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Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council. 2014. STEM Integration in K-12 Education: Status, Prospects, and an Agenda for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18612.
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1

Introduction

Education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics has received growing attention over the past decade, with calls both for greater emphasis on these fields and for improvements in curricula and instruction within and across them. In the policy arena and increasingly among educators, these subjects together are referred to as STEM (Box 1-1).

Multiple reports issued by influential education, policy, and business groups have argued the case for expanding and improving STEM education (e.g., AAAS 1990, 1993; Carnegie Corporation 2009; Council on Competitiveness 2005; NCMSTC 2000; NGA 2007; NRC 1996, 2007a, 2012a; NSB 2007; PCAST 2012). Among other things, the case rests on the idea that a STEM education can lead to productive employment and is critical to the nation’s innovation capacity. And many employers and public officials have come to believe that all people, particularly young people, needs to have some degree of scientific and technological literacy in order to lead productive lives as citizens, whether or not they ever work in a STEM-related field. In today’s science- and technology-rich society, such literacy is important to being a smart consumer and thoughtful participant in democratic decision making and to making sense of the world more generally. Thus STEM education serves to prepare a scientific and technical workforce, where integration is becoming increasingly common in cutting-edge research and development (Box 1-2), as well as a scientifically and technologically literate and more informed society.

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council. 2014. STEM Integration in K-12 Education: Status, Prospects, and an Agenda for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18612.
×

BOX 1-1
The Four STEM Disciplines

Science is the study of the natural world, including the laws of nature associated with physics, chemistry, and biology and the treatment or application of facts, principles, concepts, or conventions associated with these disciplines. Science is both a body of knowledge that has been accumulated over time and a process—scientific inquiry—that generates new knowledge. Knowledge from science informs the engineering design process.

Technology, while not a discipline in the strictest sense, comprises the entire system of people and organizations, knowledge, processes, and devices that go into creating and operating technological artifacts, as well as the artifacts themselves. Throughout history, humans have created technology to satisfy their wants and needs. Much of modern technology is a product of science and engineering, and technological tools are used in both fields.

Engineering is both a body of knowledge—about the design and creation of human-made products—and a process for solving problems. This process is design under constraint. One constraint in engineering design is the laws of nature, or science. Other constraints include time, money, available materials, ergonomics, environmental regulations, manufacturability, and reparability. Engineering utilizes concepts in science and mathematics as well as technological tools.

Mathematics is the study of patterns and relationships among quantities, numbers, and space. Unlike in science, where empirical evidence is sought to warrant or overthrow claims, claims in mathematics are warranted through logical arguments based on foundational assumptions. The logical arguments themselves are part of mathematics along with the claims. As in science, knowledge in mathematics continues to grow, but unlike in science, knowledge in mathematics is not overturned, unless the foundational assumptions are transformed. Specific conceptual categories of K–12 mathematics include numbers and arithmetic, algebra, functions, geometry, and statistics and probability. Mathematics is used in science, engineering, and technology.

SOURCE: Adapted from NRC (2009).

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council. 2014. STEM Integration in K-12 Education: Status, Prospects, and an Agenda for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18612.
×

BOX 1-2
The New Biology

… (t)he essence of the New Biology is integration––re-integration of the many subdisciplines of biology, and the integration into biology of physicists, chemists, computer scientists, engineers, and mathematicians to create a research community with the capacity to tackle a broad range of scientific and societal problems.

SOURCE: NRC (2009, p. vii).

Efforts to improve science and mathematics education in grades K–12 are not new. Since the 1960s these efforts have included curriculum development projects, professional development networks, and the creation of national standards documents (e.g., AAAS 1993; NCTM 1989; NRC 1996). The release of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (NGACPB 2010) and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS; Achieve 2013), the latter modeled on A Framework for K–12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas (NRC 2012a), have further focused the nation’s attention on teaching and learning of these subjects. In engineering and technology the emphasis has been on expanding attention to these disciplines at the pre-college level, including through development of educational standards (e.g., ITEEA 2000), and making the case that exposing students to the E and T of STEM has the potential to improve learning of science and mathematics (NAE and NRC, 2009).

