Academic journal article Journal of STEM Education : Innovations and Research

Redesigned High Schools for Transformed STEM Learning: Performance Assessment Pilot Outcome

Academic journal article Journal of STEM Education : Innovations and Research

Redesigned High Schools for Transformed STEM Learning: Performance Assessment Pilot Outcome

Article excerpt

Need for STEM Knowledge

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education content and conceptual learner proficiencies are at the forefront of a national conversation on educational reform (Kuenzi, 2008; Kuenzi, Matthews, & Mangan, 2006). With broad implications such as readiness skills for the future STEM workforce, global competitiveness, economic vitality of a nation, (Langdon, 2012) it is of focal importance to provide active, experiential, and meaningful experiences to learners (Stage & Kinzie, 2009). A solid grounding in STEM education can bolster the U.S. economy. The U.S. Labor Department projects that 26 of the 30 fastestgrowing occupations for 2018 will require preparation in the STEM fields, and 14 of them will require a bachelor's degree or higher (Lacey & Wright, 2010). States have been successful in encouraging students to take more courses in science and math before graduation (Shettle, et al., 2007). High school graduates'course taking in mathematics and science has increased from 1982 to 2007, and more recent graduates have taken more advanced mathematics and science courses as well (Dalton, et al., 2007). However, among U.S. students, degree completion in the STEM fields has declined by 50 percent since 1960 (U.S. Government Accountability Office, 2006). Currently, only 16 percent of undergraduate degrees in the United States are in STEM-related fields, placing the U.S. far behind the international community (i.e., 64 percent of undergraduates degrees in Japan are in STEM fields) (U.S. Department of Education, 2010).

Some students graduate from high school unprepared for the rigors of postsecondary coursework in the STEM disciplines, which makes it more difficult to complete a postsecondary degree in a STEM field. According to national data from ACT, of the high school graduating class of 2008, only 43 percent of ACT-tested students were ready for collegelevel math, and only 29 percent of ACT-tested students were ready for college-level science (ACT, 2010). In 200708, of first year undergraduates in life and physical sciences fields of study, 22 percent reported taking a remedial course (Sparks & Malkus, 2013).


Foundational student-centered educational experiences at the secondary level promoting active learning involvement, not only effectively builds science competency when compared to other means, but also enhances selfdirection, motivation, and interest in learning (Samsonov, Pedersen, & Hill, 2006). However, characteristic gauges of secondary learner preparedness are not necessarily consistent with actual practice in promoting the application of knowledge (Ostler, 2012). Post-secondary students exhibiting indicators of academic non-continuation, such as low grade point average or matriculation status, are typically underprepared based on lived and formative educational experiences (Ernst & Clark, 2012; Clark & Ernst, 2013; Ernst & Moye, 2013). Sparkman, Maulding and Roberts (2012) report identifiable indicators among postsecondary student successes and paired high school performance abilities and intellectual skill. Secondary academic assessment has typically concentrated on problems with a single answer predetermined to be correct. This was a reasonable practice when the STEM workforce sought individuals who could simply exhibit knowledge rather than a fuller extent of higher-order cognitive abilities such as creativity, the ability to analyze and apply information, and evaluative thinking (Neal 2009). Assessment in STEM-based educational environments has traditionally been based on exploring the cognitive dimensions of remembering and understanding with little carryover into application, analysis, evaluation, and creation. Oberg, (2009) states the principal intent and rationale for inclusion of standards-based classroom assessment is to inform instruction and expand higher-order learning.

Neal (2009) describes an alternative academic assessment process that accounts for the performance basis related to content, thinking processes, and skills. …

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