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WIP: Building Capacity to Promote STEAM in Communities - The Impact of Professional Development for Teachers, Instructors, and Staff Members

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


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Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Pre-college Engineering Education Division Technical Session 6

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education

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Marcelo Caplan Columbia College

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Marcelo Caplan - Associate Professor, Department of Science and Mathematics, Columbia College Chicago. In addition to my teaching responsibilities, I am involved in the outreach programs and activities of the department. I am the coordinator of three outreach programs 1) the NSF-ISE project “Scientists for Tomorrow” which goal is to promote Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) learning in community centers in the Chicago area, 2) the Junior Research Scientists program funded by After School Matters of the city of Chicago, to promote STEM for high school students and 3) a collaboration with the Center for College Access and Success – Northeastern University to promote STEM learning in their Upward Bound Math & Science program, also oriented for high school students. More information regarding the mentioned programs can be find at

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It is common knowledge that we are living in a time where accelerated changes in science and technology are having a large impact in every aspect of our development and daily activities, whether in education, the workforce, leisure time, etc. This dynamic situation requires that the present and future workforce be prepared to adapt to rapid changes, as well as prepared to lead these changes. To be able to get ahead of the changes, it is paramount that this workforce be literate, well prepared and skilled in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) subjects, careers and skills. Though the formal education system is charged with preparing students towards this goal, it faces countless limitations. Data also shows that students in the K-12 system spend less than 15 percent of their time in a supervised environment that fosters learning and exploration. Complementary to the work done in schools, out-of-school-time (OST) programs provided by community-based organizations (CBO) provide students with additional environments for learning and growing. However, although these opportunities exists, only a small percentage of the student population participates in this informal frame and many of the CBOs providing this possibility do not have the capability of implementing high-quality STEAM programming. The two major reasons for not implementing STEAM programming are: 1) the STEAM programs are relatively expensive (in comparison with available resources and other potential OST activities), and 2) the OSTs don’t have qualified STEAM instructors available to implement high-quality STEAM programming in their centers. One important question to address regarding qualified instructors is how well apprenticeship instructors, trained in a specific craft, would be interested and skilled in providing instruction at the CBOs’ sites, upholding the quality of the program. In order to address the need of the CBOs to have instructors literate in the STEAM subjects, and knowledgeable in STEAM careers and skills to be able to facilitate the inclusion of STEAM in their OST curriculum, the program “Scientists for Tomorrow” (SfT) from the Science and Mathematics Department – “University” is providing professional development opportunities for instructors and staff members from CBOs interested in implementing STEAM programming in their centers. These Professional Developments (PDs) are designed following the Illinois Statewide Afterschool Quality Standards to ensure that the participants will be qualified to implement a sequential set of activities that promote STEAM in the youth they are serving. Every year, for the past nine years, SfT provided multiple sets of two-day (15 contact hours each) PDs for potential instructors, staff members, resource coordinators and administrators of CBOs, as well as interested teachers. During the PDs, the participants are exposed to the content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge of a module (e.g. Alternative Energies), and explore all the activities the youth will interact with during the implementation of the module. Anecdotic data collected after these PDs and activity logs provided by the instructors after each activity they implemented in the field, contributed toward improving these PDs. The data collected supported the benefits of the PDs and the value the PDs bring to the community. This initiative’s goal is to quantitatively answer these research questions: 1) Have the PDs implemented by Scientists for Tomorrow positively impacted module instructors’ content knowledge and attitude toward STEAM-related subjects and careers? Are these PDs promoting professionals outside of typical STEAM professions to become effective STEAM instructors? To answer these questions, participants in a PD take a pre- and post- content assessment and attitude survey. This paper discussed the results of these assessments from two complete sets of PDs that included more than 20 participants in each set.

Caplan, M. (2020, June), WIP: Building Capacity to Promote STEAM in Communities - The Impact of Professional Development for Teachers, Instructors, and Staff Members Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35525

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