Yet, despite the increased attention to STEM in policy and funding arenas, there remains some confusion about STEM, the individual subjects, the combination of the subjects, and even what constitutes STEM.1 In particular, recent use of the term has raised interest in whether there is something to be gained from considering the disciplines together, as somehow connected or integrated, rather than continuing to look at each separately in both teaching and learning. This report examines current initiatives in integrated STEM education and the evidence of their impacts.

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1 It is worth noting that while the STEM acronym is gaining currency in policy and education circles, many Americans do not associate the term with education at all but with very different ideas, such as stem cell research and a part of a plant (Keefe 2009).

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council. 2014. STEM Integration in K-12 Education: Status, Prospects, and an Agenda for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18612.
×

STEM IN THE K–12 CURRICULUM

Efforts to make connections among the STEM subjects are complicated by the history of the K–12 curriculum and the “place” of each of the disciplines within it. The roots of today’s curriculum date back to the work of the Harvard Committee of Ten (NEA 1894), which stressed learning in discrete subject areas. This focus on individual disciplines is important, because there is great complexity and much to be understood about how students acquire knowledge and skills in each area. Each discipline comprises a knowledge base, specialized practices, and particular habits of mind. It seems appropriate and necessary, then, that efforts to understand and improve discipline-focused STEM education continue.2 At the same time, the historical focus on the individual disciplines, which has influenced decades of curriculum development and teacher education, presents practical challenges to making cross-disciplinary connections in K–12 STEM education.

Mathematics Education

Mathematics instruction—commonly addressing arithmetic, geometry, algebra, trigonometry, and calculus—has been a regular part of K–12 education in the United States since the early 1900s (Stanic and Kilpatrick 1992). During the elementary years the same teacher usually teaches all of the core subjects, including mathematics. Since the 2001 No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act required regular testing in mathematics, the subject has received greater attention in elementary school, though it still is not typically given as much time in the school day as reading and language arts. For example, on the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress, 4th-grade teachers reported the amount of instructional time in each subject. In reading, 49 percent of teachers reported providing more than 10 hours per week of language arts instruction, whereas only 29 percent of teachers reported spending more than 7 hours per week on mathematics instruction—most (59 percent) reported spending 5 to 6.9 hours per week (Ginsberg and Chudowsky 2012)

Starting in middle school or junior high and continuing into high school, mathematics is taught as separate classes with specialized teachers. Most states require proficiency in algebra in order to graduate from high school, and students often follow different mathematics sequences that vary in content and level or rigor.

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2 Such efforts at the undergraduate level are synthesized in NRC 2012b.

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council. 2014. STEM Integration in K-12 Education: Status, Prospects, and an Agenda for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18612.
×

As of 2008, the 43 states with graduation requirements in mathematics required at least two years of courses in that subject (with one exception, Illinois, which required only one year) (NSF 2012).

Science Education

Science education—commonly addressing biology, chemistry, physics, and Earth and space sciences—although not as prevalent in US schools as mathematics education, also has been a regular part of most K–12 students’ school experiences. However, science has not typically received much attention in elementary school, particularly in grades K–2. It is usually taught by the same teacher who teaches reading, mathematics, and social studies. As with mathematics, specialized science classes begin in middle/junior high school.

The 44 states with science graduation requirements required two or more years of courses in that subject (NSF 2012). Testing in science under NCLB was mandated later (2007) than for mathematics and reading (2003) and at a much lower frequency. Unlike the testing for mathematics and reading, science was never part of the “adequate yearly progress” requirement that holds schools accountable for students’ progress from year to year. Over the past decade, there has been a trend in elementary schools toward spending less time on science and more time on reading and mathematics, presumably due at least in part to the NCLB legislation (Blank 2012).

Technology Education

Education related to technology—the T in STEM—is interpreted and addressed in a variety of ways. Prior to the mid-1980s the school subject known as technology education was called industrial arts and, before that, manual arts. Some current versions of technology education are similar to and often confused with vocational education, which has a long and separate history in the United States as a trade or job skills program. In the past decade, however, much of vocational education has been adopting a more academic program of study, including material related to the STEM subjects, under the label of career and technical education, or CTE.

