Teachers and Researchers Advancing Integrated Lessons in STEM (TRAILS)
This project will advance efforts to better understand and promote practices that increase students' motivations and capacities to pursue careers in fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) through the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers program. It will address the long-term need to help teachers prepare more students to excel in STEM fields. The project will meet this need through integrated science instruction that will help students to link learning to the real-world context, which research shows will help increase their interest, motivation, and persistence in STEM careers. The project will: (1) engage in-service science and technology teachers in professional development to build STEM knowledge and practices to enhance integrated STEM instruction; (2) establish a sustainable community of practice of STEM teachers, researchers, industry partners, and college student mentors; (3) engage students in STEM learning through engineering design and 3D printing and scanning technology; and (4) generate strategies to overcome barriers for students in rural schools and underserved populations to pursue careers in STEM fields.
The project will use real-world exemplars as the foundation for integrating entomology and engineering design to investigate the development of 21st skills (creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and computational thinking) in STEM for teachers and students. To prepare teachers for this challenge, professional development will be based on a community of practice model that involves training, curriculum modification and adaptation, and lesson planning on integrated instruction. The project will examine the influence of these efforts on students' ability to design, test, and develop products and artifacts to help them make real-life connections to the world in which they live. Because students in rural communities have few role models, STEM faculty and their graduate and undergraduate students from Purdue University and Ivy Tech Community College, along with local community stakeholders and business leaders, will team with 45 high school teachers and more than 2000 students in an authentic learning context of design and discovery learning. This approach will afford teachers and students from 21 schools in rural Indiana with access to experts from STEM disciplines through technology-rich pathways, face-to-face interactions, and follow-up in-class support. The findings from this study will inform theory about authentic ways to reduce barriers for students in rural areas that continue to hinder their access to instruction shown to be effective in advancing 21st knowledge and skills. Results from this study will also help increase students' interest in and motivation for careers in STEM fields.