Leaders of Learners in STEM

    Leaders of Learners in STEM – Facilitative Professional Development

In this information and knowledge age of the global economy, we continue to fall short of the actual and projected needs for the future in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). Students and teachers must become leaders of learning for the development of content skills, knowledge, and interest in STEM because of the demand for a highly qualified workforce. For over 35 years, the Center for Pre-College Programs has been training teachers to integrate STEM curricula into their teaching as a way for their students to apply their classroom lessons to real-life problems.

Our approach focuses on the three distinct, but interrelated components of teaching and learning:

  • INSTRUCTION: How should we teach?
  • CURRICULUM: What should we teach?
  • ASSESSMENT: How should we measure student learning?

All interrelated activities are described in lesson plans that are designed to align the three components into a coherent process, by defining EXPECTATIONS of student learning, CURRICULUM & INSTRUCTION for students to have opportunities to learn, and ASSESSMENT for MEASURING the extent of student learning. Specification of expectations allows the alignment of classroom instruction with NJ Core Curriculum Content Standards (NJCCCS) and the national Common Core States Standards Initiative (CCSSI) adopted by New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) in mathematics and language arts.

INSTRUCTION

  • Teachers need to base their teaching not on a preset philosophy, or a set of program prescriptions, but on what would best help their students learn.
  • Teachers can teach skills, but if the students don’t have background knowledge, mastery of new knowledge and higher-order thinking can be challenging.
  • Teachers need to teach the skills, but they must teach skills through content.

CURRICULUM

Many educators view curriculum development as a finished product and not a process that may be considered messy and time consuming. Curriculum development must be viewed as a continuous, never-ending, and collaborative process and not as a static finished product to allow for “Continuous Program Improvement.”

ASSESSMENT

Most assessment at the K-12 level is summative, i.e. at the end of a chapter or marking period, end-of-course exams. yearly state-wide assessments, etc. Assessments should be formative. Gather data as the learning occurs and modify those learning strategies implemented in the instruction and/or developed in the curriculum that are not effective in student mastery. Assessment before, during (formative), and after (summative) a lesson or series of lessons is necessary to demonstrate that each student is acquiring targeted skills and knowledge. Students may demonstrate proficiency in some areas, but may not understand a concept in a different area. Formative assessment can identify this problem area and provide critical information to select a vehicle for helping the individual student.

Facilitative Professional Development at NJIT

The Center for Pre-College Programs (CPCP) at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) has been working with New Jersey teachers and school systems across the state to facilitate a process for continuous improvement by aligning their curricula, instructional practices, and authentic assessment of student mastery with the performance indicators described in the NJ Core Curriculum Content Standards. Alignment of instructional practices with NJCCCS has been challenging for educators in New Jersey and nationally.

An important component of our work is the development and the analysis of teachers’ standards-based lesson plans and assessment of student work products resulting from the lesson to determine whether students attain the skills and knowledge specified by the relevant standard(s) during and after the implementation of a lesson. The use of standards-aligned curriculum materials is necessary, but not sufficient for students to achieve the standards. Curriculum with topics aligned to standards is also not sufficient. For students to achieve the standards there must be more than just a matching or referencing of topics of a textbook to standards. Alignment with standards must also include the assessment of student achievement of the skills and knowledge defined by the indicators within standards.

Standards-based lesson plans require a different way of planning that includes: an alignment of student work expectations and classroom assessments to the standards; the learning objectives and expected outcomes of the lesson; and the establishment of criteria by which it can be determined whether students have achieved the particular standard or indicator. Standards-based lessons use measurable learning objectives to assess student actions or evidence of mastery through their work products. Alignment of a lesson with instruction requires that standards be bridged with desired student outcomes specified by grade appropriate indicators of the standards.

A working protocol for the creation, implementation, and assessment of standards-based lesson plans has been created, and professional development programs have been developed by the Center to train teachers how to utilize the established protocol. The protocol includes:

  1. Identification of measurable student-focused learning objectives.
  2. Specification of the expected progress indicator from the corresponding content standards statement for each learning objective.
  3. Development/adaptation of a learning experience (activity) that provides the student with the opportunity to acquire the skill and/or knowledge specified by the learning objective.
  4. Description of the expected student learning outcome/performance that provides the evidence that the student has acquired the skill and/or knowledge. The description of the expected student learning outcome/performance is used to analyze student behaviors and mastery through work products, which provide evidence that the student has acquired the skill and/or knowledge of the learning objective specified by the indicator(s) of the standard(s).

The process for standards-based lesson planning allows teachers to systematically assess learning outcomes that are aligned with state and national content standards. Just as important is the need to gauge the quality of a lesson plan by how well the learning objectives and standards are being met. We have developed a rubric to provide a measure of the effectiveness of standards-aligned lesson plans which focuses on the criteria that identify and measure the parameters of a standards-based lesson plan.

The Center’s professional development and training programs ensure K-12 school teachers are able to align their teaching practices with the state content standards, develop effective standards-based lesson plans, and implement the standards-based lesson plans in their classroom. Continued efforts in this area have led to the development of rubrics to evaluate teacher’s standards-based lesson plans, classroom instructional practices, and the resulting mastery evidenced in student work products.

The intervention with the teachers usually includes a regular schedule of workshops during the school year and a summer component with a focus on areas that are identified by the teachers or administrators as “need areas” for the teachers. From our past experiences, these can include but are not limited to:

  • Examination of Curriculum Pacing-- sequencing and pacing of topics that meets the needs of student mastery, translation of sequencing and pacing into Curriculum Guide.
  • Examination of Curriculum Content-- content integration in learner-centered lesson plans that are aligned with district curriculum and expected outcomes of state content standards.
  • Examination of instructional practices so that effective instructional practices can be linked to the desired mastery targeted in the curriculum.
  • Examination of assessment practices in which student work products can provide evidence of student learning and student achievement of skills and knowledge specified by the indicators in the state content standards.

Assessment and Evaluation has been a major activity in all our programs. Evaluation of our professional development programs and outcomes has been ongoing for over fifteen years. Instruments to measure students’ and teachers’ attitudes toward STEM, knowledge of careers in engineering, teachers’ readiness to teach, and their concerns about implementing innovations (e.g., new curriculum, new instructional practice, etc.) have been developed. Each instrument developed for a specific age group or grade has been found to be reliable and valid and has been used extensively. As part of a formative evaluation process, classroom visitations can be conducted to observe teachers’ classroom implementation, provide feedback and help teachers overcome unforeseen problems. Prior to any classroom visitation, teachers may be asked to complete a survey about their classroom implementation experiences which are then compared to the results of the classroom observation. An additional formative evaluation component is usually conducted upon conclusion of the lesson and/or curriculum integration during the academic year.

For further information, contact:

Dr. Howard Kimmel
kimmel@adm.njit.edu

Dr. John Carpinelli
john.d.carpinelli@njit.edu

Ms. Levelle Burr-Alexander
levelle.e.burr-alexander@njit.edu