Preparing Students for the New Manufacturing Economy: An Integrative Learning Approach
The project is designed to prepare students for the future world of work that will require them to develop and integrate multiple areas of skill and knowledge that can be flexibly deployed across widely varying and ever-changing work requirements. The current education system emphasizes the development of skills and knowledge within specific disciplines, which does not reflect the multidisciplinary nature of future work. The project investigates a 2-year Career and Technical Education (CTE) learning experience that integrates knowledge and skills across multiple technology areas with authentic tasks. This model of learning dovetails with a vision of future work that favors individuals who are flexible and innovative with a holistic understanding of a range of technologies. The CTE learning experience will enhance students' technology literacy, career preparedness, growth mindset, and sense of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) identity. In the first semester of their Junior year, students will focus on learning three basic technologies (3D design and fabrication, microcontroller-based electronics and computer programming). Students will then apply these technologies in project-based learning cycles where they will prepare educational science kits and deploy them in local elementary school classes. As high school Seniors, students will move on to innovation and entrepreneurship through a series of graduated design and innovation challenges. Local business and manufacturing representatives will provide talks, site visits and challenge problems to add authenticity and provide role models to the students.
The research will contribute to the understanding of how an integrated learning model supports student development of holistic technology understanding and STEM identities. In CTE, the project will advance knowledge regarding how curricula may be designed to effectively prepare high school students for future careers in engineering innovation and design. The project will also contribute to the understanding of how identities are formed in STEM, especially for students from underrepresented populations. Rubrics, theoretically grounded questionnaires, video analysis, and interviews will be used to assess both learning and identity formation. Students who do not take part in the CTE course will serve as the comparison group. The project will have a number of broader impacts. The project will directly serve students in an economically disadvantaged school district with predominantly Latinx and African American students and prepare them for the future world of work. The CTE curricula developed by the project will be disseminated through a web resource that will enable other schools and researchers to implement similar programs. Undergraduate and graduate students from different disciplines (e.g., computer science, industrial engineering, psychology, and education) will mentor and gain practical experiences by working in high school CTE classrooms that serve predominantly underrepresented communities. Project research will be published in journals and conferences reaching both researchers and practitioners of the various fields represented