EDU6978: Week 02: Due 2012-07-08

I spent the past year as a STEM Specialist in my teaching internship, but this week I took my first really critical look at the integration of the teaching of the components:  science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.  Better late than never!  I also was exposed to the first–and I argue underlying–concept of embedded formative assessment, namely the sharing of learning goals and expectations in a way that students can use.

The class all agreed with Wiliam (2011) that the purpose of sharing learning expectations is so that students know where they have come from, where they are, and where they are going.  I pointed out that this knowledge is critical for the other strategies of formative assessment.  As I reflect on my practice from the past year, I believe I started every class session with a sense of where we were in the book, where we had come from and where we were going, but I don’t think I communicated the specifics of what we aimed to accomplish with the content of the course.  Although I had very little opportunity or practice with formative assessment, I am looking forward to practicing it at my next job.

When the whole class was asked to reflect on the “faces of STEM” (Lippy & Henrikson, 2012), it was clear that no one had interned in a location that had exemplary integration of techology and engineering with science and math.  Lantz (2009) has several ideas why that is, namely that there are no real established standards, or endorsements, training or accountability for looking at those subjects in a unified way.  A report I found

Nevertheless, there is much reporting that project-based learning (Edutopia, 2010) shows great promise for helping students in math and science as well as technology and engineering.  it was certainly my experience during my intern teaching that projects are much more authentic to the students, and therefore show more promise for generating enthusiasm for subjects than lecture and testing.


Edutopia:  An Introduction to Project Based Learning (Edutopia, 2010)

Seattle Physics Teacher, Scott McComb. Aviation High School.

Linda Darling-Hammond:  Broad tasks that have real problems that students can solve.

Students create something that demonstrates what they have learned.

Seymour Papert:  “get rid of curriculum, learn this where you need it.”

Project Learning

  • In-Depth Investigations of Subject Matter: 
  • Outside Experts That Supplement Teacher Knowledge

Benefits of Project Learning

  • Increased Academic Achievement
  • Increased Application and Retention of Information
  • Critical Thinking
  • Communication
  • Collaboration

Mike Bonfitz (FAA):  for 9th graders to pull this off, is amazing.

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education:  What Form?  What Function? (Lantz, 2009)

Outline (Verbatim from author unless italic)

  • STEM education offers students one of the best opportunities to makes sense of the world holistically, rather than in bits and pieces
  • [STEM education] is actually trans-disciplinary in that it offers a multi-faceted whole with greater complexities and new spheres of understanding that ensure the integration of disciplines.
  • The four recommendations [from Rising Above the Gathering Storm, 2005] were:
    • Increase America’s talent pool by vastly improving K-12 mathematics and science education
    • Sustain and strengthen our nation’s commitment to long-term basic research
    • Develop, recruit and retain top students, scientists, and engineers from both the United States and abroad
    • Ensure that the United States is the premier place in the world for innovation
  • Have we seen far reaching innovations in curriculum and program design and in the structure of schools that would add to this STEM movement?…”No.”
  • American high schools still remain highly departmentalized, stratified, and continue to teach subjects in isolation, with little to no attempts to draw connections among the STEM disciplines.
  • Teachers at [elementary and middle school] levels are ill prepared to teach the STEM disciplines of science and mathematics, as revealed by the low numbers of highly qualified teachers.
    • No STEM standards
    • No STEM teacher certification
    • Goals need better delineation
    • Discipline needs to be better defined
  • The work of the committee [for Rising Above the Gathering Storm] is most laudable; however, it still falls far short of providing an operational definition of world-class standards and concomitant curriculum.
  • Although the function of STEM education seems to be converging slowly (in definition and consensus), the form (how it looks in the classroom) has not been proposed.
  • Standards to be used to develop trans-disciplinary STEM exist
    • National Science Education Standards (NRC, 1996)
    • National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Standards (NCTM, 1989 and 2000)
    • National Education Technology Standards for Students (ISTE, 1998, 2007)
    • Standards for Technological Literacy (ITEA, 2007)
  • Barriers to STEM Education (misconceptions) [a good list]


