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Topic: "MSPnet Academy: STEM Integration and the NGSS - Melding engineering with science and mathematics"

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MSPnet Academy Discussion
February 15th - March 1st, 2018

Presented by: Jeff Rosen, Jayma Koval, Kathy Kennedy, and Kate Soriano

This is a follow up discussion to the February 15th MSPnet Academy Webinar.
(Webinar recording is now available below.)

Webinar Description: The Framework for K-12 Education and subsequent Next Generation Science Standards have detailed the content and practices most central to science education and for the first time, included engineering as an important element in science education. Curriculum designers, educators and researchers were challenged to create instructional materials that aligned with this new vision of integrated education while providing support for teachers needed for effective implementation. This webinar will feature the efforts of two projects who responded to this call: PISA2: Partnership to Improve Student Achievement in Physical Science: Integrating STEM Approaches project from the Stevens Institute of Technology, which focused on elementary school, and Advanced Manufacturing and Prototyping Integrated to Unlock Potential (AMP-IT-UP) project, from the Georgia Institute of Technology, which focused on middle and high school. During this webinar researchers from both projects will discuss the integrated curriculum, partnerships with local schools and professional development for teachers and results to date.

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STEM integration

posted by: Jayma Koval on 2/16/2018 8:23 am

Hello Everyone- thanks for attending our webinar yesterday. As our discussion was wrapping up a great point was raised about STEM integration and the different paths our projects took toward trying to achieve this. Let's continue the conversation here- what have been your experiences/challenges/successes with STEM integration? What other questions do you have for Jeff and I and Kathy and Kate about our projects?

STEM integration

posted by: Kathy Kennedy on 2/17/2018 7:58 am

Thanks for getting the conversation started Jayma!

Our project focused on elements of STEM integration through the lens of science or engineering. For example, during the development and engagement of the engineering design process we were mindful to select challenges that created the opportunity to integrate science and math. Science content knowledge and collection and analysis of data would be necessary to inform design choices, and participants are asked to justify design choices with evidence from data collections.

Integration ideal?

posted by: Katey Shirey on 2/22/2018 10:17 am

I love discussing this relationship and the possibilities for how it can play out. With teachers, students, admin, and parents, it's amazing to see the variety of visions for where appropriate boundaries are. I agree with Kathy, collecting data to drive design decisions is paramount, and so is having multiple possible valid outcomes of an experimental process (science element), and having the whole process tethered to what teachers feel they must teach (content standards.)

Depending on the audience, I don't mind discussing integration as adding more content to engineering courses, or more engineering to content courses, but it's pretty neat when teachers start to develop integrated ideas together, across content areas. They say things like, "I always knew there was math in this, but I never knew how to explain it."

My organization (not an MSP grant) helped co-plan, train, establish and coach a 3-year integrated STEM program at Edison H.S. in Fairfax, VA. I mentioned it briefly in the webinar comments, it's the most integrated teaching we could envision in a high school. The math, science, and eng/tech elements of each ~6-week unit are supportive of and dependent on one another. You can read more about the project here (
Follow the link to see more about curriculum, pedagogy, etc. I have more detailed curriculum tables too if anyone is interested.

I find it interesting that MSP projects can focus intensely on teachers and student growth, but schools I've worked with (as a teacher and researcher) are primarily (80%?) focused on student outcomes. I think the narrow focus on student outcomes misses an opportunity for schools to discuss how integrated-STEM teaching is GREAT for teachers as well as students, and for that reason alone should be encouraged and funded. (I've seen teachers develop entirely new frameworks for how to think about usually siloed subjects and emerge from protective stances to productive failure/growth mindset stances.) The major mindset shifts necessary for teachers shifting from their most efficient teaching methods developed over a career to seemingly less efficient teaching methods (i.e., inquiry teaching, PBL, STEM-integration, or Common Core math) requires time, training, and system restructuring.

I wonder, do you MSP researchers feel this divide too? Do the schools you work with place a priority on teacher outcomes or student outcomes? How do you bridge the gap and have you seen schools take ud integrated-STEM over more "efficient" teaching?

Link correction

posted by: Keith Wayland on 2/23/2018 7:33 am

Greetings Katey,
It took me a few tries to see and remove the extra parenthesis in the link - works
and the newsletter at ebNewsletter.pdf shows nice examples of what the integration looks like.
Keith Wayland

STEM integration and outcomes

posted by: Kathy Kennedy on 2/26/2018 3:32 pm

Thanks for posting corrected links to Katey's resources. There are several good examples of integration there - and it looks like total commitment and buy in on the part of the school, with integrated math and science courses as well as engineering based courses for each grade. This type of support is ideal, but the districts that we are working with are not there yet on such a large scale.

The PISA2 project focused on helping self contained teachers recognize and facilitate STEM integrated projects or units within their classroom. Our efforts in the PISA2 project have centered on the integration of engineering and mathematics within the science classroom, though our department has projects that support similar efforts to improve teacher outcomes, and student outcomes in the mathematics classroom.

To circle back to Katey's question - our work in this project focused on teacher outcomes. Student achievement is a central focus, and we did see improvement in science scores during the program. Our viewpoint is that improving teacher effectiveness will support student achievement.

A question we are still addressing in all of our programs, and one I am interested in learning about from the audience - how do we support teachers overcoming barriers to implementation of STEM?

Technology as a Bridge

posted by: Betsy Stefany on 2/27/2018 9:02 am

Your question, " - how do we support teachers overcoming barriers to implementation of STEM?" prompts me to look back to how our MSP designed its STEM approach to those barriers.

Implementation of STEM has varied routes and our MSP chose the integration through the interest in technology integration in science research. We were early in the STEM wave and defined STEM Literacy in terms of what technology enabled users to accomplish, provide seamless evidence that united text, visual and data to appropriately communicate to others.
Teachers were/are as interested as the rest of the population on the use of digital tools displayed in existing science programs as well as apps to assist the understanding of math. In districts this interest is balanced by all domain use through the district's technology plan.

The answer to your question is that the MSP personalized professional development before that term hit the popularity that it now has in ed policy. By engaging in finding the teachers' science and math related content topic that he/she felt to advance in and allow the freedom to gauge participation in professional development types for their pursuit, the trust was established from the beginning that the project was focused on students.

An Engineering Program integration project in k-6 provided the concept of interest-based teacher support. Due to the shortness of the project support, the application and use of new programs and tools with students were viewed as a future goal. The reinvested MSP funds supported only two months, yet led to another 18 and expansion. Designing the next stage kept the same teacher process of following their interests into student the middle school and invited in other districts. Teachers grouped as cohorts from their districts, often represented by a single or team at formal professional development options. From that focus we were able to propose a 3 yr project, designing in milestones in cooperation with the participating teachers.

The effect of this scale up approach is that multiple teacher projects and types of STEM sprouted with support from the community and continue to offer the positive core for standards adjustment over time. We remain a "community of practice" and I have continued to coordinate rather than manage. In fact, I am testing and learning along with those who where participants in the funded element as we all learn from each other as new systems are introduced at different districts to further digitalize beyond the implementation of STEM to investigate local phenomenon as well as to learn the applications of specific tools.
Our challenge is to transition the personalization to students while ensuring their safety and support as they venture into STEM in developmentally appropriate learning progressions. Teachers who transition to STEM in this vague route know to capture their gains over time while increasing their experiences beyond the classroom. The work remains to build this transition for students.