Measuring the Effectiveness of Middle School STEM-Innovation and Engineering Design
The Georgia Institute of Technology received a $2.7 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Discovery Research Prek-12 (DRK-12) program. This 4-year DRK-12 Impact Study, Measuring the Effectiveness of Middle School STEM-Innovation and Engineering Design, led by Principal Research Scientist Meltem Alemdar, will begin on September 1, 2021.
Measuring the Effectiveness of Middle School STEM-Innovation and Engineering Design builds upon a previous $7.2 million NSF-funded Math and Science Partnership grant awarded in 2012 to the Georgia Tech Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering (William Wepfer, PI) and the Center for Education Integrating Mathematics, Science, and Computing (CEISMC) (Marion Usselman, PI), in collaboration with the Griffin-Spalding County School System. Over a five year period, the Advanced Manufacturing and Prototyping Integrating to Unlocking Potential (AMP-IT-UP) project developed, implemented and assessed a three-year middle school STEM-Innovation and Engineering Design (STEM-ID) course sequence that introduces students to advanced manufacturing tools, including computer aided design (CAD) and 3D printing. The courses cover engineering concepts such as pneumatics, robotics and aeronautics through open-ended design challenges requiring scientific experimentation and foundational mathematics. STEM-ID addresses workforce development needs by building awareness of career paths and addressing employers’ desires for a technical workforce with problem solving, teamwork, and communication skills. Taught alongside core science and math courses, STEM-ID courses are 18-week engineering elective courses offered as part of Georgia’s Career, Technical and Agricultural Education (CTAE) program.
AMP-IT-UP research has shown that students who take STEM-ID courses at least twice during their middle school years show significant improvement in math and science test scores as well as an overall decrease in anxieties related to math and science. These very positive results support continued efforts to test the effectiveness of the STEM-ID courses in different environments and with different populations and to scale the courses up to more schools within Georgia and nationally. “Our research results in Griffin demonstrate that students who participate in STEM-ID courses become more engaged with their math and science content. It also had impact on student anxiety about math and science. We will now implement the courses with a broad array of students in schools in Gwinnett County to attempt to replicate the study” said Meltem Alemdar, CEISMC Associate Director for Educational Research & Evaluation and the project’s principal investigator. Alemdar was the co-PI for research on the original AMP-IT-UP project.
Alemdar will work alongside co-principal investigators Jessica Gale, CEISMC Senior Research Scientist, Roxanne Moore, Senior Research Engineer in the School of Mechanical Engineering, and Jeff Rosen, CEISMC Program Director and Director of K-12 Engineering Education Initiatives. Rosen and Moore designed the original STEM-ID curriculum for the AMP-IT-UP project, drawing on lessons learned from undergraduate courses in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering. “STEM-ID classes are particularly powerful for students who have previously struggled to find relevance in their math and science classes” shared Rosen, a former high school math and engineering teacher. “When faced with an interesting engineering design challenge, they finally understand why they need to be able to apply their math and science skills. Hopefully this new project will provide the evidence to convince school systems across the country to adopt the STEM-ID curriculum in their middle schools, to move NSF research into regular practice.”
National Science Foundation (NSF) Award # 2101441 - "Measuring the Effectiveness of Middle School STEM-Innovation and Engineering Design"
NSF Project Abstract:
Inclusion of engineering in the Next Generation Science Standards has led to increased opportunities for K-12 students to learn engineering related concepts and skills and learn about engineering career paths. However, a persistent challenge is the lack of high-quality, research-based engineering curricular resources that align with science and math education standards. Further, the opportunities for K-12 students to also learn about manufacturing and how manufacturing is related to engineering, math, and science are limited. Researchers from Georgia Tech have developed a three-year middle school Engineering and Technology course sequence that introduces students to advanced manufacturing tools such as computer aided design (CAD) and 3D printing, incorporates engineering concepts such as pneumatics, robotics and aeronautics, increases student awareness of career paths, and addresses the concerns of technical employers wanting workers with problem solving, teamwork, and communication skills. This DRK-12 Impact Study project will investigate the effectiveness of STEM-Innovation and Design (STEM-ID) curricula in approximately 29 middle schools, targeting 29 engineering teachers and approximately 5,000 students across middle grades in Georgia. This impact research study will determine whether STEM-ID courses are equally effective across different demographic groups and school environments under normal implementation conditions and whether the courses have the potential to positively impact a vast number of students around the country, particularly students who have struggled to stay engaged with their STEM education. It is a critical part of a larger effort to move the STEM-ID curricula, developed with NSF support, from the research lab to large-scale practice in schools.
To facilitate large-scale implementation, the project will transfer all curriculum and teacher support materials to an online dissemination site, develop just-in-time teacher support materials to embed within the curriculum, create an online professional development platform, and conduct professional learning in multiple areas of the state. The project team will then assess the transferability of the STEM-ID curricula and identify teacher outcomes that affect the implementation. They will also examine the generalizability of the curriculum by measuring student outcomes in STEM academic achievement and on social-emotional scales. The project’s research questions consider 1) contextual factors that influence scaling; 2) the fidelity of implementation, curriculum adaptations and sustainability; 3) the effects of professional development on teachers’ engineering self-efficacy and instructional practices; 4) the effect of participation on student academic performance in mathematics and science; 5) the effect of participation on student social-emotional outcomes; and 5) the relationship between the way STEM-ID is implemented and the student outcomes. To examine the effects of STEM-ID on achievement and achievement growth, the investigators will use a multilevel growth model and mediation analysis to explore if the intervention’s effect on achievement was mediated by students’ engagement, academic self-efficacy, and/or interest in STEM. Additionally, drawing upon Century and Cassata’s Fidelity of Implementation framework (FOI), they will examine the array of factors that influence implementation of the STEM-ID curricula across diverse school settings.
The Discovery Research preK-12 program (DRK-12) seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models and tools. Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.