Academic journal article Kuram ve Uygulamada Egitim Bilimleri

STEM Related After-School Program Activities and Associated Outcomes on Student Learning

Academic journal article Kuram ve Uygulamada Egitim Bilimleri

STEM Related After-School Program Activities and Associated Outcomes on Student Learning

Article excerpt

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education is a newly emerged paradigm which focuses mostly on science and mathematics disciplines, but which also includes technology and engineering (Bybee, 2010b). STEM education is considered a means to help individuals develop different strategies in order to solve interdisciplinary problems and gain skills and knowledge in order to sustain scientific leadership and economic growth in the United States (Lacey & Wright, 2009). Recent reports indicate that the next generation is not prepared to respond either to current demands or to those of the future (National Research Council [NRC], 2011). International indicators (e.g., TIMMS and PISA) report that US students exhibit a low level of performance in mathematics and science. In addition, there has been witnessed a decrease in the number of graduates from STEM fields (NRC, 2011; Schmidt, 2011). Individuals trained for STEM-related professions have become insufficient, both in terms of overall quantity and in quality of skills, to meet the country's demands (NRC, 2011). Therefore, these findings represent a call to initiate STEM education and increase career interest in STEM fields.

To increase students' interest in STEM subjects and to cultivate STEM literacy, many initiatives and efforts have been launched and implemented. The US government initiated a program, "Educate to Innovate," whose aim is to encourage student participation in STEM-related activities and to incite an interest in STEM-related careers (Obama, 2009). Studies on cultivating STEM literacy have revealed that the science and mathematics components of STEM have gained prominence in facilitating discovery and innovation in a society when compared to the engineering and technology components (Lantz, 2009). Yet, many researchers have integrated engineering topics in both middle and high school curricula (Apedoe, Reynolds, Ellefson, & Schunn, 2008; Cunningham, Knight, Carlsen, & Kelly, 2007; Fortus, Krajcik, Dershimer, Marx, & Mamlok-Naaman, 2005; Mehalik, Doppelt, & Schunn, 2008; National Academy of Engineering [NAE] & NRC, 2009; Wendell et al., 2010). For instance, Apedoe et al. (2008) developed an eight-week high school curriculum unit that uses engineering design to teach chemical concepts. They helped students understand atomic interactions, reactions, and energy changes in reactions through the engineering design process. Cunningham et al. (2007) developed a professional development unite for in-service teachers to experiment with the engineering design process in which the teachers were involved in the development of the unit's lessons plans. Wendell et al. (2010) integrated engineering design into science curriculum through the use of LEGO Mindstorm Kits. They found that by using LEGO Mindstorm Kits helped students learn science concepts better when compared to traditional science instruction. In line with these attempts, certain education standards emphasize the interrelationships among science, mathematics, engineering, and technology (International Technology Education Association [ITEA], 1999; Massachusetts Department of Education, 2006). Having students participate in STEM activities is considered a way to increase interest in STEM subjects and to foster STEM literacy (Kauffmann, Hall, Batts, Bosse, & Moses, 2009; Sullivan, 2008).

Individuals are expected to gain a variety of problem solving skills and to meet the needs of society within this century. These needs may lead to a change in educational standards and in the quality of the education system. In this regard, a number of researchers have defined and developed 21st century skills, relating these skills to social, economic, cultural, and political issues in today's competitive world. They have listed 21st century skills as (a) critical thinking and problem solving, (b) collaboration and leadership, (c) agility and adaptability, (d) initiative and entrepreneurialism, (e) effective oral and written communication, (f ) accessing and analyzing data, and (g) curiosity and imagination (Association for Career and Technical Education, National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium and Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2010; Wagner, 2008). …

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