Society's Grand Challenges in Engineering as a Context for Middle School Instruction in STEM
Society's Grand Challenges for Engineering (GCE) is the backdrop of this particular project as it works to develop socially-relevant engineering curricular modules for middle school instruction in STEM. The project team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison consists of engineering and education faculty, along with 23 middle school teachers and guidance counselors from 5 rural and urban public schools who are collaborating to design and test curricular modules and career exploration activities. Through summer professional development, the project equips teachers and counselors with the tools they need to delivery relevant content to enhance STEM curriculum and market the field of engineering to a broad student demographic, especially girls. The research team utilizes Social Cognitive Career Theory (SCCT) to design the process of instruction, focusing on building self efficacy and outcomes expectations. The research is answering whether students engaged in GCE courses (1) report higher levels of STEM career interest, (2) report higher math and science self efficacy and outcomes expectations, and (3) engage in more exploration of STEM careers and post-secondary STEM education options. Students who are not exposed to the modules serve as the comparison group on these outcomes variables. The effects of the program are being evaluated by a variety of measures of student and teacher learning and practice, as well as counseling practice. The project will demonstrate a strategy for transforming the attitudes and increasing the participation of underrepresented groups in STEM-related disciplines by embedding the societal context of STEM fields into middle school curriculum.