Academic journal article Technology and Engineering Teacher

Filling the Gap: Integrating STEM into Career and Technical Education Middle School Programs: There Is No Single Strategy for Approaching STEM Integration

Academic journal article Technology and Engineering Teacher

Filling the Gap: Integrating STEM into Career and Technical Education Middle School Programs: There Is No Single Strategy for Approaching STEM Integration

Article excerpt

Introduction

The field of STEM education is an educational framework that has surged in application over the past decade. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) is infused in nearly every facet of our society. Filling the gap of current research in middle school career and technical education (CTE) and STEM programs is important as traditional CTE programs transition to an environment that requires simultaneous academic and occupational instruction. The central strength of the current CTE and academic integration efforts has been "linking learned academic knowledge and skills directly with authentic applications in CTE programs and the courses of study opportunities" (Castellano, Stringfield, & Stone, 2003, p. 2).

Over the past decade, there has been an increase of research findings that "illustrate specific methods, actions, supports, and resources that facilitate the process of CTE and science content integration" (Spindler, 2011; see also Parr & Edwards, 2004; Stearn & Stearns, 2006; Washburn & Myers; 2010). There is no single strategy for approaching STEM integration. No school or school system is the same. Each is unique in its own way, with differences in demographics, resources, socioeconomic factors, challenges being faced, or needs to be addressed. STEM integration, broken down into its simplest form, focuses on breaking down the silos of discipline-specific teaching by making the connections for students between the content being taught in the classroom and the real-world experiences they will be exposed to in the future.

The goal of this article is to provide additional research related to the STEM Integration in Middle School Career and Technical Education study (Wu-Rorrer, 2015) and to continue the expansion of the current base of knowledge related to STEM integration in career and technical education by providing an example of a project being incorporated into a middle school Inventions and Innovations course. The article focuses briefly on new research related to STEM integration and middle school programming while demonstrating how the current research can be implemented in a STEM classroom. The project being presented is titled the Future Space Colony Project (FSCP).

Review of Literature

Completed in 2015, the STEM Integration in Middle School Career and Technical Education study introduced readers to career and technical education, the Delphi design, and the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) concept. Research was originally conducted in five topic areas: (a) middle school education systems, (b) the Delphi design, (c) STEM, (d) career and technical education, and (e) career and technical student associations. The guiding question of the research study, How can STEM programs be effectively integrated into middle school career and technical education programs? was developed based upon the review of literature. Three additional subquestions were created to further explore strategies that would answer the guiding question. Three rounds of data collection were completed, and information was shared about the instrument, collection method, response rate, data analysis, and consensus parameters. Twelve strategies were identified upon completion of the qualitative Delphi method research study. The strategies of real-world applications and administrative buy-in were the two predominant strategies consistently addressed throughout the review of literature and all three subquestions in the research study.

The study sought to determine how STEM programs could be effectively integrated into middle school career and technical education programs by local, state, and national educators, administrators, directors, specialists, and curriculum writers (Wu-Rorrer, 2015). The study provided leaders in CTE with greater awareness, insight, and strategies about how CTE programs can more effectively integrate academics into career and technical education programs through STEM-related programming (Wu-Rorrer, 2015). …

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