Moreover, technology teachers today are a varied group. Some oversee traditional laboratories where students build artifacts from wood, metal, plastic, and other materials. Others present a broader perspective on technology and its interaction with society, viewing technology as key to under-

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council. 2014. STEM Integration in K-12 Education: Status, Prospects, and an Agenda for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18612.
×

standing topics such as manufacturing, construction, transportation, and telecommunication. Over the past decade, prompted in part by publication of the Standards for Technological Literacy (ITEEA 2000) and the development of national programs such as Project Lead the Way,3 some technology teachers have begun to teach engineering.

Another interpretation of the T in STEM is what many refer to as educational, or instructional, technology. Over the years, such technologies have included filmstrips, movies, television, videos, and learning aids such as calculators and electronic white boards. Arguably, the most influential educational technologies to date are the personal computer and the Internet, including online resources and educational software. Continual improvements in processing speeds and data storage, lower price points, the advent of the fast, wireless Internet, and cloud computing have combined to make PCs (as well as laptops, tablet computers, and smartphones) a central tool for learning both in and out of the classroom.

Computers, software, sensors, and other data collection instruments are also a major component of yet a third interpretation of technology relevant to STEM education: the tools used by practitioners of science, mathematics, and engineering. These tools include everything from scales used to accurately measure the volume or mass of substances, to microscopes and telescopes used to study very small and very far objects, to supercomputers used to model complex phenomena such as weather, and particle accelerators that reveal the tiniest building blocks of matter.

Engineering Education

The newest and least developed component of the STEM quartet at the K–12 level is engineering. Its footprint in elementary and secondary schools is much smaller than those of mathematics, science, and technology. Most of the growth in efforts to teach engineering to children has occurred over the past 15 years, as a number of engineering-focused curricula have been designed and implemented in elementary and secondary schools across the nation (see NAE and NRC 2009 for more information about these efforts). And a small but growing number of initiatives is providing professional development to teachers to enable them to engage students in engineering activities.

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3 More information about this initiative is available at www.pltw.org/.

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council. 2014. STEM Integration in K-12 Education: Status, Prospects, and an Agenda for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18612.
×

There is no formal agreement on what constitutes engineering knowledge and skills at the K–12 level, but there is growing recognition of the importance of the engineering design process and of concepts such as constraints, criteria, optimization, and trade-offs. As of 2010, nine states had incorporated engineering in their standards for science education (NAE 2010). The NGSS (Achieve 2013) includes engineering concepts and practices alongside those of science. Twenty-six states participated in the development of the standards, and many of these are expected to adopt them, potentially paving the way for greater inclusion of engineering education at the K–12 level.

CONNECTIONS IN STEM EDUCATION

While most new programs and specialized schools continue to address one or more of the STEM subjects separately, there have been some attempts to highlight connections within, between, and among4 the STEM subjects as well. Several reasons are often cited for this emphasis.

Although their efforts were focused on science rather than STEM, previous NRC committees have offered visions of how learning about science can incorporate habits of mind and practices along with the acquisition of content knowledge that can be viewed as integrative and contributing to building of skills that would be useful in the workplace. For example, the authoring committee for Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K–8 (NRC 2007b) recommended that science teaching and curriculum should include the following four strands of scientific proficiency as a framework for learning within those disciplines:

•   Know, use, and interpret scientific explanations of the natural world.

•   Generate and evaluate scientific evidence and explanations.

•   Understand the nature and development of scientific knowledge.

•   Participate productively in scientific practices and discourse.

These strands are not to be viewed as components that need to be taught independently. Rather, the committee recommended that science learning be developed in ways in which all of the strands are inextricably intertwined.

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4 The committee uses “between” and “among” in recognition that some integrated STEM education initiatives involve connections between only two of the STEM disciplines, while others involve connections among three or more.

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council. 2014. STEM Integration in K-12 Education: Status, Prospects, and an Agenda for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18612.
×

The committee that authored Learning Science in Informal Environments: People, Places, and Pursuits (NRC 2009b) embraced these strands and added two additional ones:

•   Experience excitement, interest, and motivation to learn about phenomena in the natural and physical world.

•   Think about themselves as science learners and develop an identity as someone who knows about, uses, and sometimes contributes to science.

