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Learning through Guided Discovery: An Engaging Approach to K-12 STEM Education

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

The Role of Engineering in Integrated STEM--uh STEAM--uh Education!

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.886.1 - 25.886.15



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Paper Authors


Bettina J. Casad California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

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Bettina J. Casad's training is in social psychology with specialization in social cognition and intergroup relations. With grant funding from the National Institutes of Health, she is currently investigating the psychological, cultural, and educational factors that predict college women’s performance in STEM majors. She collaborates with engineering and science faculty on evaluating the effectiveness of robotics education and undergraduate research training programs and research teams. She has expertise in experimental design, survey methodology, and advanced statistical analysis. Her research seeks to integrate and refine theories through the use of multiple types of measurement including explicit, implicit, objective, and behavioral. Her research program has been funded by the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, Army Research Institute, Psi Chi, the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, and the Haynes Foundation.

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Mariappan Jawaharlal California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

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Mariappan Jawaharlal is recognized as an outstanding educator for his innovative and engaging teaching pedagogy. He has received numerous awards and grants including the Northrop Grumman Award for Excellence in teaching. Jawaharlal is the founder of STEM Through Guided Discovery, a robotics program for K-12 students. The success of his program has received international attention and has been adopted abroad. Jawaharlal has more than 20 years of industrial, academic, and entrepreneurial experience. Before joining Cal Poly, Pomona, Jawaharlal founded and developed, Inc., an online supplemental K-12 education company. He also served on the faculty at Rowan University, N.J., and Kettering University, Mich. Jawaharlal is passionate about education and focuses on K-12 STEM education. He writes education columns for the Huffington Post.

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Learning Through Guided Discovery – An Engaging Approach to K-12 STEM EducationScience, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education in the United Statescontinues to garner national concern. A National Academies committee report notes inefficiencyin preparing students for the workplace and higher education. Of particular concern is the lownumbers of college graduates in STEM fields who will help the U.S. retain its global lead inscience and technology. In response to these concerns, educators are developing innovativestrategies to introduce STEM education earlier in the education timeline.Traditional approaches to STEM education can result in disinterested students who may notpursue college-level STEM education. Becker argued that a school is lousy place to learn and weneed to rethink and retool our conception and implementation of schools. Without proper toolsand methodologies, schools can create a competitive and hostile educational environment thatdiscourages girls and minorities from pursuing STEM. We propose that a guided discoveryapproach is more effective in engaging diverse students in learning STEM concepts. Thisengagement will result in increased STEM knowledge and academic self-efficacy among diverseelementary students. Further, the use of structured, cooperative learning groups will improveclassroom climate and increase STEM identification and interest of girls and racial minoritystudents.Bruner’s guided discovery approach posits that any subject can be taught effectively in someintellectually honest form to any child at any stage of development. A constructivist approach tolearning and teaching is based on the notion that learners construct their own knowledge ratherthan knowledge being transferred into learners’ brains. Learners’ construction of knowledge isbased on their past knowledge, the timeliness of new knowledge, and the learner’s ability tounderstand the connections. This process forces learners to either modify existing knowledge ordevelop new knowledge. Learning experiences based on constructivism are reflected in popularinstructional strategies such as inquiry based learning, problem based learning, simulation basedlearning, experiential learning, service learning, and scenario based learning.All constructivist instructional strategies share several commonalities and an experiencededucator using the PBL approach may very well use guided discovery principles. However, ourinstructional strategy is to ensure that we use guided discovery as our core principle, and designall our lessons and activities based on that intentionally.This paper presents the effectiveness of implementing a guided discovery approach in promotingSTEM education through the use of robotics among K-12 students who are nationallyunderrepresented in STEM. The research question driving this investigation is whether adiscovery based approach and a hands-on robotics program will improve students’ STEMattitudes, math performance, and intentions to pursue STEM education and careers. The resultsof this study are presented with examples.

Casad, B. J., & Jawaharlal, M. (2012, June), Learning through Guided Discovery: An Engaging Approach to K-12 STEM Education Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21643

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