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Understanding Integrated STEM Education: Report on a National Study

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session


Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.1279.1 - 23.1279.15



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Paper Authors


David R. Heil David Heil & Associates, Inc.

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David Heil is president of David Heil & Associates, Inc., (DHA) and well known as an innovative educator, author, and host of the Emmy-Award winning PBS science series, Newton’s Apple. Active in promoting public understanding of science for over 30 years, he is a frequent conference and workshop presenter on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education, and his firm provides research and evaluation services for a broad range of government, corporate, non-profit and university clients. Heil is a co-author of Family Engineering: An Activity and Event Planning Guide, and serves as a member-at-large on the Executive Committee of ASEE’s K-12 Division.

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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. Pearson currently serves as the responsible staff officer for the public and private-sector funded study “Integrated STEM Education: Developing a Research Agenda.” He is also study director for the NSF-funded project “Changing the Conversation: From Research to Action” and the project “Changing the Conversation: Building the Community,” supported by the United engineering Foundation. 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 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.

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Susan E. Burger David Heil & Associates, Inc.

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Susan Burger, Ed.D., leads the Research & Evaluation Division at David Heil and Associates, Inc. (DHA). Using both quantitative and qualitative methods, she plans and administers evaluations and research studies for a range of non-profit, corporate, and government agency clients, including the National Science Teachers Association; the National Academy of Engineers; and a number of NSF, NIH, and NOAA-funded projects. Prior to working at DHA, Burger conducted evaluation studies in the Pacific Region and was a member of the Graduate Faculty at the University of Northern Colorado. Burger earned a B.A. in Psychology from Allegheny Colleg, a M.S. in Human Development from West Virginia University, and an Ed.D. in Educational Psychology with an emphasis in research methods from Texas Tech University.

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Integrated STEM Education: A Conceptual Framework and Research AgendaReferences to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education haveincreased dramatically in recent years. Documented examples of K-12 STEM educationprograms that effectively integrate the four disciplines are not as common as many assume.Because of the variety of ways integration can occur, claims of greater student achievement andengagement through iSTEM experiences have been difficult to demonstrate empirically. Thefocus of this paper will be a recently completed two-year study examining the current status ofintegrated STEM education (iSTEM) in the United States; the various ways such efforts aredesigned, implemented, and assessed; and the research needed to further define and guideadvances in K-12 iSTEM teaching and learning. This paper will summarize the researchconducted to inform the study’s findings and recommendations, including a comprehensivereview of the literature related to iSTEM education; an analysis of illustrative iSTEM educationinitiatives in both formal and informal settings; and in-depth interviews from a broad spectrum ofSTEM education stakeholders. The paper will also look at a number of questions explored bythe study: How is iSTEM education different than high-quality education in the individualSTEM subjects? What are the conditions most likely to lead to positive outcomes from iSTEMexperiences? Do integrated approaches to STEM education lead to increased student interest,awareness, motivation, and achievement in STEM subjects? Do students who have had aniSTEM experience demonstrate improved college-readiness and are they more likely to considerfurther studies and a potential career in a STEM field? Because many iSTEM educationinitiatives include an engineering design component or attempt to make mathematics and sciencemore relevant through project- or problem-based approaches, this evolving area merits closewatching by engineering educators. With release of Next Generation Science Standards in 2013,there may be increased demand from the K-12 education community for innovative and practicalmethodologies for effectively incorporating engineering concepts and practices into traditionalscience, mathematics, and technology education programs. Having a better understanding of thenature of iSTEM education and what the research says about its impacts can help inform andprepare the engineering education community to contribute constructively to this emergingSTEM education reform.

Heil, D. R., & Pearson, G., & Burger, S. E. (2013, June), Understanding Integrated STEM Education: Report on a National Study Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22664

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