Advocates of more integrated approaches to teaching and learning, both within and across disciplines, note that the professional practices that inspired the focus on individual disciplines have been transformed in many workplace and research settings to emphasize multidisciplinary enterprises, such as biomedical engineering. More generally, many real-world contexts and problems typically involve more than one of the disciplines. For example, designing alternative energy systems that run on solar or wind energy, understanding how to maintain a clean water supply, or maintaining fragile ecosystems will require knowledge and practices from across the STEM disciplines.

Moreover, professional scientists and engineers in the vast, interconnected enterprise of companies, academic institutions, and government laboratories that conduct research and develop new products and services almost always work in ways that integrate the disciplines of STEM. In fact in some research areas the necessity of more interdisciplinary approaches is increasing. In the life sciences, for example, there is recognition that some of the most important and interesting questions in modern biology will require closer interaction not only within the subdisciplines in biology but also among professionals in biology, chemistry, physics, computer science, mathematics, and engineering (NRC 2009a). Similar interactions among earth, behavioral, and social sciences also will become increasingly essential to addressing critical issues facing humanity and the planet.

More generally, scientists use technological tools to conduct experiments and mathematics and statistics to interpret the data produced by those experiments; engineers draw on scientific knowledge and mathematical reasoning to develop and model potential design inventions and solutions; technologists who build and maintain the products and systems designed by engineers must understand the scientific and mathematical principles governing their operation. And these professionals interact with one another in increasingly diverse and multidisciplinary teams. Connections among the

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council. 2014. STEM Integration in K-12 Education: Status, Prospects, and an Agenda for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18612.
×

STEM disciplines extend beyond the workplace. In their day-to-day affairs, citizens encounter situations that require them to make decisions using a mix of STEM-related knowledge and skills—whether choosing appropriate medical care, interpreting statistical data in the latest political poll, or buying energy-saving appliances. Indeed, the arguments for general scientific and technological literacy, and for numeracy, have been well articulated (e.g., AAAS 1991; NAE and NRC 2002; NRC 1989). Advocates of more integrated approaches to K–12 STEM education claim it has advantages for learning and motivation. They contend that teaching STEM in the context of real-world issues and challenges5—and hence, in an integrated fashion—can make the subjects more relevant to students and teachers, thereby enhancing motivation for learning and improving student achievement and persistence. These effects, in turn, may enhance workplace and college readiness skills and increase the number of students who consider a career in a STEM-related field. These issues are discussed in greater detail in Chapter 3.

Efforts to integrate across the STEM disciplines are not entirely new but until relatively recently focused largely on connecting just science and mathematics; for example, the School Science and Mathematics Association (www.ssma.org) has been a locus for discussions of such integration since its founding in 1901. As recently as 20 years ago, at the launch of the standards-based education reform movement, there was recognition of the value of integration in STEM beyond just mathematics and science. Benchmarks for Science Literacy, for example, defined science as “basic and applied natural and social science, basic and applied mathematics, and engineering and technology, and the interconnections—which is to say the scientific enterprise as a whole” (AAAS 1993, p. 321). Both Benchmarks and the National Science Education Standards (NRC 1996) called for student learning related to “technology and society” and “technological design”—in science classes. The Standards for Technological Literacy (ITEEA 2000) devoted significant sections to spelling out learning goals related to engineering design and stressed the need for students to understand technology’s connections to science, engineering, and mathematics.

More recently, the NGSS calls for deeper connections among mathematics, science, and engineering, and it encourages making connections between the subdisciplines of science, such as how energy is understood in biology

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5 By real world, we mean that a student will perceive the challenge posed as worthy of solution, not necessarily that the challenge copies exactly the complexities or subtleties of what takes place in science or engineering research or in commercial or academic technology development enterprises.

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council. 2014. STEM Integration in K-12 Education: Status, Prospects, and an Agenda for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18612.
×

and physics. As noted, the standards explicitly include practices and core ideas from engineering that should be taught in science classrooms. The Common Core State Standards (NGACPB 2010) in mathematics also suggest opportunities for making connections among the STEM subjects. For instance, the practice labeled “model with mathematics” calls for students to “apply the mathematics they know to solve problems arising in everyday life, society, and the workplace,” which will necessarily involve ideas and practices from science, engineering, or technology.

