Integrated approaches to teaching science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (commonly referred to as STEM education) in K-12 classrooms have resulted in a growing number of teachers incorporating engineering in their science classrooms. Such changes are a result of shifts in science standards to include engineering as evidenced by the Next Generation Science Standards. To date, 20 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the NGSS and another 24 have adopted standards based on the Framework for K-12 Science Education. Despite the increased presence of engineering and integrated STEM education in K-12 education, there are several concerns to consider. One concern is the limited availability of observation instruments appropriate for instruction where multiple STEM disciplines are present and integrated with one another. Addressing this concern requires the development of a new observation instrument, designed with integrated STEM instruction in mind. An instrument such as this has implications for both research and practice. For example, research using this instrument could help educators compare integrated STEM instruction across grade bands. Additionally, this tool could be useful in the preparation of pre-service teachers and professional development of in-service teachers new to integrated STEM education and formative learning through professional learning communities or classroom coaching.
The work presented here describes in detail the development of an integrated STEM observation instrument - the STEM Observation Protocol (STEM-OP) - that can be used for both research and practice. Over a period of approximately 18-months, a team of STEM educators and educational researchers developed a 10-item integrated STEM observation instrument for use in K-12 science and engineering classrooms. The process of developing the STEM-OP began with establishing a conceptual framework, drawing on the integrated STEM research literature, national standards documents, and frameworks for both K-12 engineering education and integrated STEM education.
As part of the instrument development process, the project team had access to over 2000 classroom videos where integrated STEM education took place. Initial analysis of a selection of these videos helped the project team write a preliminary draft instrument consisting of 79 items. Through several rounds of revisions, including the construction of detailed scoring levels of the items and collapsing of items that significantly overlapped, and piloting of the instrument for usability, items were added, edited, and/or removed for various reasons. These reasons included issues concerning the intricacy of the observed phenomenon or the item not being specific to integrated STEM education (e.g., questioning). In its final form, the STEM-OP consists of 10 items, each comprising four descriptive levels. Each item is also accompanied by a set of user guidelines, which have been refined by the project team as a result of piloting the instrument and reviewed by external experts in the field. The instrument has shown to be reliable with the project team and further validation is underway. The STEM-OP will be of use to a wide variety of educators and educational researchers looking to understand the implementation of integrated STEM education in K-12 science and engineering classrooms.
Dare, E. A., Hiwatig, B., Keratithamkul, K., Ellis, J. A., Roehrig, G. H., Ring-Whalen, E. A., Rouleau, M. D., Faruqi, F., Rice, C., Titu, P., Li, F., Wieselmann, J. R., & Crotty, E. A. (2021). Improving integrated STEM education: The design and development of a K-12 STEM observation protocol (STEM-OP) (RTP). In Proceedings of the 2021 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition.