If you are proposing to conduct research and development (R&D) in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education, your work will benefit from effective partnerships with schools and school districts. While almost every education R&D project requires contact with schools, this brief makes the case for partnership. By this we mean a relationship that is long-term, usually involves formal organizational commitments, draws on both partners’ expertise, and has benefits for each partner. As researchers and developers in STEM education, we offer this brief as a summary of what we have learned about creating and maintaining partnerships that support high-quality R&D. The nature of our experience with R&D partnerships has varied, because all of our projects have been different, but we have all found that partnerships enhance learning for researchers and practitioners alike. We also have seen that they work best when approached with realistic expectations and designed for sustainability. This brief describes our observations, emphasizing practical lessons to help other researchers and developers launch and maintain successful partnerships with practitioners.
EDC’s project Foundation Science, which developed four introductory high school courses in biology, chemistry, earth science, and physics (now known as Concepts and Practices: Biology, Concepts and Practices: Chemistry, and EDC Earth Science), framed its approach on Wilson’s premise that story is a powerful tool for teaching and learning science. No learning can take place unless the learner is engaged in the topic and motivated by a need to know the information and how it relates to his or her own life.
The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are a set of science education standards being developed based on a vision for science education established by the Framework for K–12 Science Education published by the National Research Council in 2012. Publication of the framework was the first of a two-step process to produce a set of Next Generation Science Standards for voluntary adoption by the states. The NGSS are currently being developed by a team of writers including researchers, education policy specialists, scientists, and classroom teachers. The development is being coordinated by Achieve and 26 lead states.
FLEXE is a science education project that helps students gain an understanding of local and extreme environments, the interconnected Earth system and the process of science. As part of the project, students collect data in their local environment and compare them with equivalent data from partner schools and from an extreme environment, namely the deep sea. Hydrothermal vents and cold seeps are among the extreme environments being compared. Students participate in three main activities: (1) protocol-driven fieldwork and analysis, and analysis of data from an extreme environment; (2) Web-based interactions with scientists and students from partner schools; and (3) culminating activities that include reporting and peer review. FLEXE provides an online system for exploring learning activities developed for the project and for facilitating interactions between students and between students and scientists. Through the FLEXE Forum, collaborating scientists present intriguing deep sea datasets to students along with scientific questions for them to answer, and provide feedback on their responses in a timely manner. Evaluation is central to the project. FLEXE combines program evaluation with hypothesis-based research to explicitly test effects of various program components on student learning and attitudes towards science. FLEXE was developed at Pennsylvania State University’s Center for Science and the Schools in collaboration with the Globe Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment program and the NSF deep sea research program Ridge2000.
GEAR UP is a national initiative that seeks to increase the number of students in specific target populations who are prepared to enter and succeed in post-secondary education. The program is funded by the U.S. Department of Education. The Pennsylvania Academy for the Profession of Teaching and Learning, part of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, provides services for nearly 14,000 students in the Harrisburg School District and the School District of Philadelphia through partnerships with the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency and the two school districts. The program includes activities directed at raising academic performance through (1) early intervention services; (2) professional development; (3) pre-service teacher education; (4) parent programs; and (5) last dollar scholarships to eligible students for postsecondary education.
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act incentives drove healthcare providers to adopt electronic patient record software systems. The resulting demand for IT professionals in healthcare was rapid and has continued to increase, illuminating the lack of a coherent entry sequence for job seekers in the field. Due to the unique, stringent patient security requirements and the singular nature of information technology at the point of patient wellness and care activities, health IT has emerged as a discrete domain in education. Graduate programs in healthcare informatics have proliferated in the past decade. Employers are calling on community colleges to infuse allied health and nursing curricula with information technology content, as well as to produce educational offerings that provide new and necessary skills for incumbent workers. Community college IT instructors who teach in areas such as database management, network security, and data analytics are in need of healthcare-specific content. In addition, career awareness is nonexistent for this high-demand, high-wage sector, which lacks the navigational aids for job seekers commonly found in a more mature field.
This PIRE project is a collaborative project that engages each member’s unique resources, including electro-mechanical design (Korean collaborators), virtual HUBO (Bryn Mawr), online HUBO and co-op program (Drexel), mini-HUBO (Virginia Tech), advanced locomotion (UPenn) and human-robot interaction (Swarthmore). Humanoids are bipedal robots engineered to mimic human locomotion, balance, and coordination. The Honda ASIMO, Sony QRIO, and KAIST HUBO are adult-sized humanoids that have captured public interest and give researchers insight on issues including dynamic walking, coordinated motor control, perception, and human-robot interaction. A coherent, effective, and innovative model is presented for international collaboration and will enable faculty, undergraduates, and doctorial students to cycle through Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. The goal is to deliver a three-tier tool set—virtual, mini-, and online HUBO—filling a critical gap that prevents a vertical advance in robotics, namely the lack of platforms to consolidate knowledge, assess approaches, and benchmark performance. This toolset will provide the community with multiple points of entry to engage in advancing humanoid capabilities with far reaching impacts. To reach the next generation of robotic scientists and engineers, the PIRE team is working closely with the Philadelphia Please Touch Museum (PTM) to design exhibits featuring HUBO to inspire and motivate students to pursue science and engineering careers.
Illinois Pathways, funded through Race to the Top, was recently launched by Governor Quinn to support P–20 education and workforce training systems that enable learners to explore their academic and career interests in STEM fields. In addition, Illinois Pathways is set to launch the first STEM Learning Exchanges later this year, a new and innovative network of statewide public-private partnerships organized by career cluster that work to coordinate planning and investment to support local STEM programs. Join a panel of State of Illinois agency representatives and the Illinois Business Roundtable to learn more about this new and important initiative and how it will be implemented throughout Illinois.
The goal of Illustrative Mathematics is to clarify the meaning and intent of the Common Core State Standards by publishing tasks and tools that support implementation of the CCSS. Illustrative Mathematics is a growing community of mathematics teachers, mathematics educators, and mathematicians that provides leadership and guidance by illustrating the mathematics that students should experience in a faithful implementation of the CCSS.
STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) integration at the K–12 level is gaining national and international attention. Many U.S. national documents have laid the foundation for the connections between the disciplines. Engineering can be considered the integrator in STEM integration. However, a clear definition or tradition of what constitutes a quality engineering education at the K–12 level has not been established. At the college level, the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) has guided the development of engineering programs through its accreditation process, but there is no similar process at the K–12 level. As a result, we are left with a number of questions about the best methods by which to effectively teach engineering at the K–12 level and how that plays into the integration of the other STEM disciplines.
This project is funded by the National Science Foundation, grants # 0822241, 1449550, 1650648, and 1743807. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in these materials are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.