STEM Students on the Stage (SOS): Promoting Student Voice and Choice in STEM Education through an Interdisciplinary, Standards-Focused, Project Based Learning Approach

By Sahin, Alpaslan; Top, Namik | Journal of STEM Education : Innovations and Research, August 1, 2015 | Go to article overview

STEM Students on the Stage (SOS): Promoting Student Voice and Choice in STEM Education through an Interdisciplinary, Standards-Focused, Project Based Learning Approach


Sahin, Alpaslan, Top, Namik, Journal of STEM Education : Innovations and Research


STEM Case in the United States and STEM SOS Model

Statistics have shown that U.S education suffers from lack of rigorous K-12 education, especially in STEM areas. For instance, the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP, known as "the Nation's Report Card") revealed that only 26 percent of America's 12th-graders scored at or above proficient in math (Bertram, 2014). In another example, "only 40 percent of Americans about to enter the workforce, military, college, and voting age are able to perform basic mathematics" (Bertram, 2014, pg.1). We already know that American students lag behind their counterparts in international math and science tests (e.g., TIMSS, PISA). Accordingly, there is a shortage of STEM majoring professionals (NRC, 2011; Schmidt, 2011). To address these problems, integrated STEM education or Project-based Learning (PBL) has been proposed (Fortus et al., 2005). Limited research on PBL has yielded promising findings, such as an increase in student interest in and understanding of STEM and developing skills in collaboration and problem solving (Fortus et al., 2005). Likewise, Harmony Public Schools (HPS) has developed its own STEM approach that incorporates project-based and inquiry-based learning called "STEM Students on the Stage (SOS TM)" through the Race to the Top grant funded by the U.S. Department of Education with the goal of not only increasing students' STEM knowledge and interest, but also producing self-motivated and self-regulated learners (Harmony STEM Program, 2013). STEM SOS aims "to maintain the focus on standards-based and student-centered teaching while enriching and extending the learning of students through PBL projects. The goal is to promote not only collaborative skills and student ownership of learning but also to promote student success in state and national standards" (p. x). In contrast to other conventional PBL approaches, students have to complete multiple projects, including a level I project followed by either regular level II or advanced level III project.

Students are assigned two level I projects per semester on each core subject (Mathematics, Science, ELA, and Social Studies). These are completed within class with a group of 3-4 students aligned with the curriculum's scope and sequence within a week. The final product consists of an investigation report of their work with a digital presentation of the project. Student projects are assessed with related rubrics in each core subject for each project separately.

In addition, students must complete one interdisciplinary STEM SOS project from either mathematics or science, as well as an assignment for social studies and ELA as an interdisciplinary component of the projects they choose or to which they are assigned. Level II projects are year-long and completed outside of classroom. The use of technology is a must and is integrated in each and every step towards project completion. Another requirement of any level II project is the creation of a brochure summarizing a student's project, including QR codes of student websites and a digital presentation of the final product. All student products are saved online and are available to the outside audience with students' permission. Teachers have access to all STEM SOS materials, including teacher guides, student handouts, assessment materials, rubrics and projects. Teachers also receive regular trainings on updates and implementation of those projects. For each level, there are a number of tasks students have to complete in order finalize their end product - an e-portfolio.

Students who complete their STEM SOS projects present their products at their annual school STEM festival. Students who are willing to present their level II projects at STEM Expo exhibitions, International Sustainable World Energy, Engineering, and Environment Project (I-SWEEEP) Olympiad and other STEM-related events and competitions, either by special invitation or by registering. …

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