Wang researches STEM integration
Hui-Hui Wang, a Ph.D. candidate in secondary science education, is researching science teachers' perceptions on the definition and practice of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) integration. As part of her dissertation Ms. Wang has interviewed teachers that have been though the Region 11 Math and Science Teacher Academy (MSTA) training. The MSTA project is funded by the Minnesota Department of Education and involves teacher training by researchers from the STEM Education Center for teachers in the Region 11 collaboration including Intermediate District 287, Northeast Metro Intermediate District 916, University of Minnesota, Hamline University, Normandale Community College, and SciMath MN.
Ms. Wang's research is focused on how teachers who are MSTA graduates are using STEM integration and what they have learned from the trainings they have attended. Due to this common professional development experience, when interviewed, these instructors give the same answer for "What is science...technology...engineering...mathematics". Therefore, the aim is to study how the training is bridging the gap from STEM integration research to implementation in the classroom. From her interviews she selected five teachers from Region 11 who have implemented STEM integration curricula into their classrooms. Of the sample of five teachers, two focused on biology and three focused on physics, while the teachers who received the trainings specialized in many different areas of science such as life science, physics, chemistry, and biology.
Ms. Wang has observed classes for the integrated units and performed pre-interviews and post-interviews with each of the instructors from the sample. Ms. Wang's research has found that physics may be one of the easiest for integration. Her research thus far has led her to deduce that the training could perhaps be targeted to specific groups for enhanced results. Other factors for success may be whether a teacher likes integration, if a teacher routinely has a high level of student engagement, whether integration is a part of core standards, and whether students are at the middle or high school level.
Ms. Wang uses the principles of the MSTA trainings at Columbia Heights where she has utilized the practice of research and integration, created lesson plans, and worked with the different age ranges of students. While extensive time is needed to perform observations, the end result of seeing the impact of the MSTA professional development training is one that has wide-reaching potential for many educators.