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Using the E in STEM as a Catalyst for Science and Mathematics Curriculum Reform in a Large School District

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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

Outreach Along the K-12 Pathways to Engineering

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.1342.1 - 23.1342.11



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Paper Authors


Susan A. Pruet Mobile Area Education Foundation

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Dr. Pruet has been actively involved in STEM education – as a teacher, teacher educator and director of reform initiatives for over 30 years. She received her undergraduate degree in mathematics from Birmingham-Southern College, her master’s degree in secondary education from the University of Alabama in Birmingham, and her Ph.D. from Auburn University in mathematics education. Since 1998 she has directed two STEM reform initiatives for the Mobile Area Education Foundation (MAEF): Maysville Mathematics Initiative and, most recently, Engaging Youth through Engineering (EYE), a K-12 economic and workforce development initiative in Mobile, Alabama. Both initiatives involve viable partnerships with the Mobile County Public School System, the University of South Alabama, and area business and industry. Since 1995, Dr. Pruet has secured over $7 million dollars through grants to support innovative STEM teaching and learning efforts for the benefit of all children.

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James Van Haneghan University of South Alabama

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James Van Haneghan is professor of Professional Studies and director of Assessment and Evaluation in the College of Education at the University of South Alabama. His research over the years has focused on applied problem solving, mathematics education, and assessment and evaluation. He teaches graduate courses in learning, assessment, research methods, and data analysis. He currently is the lead researcher on the Engaging Youth in Engineering Middle School Module study that looks at the development and efficacy of engineering modules created for 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. The study looks at student learning, attitudes, and beliefs as they relate to their experiences with the modules.

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Melissa Divonne Dean Engaging Youth through Engineering

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As an informal educator for nearly ten years, Melissa Dean has implemented STEM education in science centers in Louisiana and Alabama. She received her bachelor of science from Louisiana State University in Shreveport. While in the informal education field, Dean designed and implemented staff development and education programs, developed STEM programs for students K-12, and most recently was project leader for an Engineering Learning Lab at the Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center. Currently, Dean serves as the EYE Assistant Director at the Mobile Area Education Foundation in Mobile, Alabama.

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Using the E in STEM as a Catalyst for Science and Mathematics Curriculum Reform in a Large School DistrictThe Engaging Youth through Engineering (EYE) Modules are being developed as part ofa current DR K-12 award to meet a community’s 21st century workforce needs. TheModules have been designed to increase the number and diversity of middle gradesstudents eager and able to pursue STEM careers and who choose to take more highschool mathematics and science courses in preparation for high demand STEM-dependent jobs. The 8 EYE Modules are designed for grades 6, 7 and 8; each requires 6to 8 hours of class time, involves collaboration of both mathematics and science classes,and uses an engineering design challenge to engage students, bringing relevance andrigor to required mathematics and science content. The modules include a specialemphasis on mathematics.One purpose of the EYE Modules is to serve as a catalyst for district level STEM reform.“STEM reform” related to the EYE Modules is defined as local curriculum standards thatrequire using engineering design challenges and the design process to integrate requiredmathematics and science content for all middle grades students. Engineering is defined“to mean any engagement in a systematic practice of design to achieve solutions toparticular human problems.” [1]The inquiry-based EYE Modules are written by a team of STEM professionals, includingsupport from engineers and engineering education professionals. The theoreticalfoundation of the EYE Modules is built on the four components of the “How PeopleLearn” model [2, 3]. General design principles guide the development of each EYEModule, e.g., learning outcomes and a driving question, coupled with Wiggins andMcTighe’s “backwards design” process [4, 5]. An engineering design challengefeaturing industry and social issues of relevance to students provides the unifying themeand “hook” for each module, highlighting the “why bother” of learning of mathematicsand science. Modules systematically develop team work/communication skills. Theengineering design challenges involve technology, equipment and materials in theapplications of mathematics and science content, promoting an integrated STEMcurriculum. [6]A longitudinal comparison study of the impact of the EYE Modules on students, teachersand the school district will be completed in 2014. Initial data, using draft editions of theModules, indicate EYE students know more about engineering, are more receptive toscience labs and other hands on activities, and are more likely to have had a teacher orcounselor talk about STEM fields than those in a matched comparison school.Standardized achievement test data are showing that EYE appears to also be having agreater impact on groups underrepresented in STEM.To date one of the most impressive results is the impact of the Modules on the large,diverse school district (65,000 students, 100 schools, 70% poverty, 50% AfricanAmerican) and its science and mathematics curriculum. The district has developed andincorporated STEM standards into the district’s middle grades science and mathematicscurricula. Middle school teachers are required to use engineering design challenges andthe engineering design process each quarter in required math and science classes to helpstudents see the relevance of math and science and develop an engineering “habit ofmind,” and to motivate students to take more mathematics and science.[1] (NRC, 2011, p. 4).[2] Bransford, Brown, & Cocking., 2000[3] National Research Council, 2000[4] ] Krajcik, et al., 2006[5] Wiggins and McTighe, 2005[6] Shymansky, 1996

Pruet, S. A., & Van Haneghan, J., & Dean, M. D. (2013, June), Using the E in STEM as a Catalyst for Science and Mathematics Curriculum Reform in a Large School District Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22727

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