1.2. In Years 2 and 3, prepare pre-K–4 teaching certification students to implement makerspace pedagogies in interdisciplinary STEM education.
• 100% of declared pre-K–4 teaching certification students will be enrolled in 10 revised courses.
• 100% of declared pre-K–4 teaching certification students will develop and implement STEM interdisciplinary learning activities through makerspaces in partner schools.
• 80% of declared pre-K–4 teaching certification students will demonstrate improved competency in makerspace pedagogy for STEM learning, as measured by the 3 course assessments, pre- and post-survey data, a revised rubric for STEM teaching, and reflection responses.
Goal 2. Determine the impact of makerspace pedagogy on improving elementary STEM education and learning with a focus on an interdisciplinary constructivist approach.
Objective 2.1. Assess pre-K–4 teaching certification students’ acquisition of STEM teaching and learning methods through makerspace learning.
• The PI and project team will administer pre-and post-surveys, reflection statements, and the STEM Lesson Observation Rubric.
• 80% of pre-K–4 teaching certification students will demonstrate proficiency in makerspace pedagogy.
• 80% of pre-K–4 teaching certification students will demonstrate improved STEM education learning and teaching.
Goal 3. Disseminate project findings, assessments, and course materials to the broader STEM and STEM education community.
Objective 3.1. Present project findings at regional and national conferences.
• The PI and project team will present project outcomes at conferences such as the UKLA International Conference in Oxford, England; International Symposium on Academic Makerspaces (ISAM); ASCD Conference on Teaching Excellence; The Pennsylvania Association of Colleges and Teacher Educators conference (PAC-TE); and International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference.
• Instructional best practices and makerspace projects will be shared through the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, Matt’s Makerspace, and publications such as The Journal of Teacher Education (JTE); International Journal of STEM Education.
• The PI and co-PIs will collaborate with community partner Remake Learning to broadly disseminate findings to the wider maker education community.
• The project outcomes will help foster widespread use of evidence-based makerspace resources to improve STEM teaching and learning outcomes.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, STEM professions are expected to grow 8.8% in the next 10 years, compared to 5% for other professions (U.S Burearu of Labor Statistics, 2018). A recent survey named Pittsburgh among the top five out of 100 of the best cities for STEM jobs (McCann, 2020). The Pittsburgh region’s greatest opportunities for growth and for talent attraction lie in the software industry ecosystem, inhabited by start-ups and high-profile consumer tech firms. For example, software development jobs are expected to grow 12% in the region over the next eight years (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017). To achieve a talented STEM workforce, preparation of students must begin in elementary grades to build foundational skills needed for career opportunities in STEM-related fields (National Academy of Science, 2007). There is an opportunity to improve STEM learning and teaching by using makerspace education as a way to integrate STEM concepts throughout an interdisciplinary curriculum. Regionally, there is a growing need to better prepare pre-service teaching students to work in maker-centered STEM education classrooms. Pittsburgh has emerged as a national leader in makerspace education. Makerspaces and maker education programs are offered in schools, homes, museums, churches, libraries, and community centers, all over southwestern Pennsylvania (SWPA), helping learners make, play, and design using real materials, tools, and processes (Remake Learning, 2020). While makerspaces are prevalent throughout SWPA, in-depth makerspace learning and pedagogy are not a part of pre-service education programs in universities.
PPU’s current pre-K-4 education curriculum does not formally integrate STEM learning across the courses, and there are no common STEM methodologies, language, or techniques integrated throughout the current curriculum. While PPU does embed the concepts of STEM education and learning throughout the pre-K–4 methods courses, there is a need to improve the methodologies and revise education core and methods courses to effectively prepare teacher certification students (pre-service) with STEM teaching and learning concepts. The revision of the proposed 10 courses will address this gap by integrating STEM skills across the required pre-K–4 curriculum using pedagogical approaches and activities in the new makerspace lab.