Despite the arguments for making connections across the STEM disciplines and the increased number of efforts to design learning experiences that will foster such connections, there is little research on how best to do so or on whether more explicit connections or integration across the disciplines significantly improves student learning, retention, achievement, or other valued outcomes. Recognizing the need for a more robust evidence base, the National Academy of Engineering and the Board on Science Education of the National Research Council convened a committee to examine current efforts to connect the STEM disciplines in K–12 education through integrated approaches and to develop a research agenda that will provide the data needed to inform such efforts.

COMMITTEE CHARGE

The Committee on Integrated STEM Education was charged with developing a research agenda for determining the approaches and conditions most likely to lead to positive outcomes of integrated STEM education at the K–12 level.6 The specific objectives of the project were as follows:

•   Identify and characterize existing approaches to integrated STEM education, in both formal and after-school and informal7 settings.

•   Review the evidence for the impact of integrated approaches on various parameters of interest, such as increasing student awareness, interest, motivation, and achievement in STEM subjects; improving college readiness skills; and boosting the number and quality of students who may consider a career in a STEM-related field.

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6 The committee limited its data gathering and analysis to efforts taking place in the United States.

7 The committee considered informal settings to include both those in after-school and out-of-school environments.

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council. 2014. STEM Integration in K-12 Education: Status, Prospects, and an Agenda for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18612.
×

•   Determine a set of priority research questions to advance understanding of the impacts of integrated STEM education.

•   Propose methodological approaches for addressing these questions.

•   Identify potential parties who could carry out the research.

DETERMINING THE SCOPE OF THE CHARGE

Developing a precise definition of integrated STEM education proved to be a challenge for the committee because of the multiple ways such integration can occur. It may include different combinations of the STEM disciplines, emphasize one discipline more than another, be presented in a formal or informal setting, and involve a range of pedagogical strategies. For example, one model suggests that “integrative” STEM education must include technological or engineering design as a basis for creating connections to concepts and practices from mathematics or science (or both) (Sanders 2009).

In educational practice and in research, the term integrated is used loosely and is typically not carefully distinguished from related terms such as connected, unified, interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, cross-disciplinary, or transdisciplinary. Defining integrated STEM education is further complicated by the fact that connections can be reflected at more than one level at the same time: in the student’s thinking or behavior, in the teacher’s instruction, in the curriculum, between and among teachers themselves, or in larger units of the education system, such as the organization of an entire school. The multidimensional nature of integrated STEM education led to one of the major tasks for the committee, “to identify and characterize existing approaches to integrated STEM.” Chapter 2 of this report takes up this element of the charge.

While the committee was unable to achieve consensus on a concise and useful definition of integrated STEM education, it still needed to determine which programs, studies, and evaluations to consider under the umbrella of integrated STEM education. In doing so the committee members acknowledged that they would likely find relevant programs or interventions not explicitly labeled “integrated” that would nevertheless provide important insights about ways to support students in making connections across the STEM disciplines. In the end, the committee chose to use a broad, inclusive lens to guide its examination of integrated STEM education. Details about the literature search and the process of identifying programs are provided in the next section.

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council. 2014. STEM Integration in K-12 Education: Status, Prospects, and an Agenda for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18612.
×

The committee discussed the possibility that the report’s lack of a strict definition might result in schools and programs engaged in STEM education claiming integration without actually doing it. This is a real risk. But in the committee’s view, at this early stage of the field’s development, it is less problematic than proposing a definition that artificially—or unwisely—constricts the type of experimentation and creativity that will be needed in research and practice to advance our understanding of integrated STEM education.

Over the course of the study, the committee came to recognize that it was important to consider integration in terms of both the design of the learning experiences and the anticipated student outcomes. In many cases, an experience may have been labeled “integrated” because the activities for students involved ideas and practices from more than one discipline, but learning outcomes (or other outcomes) were measured in only one discipline. The committee also found examples where curriculum or program designers may have stated their intention to create an integrated experience but the learner did not experience or recognize such. We discuss the implications of both of these situations in Chapters 3 and 4.

