STEM in Early Education (SEE)

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Improving teacher effectiveness is essential to achieving the vision of the next generation science standards. This project improves the STEM capacity of Kindergarten through grade 2 teachers by developing their content knowledge and their ability to successfully engage students in place-based inquiry activities.

The work draws on an extensive research base and on project staff members’ direct experience in what works in designing and testing an integrated system of components that will impact teacher and student learning. Research and experience suggest that effective professional development (PD) is job-embedded and attends to the context and critical issues of teachers’ situations, is ongoing and responsive to teacher needs, and provides for reflective communities of learners.

The SEE project uses emerging learning technologies to address and support teacher needs as they learn new content and teaching strategies. Further, much reliance has been placed on developing and testing learning progressions that will result in improved student learning. The SEE project integrates these interrelated components to create and test a system designed to improve K–2 STEM education and to enhance our knowledge about what constitutes effective STEM professional development for K-2 teachers. It also draws on lessons learned from previous NSF-funded projects in which we developed a suite of data collection tools to document the impact of inquiry-based science and mathematics programs on teachers and students.

The project’s goals include 1) a professional development system, 2) an implementation support system that includes both formal and informal education settings, 3) digitally enhanced instructional materials, and 4) a system for disseminating products and research findings. The resulting products will allow early childhood teachers to build a foundation of STEM content and processes that will enhance student understanding of the nature of science, enabling students to meet the next generation of science standards (NRC).

The study will have a broad impact several ways. First, it addresses how to provide early elementary teachers with sorely needed STEM content knowledge and inquiry teaching skills. Inquiry-based teaching of STEM topics is emphasized in the next generation standards, but teachers in schools have not received adequate preservice STEM preparation in content coursework or in how to teach using inquiry strategies. Second, the study examines the effects of learning STEM content and skills through both face-to-face and digitally delivered PD. Our study contributes to our understanding of how to design PD, provide effective instructional materials, provide on-going teacher support, and sustain professional learning communities—all issues that school districts nationwide are struggling with. Third, we will broaden our networking and partnerships through collaborative project resource development and dissemination of resulting products, services, and research findings. Fourth, improving K–2 STEM teaching and learning will broaden the base of students interested in future STEM disciplines/careers.

For More Information

Dr. Donald Young, Principal Investigator

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