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The ReSTEM Institute: Reimagining & Researching STEM Education

gallery of words describing ReSTEM

Vision Statement

The ReSTEM Institute will positively affect the STEM learning experiences for 300,000 students within four years through school reform initiatives, teacher professional development and support, the provision of high quality learning materials, STEM outreach opportunities, and other activities aligned with the ReSTEM mission and goals. Within six years, the Institute will impact 450,000 students, approximately half of Missouri’s K-12 learners.

Mission

The ReSTEM Institute studies and creates reforms of STEM education in K–12 schools. Engaging all learners in mathematical, scientific and engineering practices is the guiding principle for these reforms.

Reform of STEM education in K–12 schools is a complex and dynamic process that necessitates the coordination of multifaceted transformations to school and classroom environments. The ultimate goal of these efforts is the improvement of teaching and learning such that all students can engage substantively in mathematical, scientific and engineering practices.

Goals

1. Foster school-wide reform of STEM education.

a. Collaborate with K-12 school personnel to affect change in local STEM education systems.

b. Conduct research on the processes of school-wide reform for STEM education.

c. Evaluate programs designed to support school reform of STEM education.

d. Synthesize findings from collaborations, research, and evaluations to create models for systemic and systematic reform of STEM education.

2. Enhance STEM teacher development for the support of student learning and achievement.  

a. Create opportunities for teachers to develop their knowledge for teaching and teaching practices.

b. Develop materials designed to support teacher learning and development.

c. Conduct research on teacher learning and the transformation of teaching practices.

d. Evaluate teacher professional development programs and materials.

3. Develop and disseminate research-based STEM education materials for K–12 classrooms.

a. Create classroom materials in multimedia formats that engage students in mathematical, scientific and engineering practices.

b. Support effective use of ReSTEM materials by designing professional development opportunities that will optimize implementation.

c. Disseminate ReSTEM and other high quality STEM education materials.

d. Conduct research and evaluation studies relative to development, implementation, and fidelity issues of curriculum.

4. Empower all students to use mathematical, scientific and engineering practices such that they are prepared to succeed in school, careers and life.

a. Improve learning opportunities for students who represent underserved and underrepresented groups including rural populations.

b. Design, test and disseminate materials, instructional practices, and assessment tools to enhance student performance of all students.

c. Create new opportunities for all students to link informal STEM learning opportunities to their school experiences.

d. Conduct research on student learning of, dispositions toward, and identity relative to STEM.

Defining “STEM”

Widespread agreement has emerged around the significance of STEM education, but little consensus exists around an operationalized definition for STEM education. In some cases, STEM is used as an umbrella term to describe anything related to the four areas. Other STEM initiatives represent a necessary merging of disciplines for the creation of completely interdisciplinary teaching and learning contexts. In the real world of schools, we think that both of these ends of the spectrum for defining STEM are problematic. Therefore, in articulating a vision and goals for the ReSTEM Institute, we endorse the general calls that highlight the significance of STEM education and adopt a particular view on STEM.

In schools, teaching and learning opportunities are usually divided into mathematics, science and other disciplines. These disciplinary boundaries can present some artificial divisions for teachers and students, but they also reflect relevant historic and epistemic differences. The ReSTEM Institute recognizes these disciplinary boundaries while striving to support teachers and students as they enact practices that naturally transcend these boundaries. In taking this approach, ReSTEM builds from the new national frameworks and standards for mathematics (CCSSM) and science education (NGSS). The positioning of engineering and technology within the ReSTEM framework stems from ideas presented in the National Research Council report on science education. The Framework for K-12 Science Education (NRC, 2011) operationalizes engineering as a systematic design process which uses mathematics and science to address challenges and solve problems. The products which are developed through the engineering process are technology.

An important commonality across the new standards documents is the prioritization of learner engagement in disciplinary practices: specifically, mathematical, scientific and engineering practices. Not surprisingly, these practices overlap in synergistic ways. The focus on practices highlights the necessary union of substantive mathematical, science and engineering content with disciplinary processes and skills. In addition to the focus on content-laden practices, the CCSSM presents three principles for transforming STEM education: rigor, focus, and coherence. All students should have opportunities to learn rigorous STEM content and practices; learning experiences should be focused and allow for in-depth explorations of content and enactment of practices; curricula within and across the STEM disciplines should be coherent and meaningfully sequenced.

References

Common Core State Standards Initiative. (2012). Implementing the Common Core State Standards. Accessed from http://www.corestandards.org/.

National Research Council. (2011). A framework for K-12 science education: Practices, crosscutting concepts, and core ideas. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

NGSS Lead States. (2012). Next Generation Science Standards: For states, by states. Retrieved from http://www.nextgenscience.org/.

History

The ReSTEM Institute: Re-imagining & Researching STEM Education was created in 2014 by the University of Missouri College of Education. Troy Sadler serves as the Institute’s first Director, and Barbara Dougherty serves as the first Associate Director for Research and Development.