The committee also noted a tendency in the literature on integrated STEM education to conflate particular pedagogies with integration. For example, authors and program developers seemed to assume that adopting a problem- or project-based approach automatically meant disciplinary integration. It was not clear to the committee that this was necessarily the case. For this reason, the members tried to specify and carefully describe both the pedagogical approach and the kind of integration that various interventions and programs intended.

While the focus of this report is integrated STEM education, the committee in no way wishes to suggest that integrated STEM education should supplant learning in the individual STEM disciplines, which is appropriate in many situations. Part of the challenge of integrated STEM education—and of this report—is in determining the appropriate timing, contexts, and purposes where integrated approaches provide value beyond what students might learn by studying the disciplines individually. And while the committee was aware of a number of efforts to integrate one or more STEM subjects with others such as English language arts, art, and history, with few exceptions we restricted our analysis to integration involving only the STEM subjects.

Finally, this report raises many more questions than it answers regarding integrated STEM education, as is appropriate for a topic that has received relatively little systematic attention in the research literature. As a result, the

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council. 2014. STEM Integration in K-12 Education: Status, Prospects, and an Agenda for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18612.
×

report does not recommend specific approaches or implementation strategies for integrated STEM education.

THE STUDY PROCESS

To carry out the charge, the committee met five times over an 18-month period, held three information-gathering sessions, and commissioned topical papers relevant to its work.

The information-gathering sessions brought in speakers from around the country to present and discuss work relevant to integrated STEM education. In addition to discussions of specific programs, curricula, and school-based efforts, presenters addressed topics such as diversity in integrated STEM education, the role of technology in STEM education, the potential for integration in STEM standards, and challenges to implementing integrated STEM education.

In developing this report, the committee worked with outside consultant David Heil and Associates (DHA), who oversaw reviews of the research literature related to integrated STEM education in both formal and after- and out-of-school settings (e.g., robotics competitions, science and technology centers); DHA also oversaw a review of the cognitive sciences literature related to integrated STEM education. The literature review began with a search using the major multidisciplinary search engines such as Scopus, Web of Science, and INSPEC and was designed to capture a broad range of studies. The search used combinations of the following terms: integrated curriculum; integrated education; integrative; cross-disciplinary; interdisciplinary; multidisciplinary; project-based; K–12 education; unified studies curriculum; STEM; STEM education; integrated STEM education; science, mathematics, technology, and engineering education; inquiry-based instruction and learning; constructivism; cognitive development; cognition; learning; achievement; informal education; non-formal education; mentor; out-of-school; after school; enrichment; and extracurricular.

Overall, multiple searches in the formal education, informal education, and cognitive areas uncovered over 500 reference citations. The abstracts of these articles were reviewed to glean more information about content and relevance. Papers were initially included if the program described or studied integrated at least two STEM subjects. Four other criteria were also considered:

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council. 2014. STEM Integration in K-12 Education: Status, Prospects, and an Agenda for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18612.
×

•   Does the integration include engineering as one of the integrated subjects?

•   Does the article provide empirical evidence regarding the impact of the program or a review of research on integrated curriculum?

•   Do the authors present information or insights that are likely to contribute to addressing the committee’s charge?

•   Is the focus of the article on K–12 education and/or informal education programs?

Articles were more likely to be considered if they met more of the criteria. This initial search of the literature was supplemented by searches using key authors suggested by the committee or identified in articles as search terms.

The literature review was complemented by commissioned papers on social cognition, embodied cognition, the development of interest and identity, and assessment. The committee considered the literature review and the commissioned papers together in developing the report.

Also, with guidance from the committee, DHA identified a large sample of programs, projects, schools, and other initiatives that claimed or appeared to be engaged in integrated STEM education. Of 213 possible programs or initiatives, 55 were dropped because they did not appear to be integrated, no current information was available, or they did not have any evidence of impact. The remaining 158 programs were formal education programs (98), informal education programs (46), and programs that combined formal and informal elements in some way (14). From this group and taking account of time and budget constraints, DHA selected 28 (14 formal and 14 informal) to be reviewed in greater detail (Appendix; excerpts from some of these reviews appear throughout the report). The selection was based on expert judgment, the information available for each program, the responsiveness of program developers or practitioners to inquiries, evidence of integration, and some evidence of program impacts. In addition, programs were selected to represent different types and scales of integration. Formal education programs were identified as activities, modules, full curriculum, school-wide programs, or teacher preparation/professional development. Informal program categories included curriculum, professional development, after-school, camps, community events, competitions, exhibit/on-site drop-in programs, mentoring/internships, and media (e.g., television, websites).

