J. Lundin, J. Reinhart, S. Gulley

Saint Xavier University at Chicago (UNITED STATES)
The purpose of this report is to describe the second phase of a professional development initiative designed to promote instructional practices in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) within elementary and middle schools. The initiative takes place at a private university in a major metropolitan area in the U.S. The researchers received a federal STEM grant; the purpose of the grant is to train teachers to increase innovation in STEM programs targeted at under-represented students, the grant funds the training initiative described in this report. Phase 2 of the project is the design portion of the professional development initiative. In phase 2, practicing teachers use the xSTEM framework to design STEM-related inquiry-based projects for their own classroom. The xSTEM framework was developed by the researchers in order to provide guidelines to practicing teachers in how to design inquiry-based STEM lessons.

National leaders and those concerned about the education of our children have begun to focus attention on STEM instruction. Unfortunately, most of that focus is placed on the later grades. STEM learning is essential as we strive to produce a generation of thinkers, problem solvers and innovators. If this is to happen, we cannot limit the focus to secondary education. We must provide teachers professional development in the STEM areas if we are going to prepare students for the future.

There is a growing concern that the United States is not preparing a sufficient number of students, teachers, and professionals in the STEM content areas. The majority of U.S. students fail to reach adequate levels of proficiency in the STEM areas. Poor student performance has been attributed, in part, to an inadequate supply of qualified teachers.

xSTEM: Phase Two
The extant research in STEM education areas show that there is a need for teachers to learn how to incorporate inquiry-based learning into their classroom instruction (Akinoglu, 2008; ChanLin, 2008; Kazempour, 2009; Sarkar & Frazier, 2008). Therefore the researchers have developed the xSTEM framework to aid teachers in the development of STEM-related projects. The name for the framework, xSTEM, comes from the concept of extending traditional science and math classes so that they integrate the STEM areas.

There are three major components to the xSTEM framework: the pre-xSTEM, the xSTEM and the post-xSTEM. During the first component, the pre-xSTEM component, practicing teachers develop traditional standards based lessons and objectives for their students. Then during the second component, the xSTEM component, the teachers develop the inquiry-based portion of the project. This portion includes developing an essential question, providing students with opportunities for prediction, developing a research plan, making observations and drawing conclusions. The third component of the framework is the post-xSTEM component and this is the part of the framework that includes creating a final project, designing assessments, and making further plans.

Each of the xSTEM components will be discussed in detail during the presentation and examples from teacher-developed projects will be provided.

Generally speaking, practicing K-8 teachers are not trained in designing STEM-related inquiry-based projects. By using our xSTEM framework, teachers are able to design inquiry-based STEM lessons for their K-8 classes.