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Integration in K–12 STEM Education: Status, Prospects, and an Agenda for Research

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

K-12 and Pre-college Engineering: Educational Policy and Research

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.781.1 - 24.781.17



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Paper Authors


Mitchell Nathan University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Mitchell J. Nathan is Professor of Educational Psychology, Curriculum & Instruction, and Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Director of the Center on Education and Work. His work explores the cognitive, embodied and social processes involved in learning and instruction in STEM education. Prof. Nathan received his Ph.D. in experimental (cognitive) psychology. He holds a B.S. in electrical and computer engineering, mathematics and history. He has worked in research and development in artificial intelligence, computer vision, robotics, and sensor fusion. Prof. Nathan also has worked on computer-based tutoring environments for mathematics education that rely heavily on students' own comprehension processes for self-evaluation and self-directed learning (so-called unintelligent tutoring systems). Prof. Nathan directed the STAAR Project, which studied the transition from arithmetic to algebraic reasoning. He served as Co-PI for the NSF-funded AWAKEN Project, which documented how people learn engineering in K-12, college, and the workplace. Dr. Nathan recently served as a member of The National Academy of Engineering (NAE)/National Research Council Committee on Integrated STEM Education. Currently, Prof. Nathan is co-PI for the National Center for Cognition and Mathematics Instruction, co-PI of the grant Connecting Mathematical Ideas through Animated Multimodal Instruction, and Director of the Postdoctoral Training Program in Mathematical Thinking, Learning, and Instruction, funded by the U. S. Dept. of Education-Institute of Educational Sciences (IES). Links to current and past research can be found at

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Greg Pearson National Academy of Engineering

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Greg Pearson is a Senior Program Officer with the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) in Washington, D.C. Greg currently serves as the responsible staff officer for the NSF-funded project “The Status, Role, and Needs of Engineering Technology Education
in the United States” and the Chevron Corp.-funded project “Guiding Implementation of K-12 Engineering Education in the United States.” He is also study director for the public- and private-sector funded study “Integrated STEM Education: Developing a Research Agenda,” which is a collaboration with the NRC Board on Science Education. He was the study director for the project that resulted in publication of Standards for K-12 Engineering Education? (2010) and Engineering in K-12 Education: Understanding the Status and Improving the Prospects (2009), an analysis of efforts to teach engineering to U.S. school children. He oversaw the NSF-funded project that resulted in the 2013 publication of Messaging for Engineering: From Research to Action and the 2008 publication of Changing the Conversation: Messages for Improving Public Understanding of Engineering and was co-editor of the reports Tech Tally: Approaches to Assessing Technological Literacy (2006) and Technically Speaking: Why All Americans Need to Know More About Technology (2002). In the late 1990s, Greg oversaw NAE and National Research Council reviews of technology education content standards developed by the International Technology Education Association. He has degrees in biology and journalism.

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Integration in K–12 STEM Education: Status, Prospects, and an Agenda for ResearchOver the past decade, the STEM acronym has developed wide currency in US education andpolicy circles. Leaders in business, government, and academia assert that education in the STEMsubjects is vital not only to sustaining the innovation capacity of the United States but also as afoundation for successful employment, including but not limited to work in the STEM fields.Historically, US K–12 STEM education has focused on competency in the individual subjects,particularly science and mathematics. Reform efforts, including development of learningstandards and, more recently, large-scale assessments, likewise have treated the STEM subjectsmostly in isolation. The relatively recent introduction of engineering education into some K–12classrooms and out-of-school settings and the 2013 publication of the Next Generation ofScience Standards, which explicitly connect science concepts and practices to those ofengineering, have elevated the idea of integration as a potential component of STEM education.Advocates of more integrated approaches to K-12 STEM education argue that teaching STEM ina more connected manner, especially in the context of real-world issues, can make the STEMsubjects more relevant to students and teachers. This in turn can enhance motivation for learningand improve student interest, achievement, and persistence. And these outcomes, advocatesassert, will help address calls for greater workplace and college readiness as well as increase thenumber of students who consider a career in a STEM-related field.This paper will discuss the results of a recently completed study that characterized existingapproaches to integrated STEM education, both in formal and after-/out-of-school settings; reviewthe evidence for the impact of integrated approaches on various cognitive and affective studentoutcomes; and discuss a set of priority research questions to advance understanding of integratedSTEM education. [Note to ASEE reviewers: A report based on the study will be published in late2013.]The paper will summarize data gathering conducted by the project, which included a detailedreview of relevant published research in education and the cognitive sciences; detail what theresearch suggest about the potential value, limitations, and challenges of integrated STEMeducation; present a descriptive framework for integrated STEM education that can be used toclarify the thinking of practitioners, researchers, and policy makers; and highlight a number ofspecific research questions that if addressed will increase understanding of this complex topic.

Nathan, M., & Pearson, G. (2014, June), Integration in K–12 STEM Education: Status, Prospects, and an Agenda for Research Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20673

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