Finally, the committee’s understanding of integrated STEM education and how to make this report useful to readers was informed by interviews

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council. 2014. STEM Integration in K-12 Education: Status, Prospects, and an Agenda for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18612.
×

DHA conducted with some 30 stakeholders in education, policymaking, and industry.

THE REPORT

Chapter 2 of this report presents a descriptive framework for integrated STEM education. The framework can be used to help design and study such integrated approaches. Chapter 3 focuses on evidence most closely related to integrated STEM education, considering outcomes related to learning, achievement, interest, and identity. Chapter 4 explores a broader range of literatures and identifies potential implications for the design of integrated STEM learning experiences. Both chapters draw on the DHA literature review and commissioned papers as well as the committee’s expertise. Chapter 5 discusses the context for integrated STEM education, considering standards, assessment, and supports for teachers. Chapter 6 summarizes key findings based on the evidence discussed in the previous chapters and presents recommendations and a research agenda developed by the committee.

APPENDIX

List of Reviewed Programs8

Formal Programs

Active Physics (http://its-about-time.com/physics/ap.html)

A World in Motion® (www.awim.org)

Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (www.bscs.org)

Engineering by Design—EbD-TEEMS (www.engineeringbydesign.org)

Engineering is Elementary (www.eie.org/)

Engineering the Future (www.mos.org/etf/)

Everyday STEM (www.shop.pitsco.com/store/item.aspx?art=4725)

Engaging Youth through Engineering (www.maef.net)

Harrisonburg Public Schools (www.i-stem-harrisonburg.com/)

I-STEM Summer Institute (www.sde.idaho.gov/site/istem)

Integrated Mathematics, Science, and Technology (http://cemast.illinoisstate.edu/educators/stem/index.shtml)

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8 Accessed November 15, 2013.

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council. 2014. STEM Integration in K-12 Education: Status, Prospects, and an Agenda for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18612.
×

Manor New Tech High (http://mnths.manorisd.net)

The National Center for STEM Elementary Education (www.stem.stkate.edu/stk/center.php)

WISEngineering (www.wisengineering.org)

Informal Programs

Build IT (http://buildit.sri.com/index.html)

Camp Invention (www.invent.org)

CSTEM Challenge (www.cstem.org)

Design It! (http://npass2.edc.org/resources/design-it)

Design Squad Nation (www.pbskids.org/designsquad/)

DREAM—Achievement Through Mentorship (http://.dream.rice.edu)

Family Engineering9 (www.familyengineering.org)

Jr. FIRST LEGO League, FIRST LEGO League, FIRST Tech Challenge, FIRST Robotics Competition (www.usfirst.org)

MathAlive! (www.mathalive.com)

National Partnerships for Afterschool Science (NPASS) and NPASS2 (http://.npass2.edc.org)

Techbridge (www.techbridgegirls.org)

TechXcite (www.techxcite.org)

Tinkerer’s Workshop10

Waterbotics11 (www.waterbotics.org)

REFERENCES

AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science). 1990. Science for All Americans. New York: Oxford University Press.

AAAS. 1993. Benchmarks for Science Literacy. New York: Oxford University Press.

Achieve, Inc. 2013. Next Generation Science Standards. Available at www.nextgenscience.org/next-generation-science-standards (retrieved July 17, 2013).

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9 David Heil and Associates, the contractor that oversaw the literature reviews and conducted the programs reviews for this project, helped develop and conducted a formative evaluation of the Family Engineering program.

10 This long-running exhibit at the Austin Children’s Museum (now, The Thinkery), which emphasized the processes of tinkering and engineering design, no longer exists.

11 Waterbotics was developed by Stevens Institute of Technology’s Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education, where committee member Beth McGrath was director at the time the reviews were conducted.

