Opportunities to Learn: Creative Science Through Inquiry, a Middle Grades Teaming Framework
This project will advance efforts of the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program to better understand and promote practices that increase students' motivations and capacities to pursue careers in fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) by developing opportunities for students to learn creatively in science through inquiry. The project will prepare 72 middle school teachers to work with approximately 1800 students from economically disadvantaged schools who have had few opportunities to participate in technology-rich, inquiry-based learning environments. It will examine coherent sets of experiences through curricular models across mathematics, science, technology and English/language arts so that STEM is collaboratively infused in meaningful, relevant ways into the curriculum throughout the school year. Using a team design, the project will engage university and community college faculty members and industry partners with middle school teachers. Through this effort, teams of educators and experts will develop, test, refine, and infuse STEM principles into regular classroom activities so that students can experience the interconnectedness of STEM through mathematics and science enhanced by technology and technical writing. This project will help address the nations' need to increase the diversity of students entering high school who are better prepared to make course selections that will potentially lead to future STEM careers.
The project will use a mixed methods design to capture data through questionnaires, focus groups, observations, interviews, videotapes and pre-post tests. Student increases in science achievement and dispositions towards STEM careers will be analyzed using a quasi-experimental design. A propensity score matching process will be used to equate group with sub-group propensity score matching analysis to examine treatment effects by gender, ethnicity, and SES. Repeated measures will be used to examine increases in teacher self-efficacy for teaching science through inquiry and qualitative methods to identify successes and challenges to implementing the collaborative, cross-disciplinary experiences for students. This project will provide a model framework to guide teachers into creating and implementing collaborative STEM lesson units that will engage industry/community college/STEM professionals in the planning, teaching, and evaluating process. Student experiences developed through the framework will expose students to exciting, relevant STEM curriculum that demonstrates the interconnectedness of their academic courses. The enacted model will enhance the teacher teams while building the self-efficacy of the teachers to deliver STEM lessons across the disciplines. Dissemination efforts are two-fold: feedback and community sharing. Feedback on this model will be garnered through academic presentations from professionals across the STEM disciplines. The project website will also provide access to the framework and sample activities as well as opportunities to react to the model.