  • One of the misconceptions identified as a barrier to STEM education was “STEM education consists only of the two bookends—science and mathematics”
  • The engineering component of STEM education puts emphasis on the process and design of solutions, instead of the solutions themselves. [I personally think that definition is too narrow.  How can you deal with solutions process and design without caring about the solution?  That makes no sense.]
  • The technology component allows for a deeper understanding of the three other components of STEM education.
  • None of these curricula (below) fit our definition of trans-disciplinary
    • Engineering by Design, from Center for Advancement of Teaching Technology and Science (CATTS)
    • Engineering is Elementary (EiE), from the National Center for Technological Literacy (NCTL)
    • Invention, Innovation, and Inquiry, from the International Technology Education Association (ITEA)
  • What philosophical and theoretical elements should be used to guide the design and development of such a curriculum?
    • Standards driven
    • Understanding by Design (UbD)
    • Inquiry-based teaching and learning
    • Problem-Based Learning
    • Performance-based teaching and learning
    • 5E (Engagement, Exploration, Explanation, Elaboration and Evaluation) Teaching, Learning and Assessing Cycle
    • Digital curriculum integrated with digital teaching technologies
    • Formative and summative assessments with both task and non-task specific rubrics.
  • Consequently, STEM education curricula should be driven by engaging engineering problems, projects, and challenges, which are embedded within and as culminating activities in the instructional materials.

The Different Faces of STEM (Henrikson & Lippy, 2012)


Embedded Formative Assessment (Wiliam, 2011)

Chapter 3 Outline (Verbatim from author unless italic)

Clarifying, Sharing, and Understanding Learning Intentions and Success Criteria

It seems obvious that students might find it helpful to know what they are going to be learning, and yet, consistently sharing learning intentions with students is a relatively recent phenomenon in most classrooms. This chapter reviews some of the research evidence on the effects of ensuring learners understand what they are meant to be doing and explains why it is helpful to distinguish between learning intentions, the context of the learning, and success criteria. The chapter also provides a number of techniques that teachers can use to share learning intentions and success criteria with their students.

  • Why Learning Intentions Are Important
    • “imagine oneself on a ship sailing across an unknown sea, to an unknown destination. An adult would be desperate to know where he is going. But a child only knows he is going to school…” (White, 1971, p. 340)
    • Not all students have the same idea as their teachers about what they are meant to be doing in the classroom.
    • If I show a piece of writing to a group of third graders and ask them why I think it’s a good piece of writing, some will respond with contributions like, “It’s got lots of descriptive adjectives,” “It’s got strong verbs,” or “It uses lots of different transition words.”
    • A number of research studies have highlighted the importance of students understanding what they are meant to be doing.
    • To illustrate this, I often ask teachers to write 4x and 4½. I then ask them what the mathematical operation is between the 4 and the x, which most realize is multiplication. I then ask what the operation is between the 4 and the ½, which is, of course, addition. I then ask whether any of them had previously noticed this inconsistency in mathematical notation—that when numbers are next to each other, sometimes it means multiply, sometimes it means add, and sometimes it means something completely different, as when we write a two-digit number like 43. Most teachers have never noticed this inconsistency, which presumably is how they were able to be successful at school.
    • Study of science classrooms
      • Seven of the classrooms were seventh grade; three were eighth grade; and two were ninth grade.
      • ThinkerTools curriculum, 7 modules
      • Each module incorporated a series of evaluation activities.
        • Six classes did discussion-based evaluation
        • Other six classes did reflective assessment, using criteria, peer ratings 

[to be continued]



Edutopia. (2009).  An Introduction to Project-Based Learning.  [Video file].  Retrieved July 5, 2012 from

Lantz, H. B., Jr. (2009). STEM Education: What Form? What Function? Retrieved July 3, 2012 from

Wiliam, D. (2011). Embedded Formative Assessment. Bloomington, Indiana: Solution Tree Press.

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