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council. 2014. STEM Integration in K-12 Education: Status, Prospects, and an Agenda for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18612.
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Blank, R. 2012. What is the impact of decline in science instructional time in elementary school? Time for elementary instruction has declined, and less time for science is correlated with lower scores on NAEP. Paper prepared for the Noyce Foundation. Available at www.csss-science.org/downloads/NAEPElemScienceData.pdf (retrieved July 17, 2013).

Carnegie Corporation of New York. 2009. The Opportunity Equation: Transforming Mathematics and Science Education for Citizenship and the Global Economy. Available at http://opportunityequation.org/uploads/files/oe_report.pdf (retrieved August 14, 2013).

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Ginsberg, A., and N. Chudowsky. 2012. Time for Learning: An Exploratory Analysis of NAEP Data. Prepared for the National Assessment Governing Board. Available at www.nagb.org/content/nagb/assets/documents/what-we-do/quarterly-board-meetingmaterials/2012-11/time-for-learning-naep-data-analysis.pdf (retrieved November 14, 2013).

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NAE and NRC. 2002. Technically Speaking: Why All Americans Need to Know More About Technology. Available at www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=10250 (retrieved August 15, 2013).

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NCMSTC (National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century). 2000. Before It’s Too Late: A Report to the Nation from the National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century. Available at www.ptec.org/document/ServeFile.cfm?ID=4059&DocID=2813 (retrieved August 14, 2013).

NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics). 1989. Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics. Reston, VA.

NEA (National Education Association). 1894. Report of the Committee of Ten on Secondary School Studies: With the Reports of the Conferences Arranged by the Committee. New York: American Book Company. Available at http://books.google.com/books?id=PfcBAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA3&lpg=PA3#v=onepage&q&f=false (retrieved April 8, 2012).

NGA (National Governors Association). 2007. Innovation America: A Final Report. Available at www.nga.org/files/live/sites/NGA/files/pdf/0707INNOVATIONFINAL.PDF (retrieved August 14, 2013).

Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council. 2014. STEM Integration in K-12 Education: Status, Prospects, and an Agenda for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18612.
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NRC. 1989. Everybody Counts: A Report to the Nation on the Future of Mathematics Education. Available at www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=1199 (retrieved August 15, 2013).

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NRC. 2007b. Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8. Washington: National Academies Press. Available at www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=11625 (retrieved October 29, 2013).

NRC. 2009a. A New Biology for the 21st Century: Ensuring the United States Leads the Coming Biology Revolution. Washington: National Academies Press. Available at www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12764 (retrieved July 23, 2013).

NRC. 2009b. Learning Science in Informal Environments: People, Places, and Pursuits. Washington: National Academies Press. Available at www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12190 (retrieved October 29, 2013).

NRC. 2012a. A Framework for K–12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas. Washington: National Academies Press. Available at www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13165 (retrieved July 17, 2013).

NRC. 2012b. Discipline Based Education Research: Understanding and Improving Learning in Undergraduate Science and Engineering. Washington: National Academies Press. Available at www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13362 (retrieved October 29, 2013).

NSB (National Science Board). 2007. National Action Plan for Addressing the Critical Needs of the U.S. Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education System. Available at www.nsf.gov/nsb/documents/2007/stem_action.pdf (retrieved August 14, 2013).

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Suggested Citation:"1 Introduction." National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council. 2014. STEM Integration in K-12 Education: Status, Prospects, and an Agenda for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18612.
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STEM Integration in K-12 Education examines current efforts to connect the STEM disciplines in K-12 education. This report identifies and characterizes existing approaches to integrated STEM education, both in formal and after- and out-of-school settings. The report reviews the evidence for the impact of integrated approaches on various student outcomes, and it proposes a set of priority research questions to advance the understanding of integrated STEM education. STEM Integration in K-12 Education proposes a framework to provide a common perspective and vocabulary for researchers, practitioners, and others to identify, discuss, and investigate specific integrated STEM initiatives within the K-12 education system of the United States.

STEM Integration in K-12 Education makes recommendations for designers of integrated STEM experiences, assessment developers, and researchers to design and document effective integrated STEM education. This report will help to further their work and improve the chances that some forms of integrated STEM education will make a positive difference in student learning and interest and other valued outcomes.

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