Program Background

Part of the InTeGrate Grand Valley State University Program Model

Internal and external forces determine how science teachers are prepared in Michigan. At Grand Valley State University, for many decades, teacher preparation has been the same (mostly a standard science major followed by a year with the College of Education) with preservice teachers laboring alongside general education students, students in professional tracks, and future scientists. Based on student demand, an Earth Science methods course was developed and offered in 2000. A similar course was added in the chemistry education major in 1998.

Outside the institution, in 2004, the state mandated a change that called for an Integrated Science endorsement, a credential that allows a teacher to teach across several science disciplines. As teachers with this endorsement emerged on the job market they were quickly employed. This endorsement became THE favorite credential for school principals because teachers could cover many disciplines. Inservice teachers were forced to return for the endorsement or fear losing their jobs. Recent graduates with "only" a science major and minor were finding it increasingly difficulty to be employed and most returned for the endorsement.

Moreover, the lines between traditional science disciplines have become increasing blurred and in our increasingly technological world, informed decision making will require people to evaluate ideas that involve aspects of multiple STEM disciplines (e.g., hydraulic fracturing is a current issue that requires consideration of Earth science, chemistry (impact of chemicals on the environment), biology, and physics (energy and structural implications), as well as engineering and technology). Thus, more and more K-12 teachers are being called upon to integrate STEM in K-12 education. This is at the heart of the NGSS's cross cutting concepts and a recent NRC report titled STEM Integration in K-12 Education: Status, Prospectus, and an Agenda for Research that states "Research on integrated STEM experiences suggests that they may be promising for supporting both learning in and across the STEM disciplines and the development of STEM-related interest and identity" (pg. 71). However, if we are going to ask teachers to provide these experiences in their classrooms then we need to provide pre-service teachers with opportunities to engage in these types of activities themselves.

Earth science provides a good platform for integrated STEM activities as students have personal connection to many of these issues and there are multiple ways that other STEM disciplines are connected (environmental protection, hazard mitigation, water and energy issues). Therefore, this project aims to redesign three existing science methods courses for pre-service teaching students majoring and/or minoring in biology, chemistry, geology, and physics (specifically, the existing courses GEO 319 Earth Science in Secondary Education, CHM 419 Chemistry in Secondary Education, and EDI 331 Methods and Strategies in Secondary Teaching). The redesigned courses will incorporate Earth science content, especially climate change and energy, as overarching themes. The courses will develop shared pedagogical content skills as well as those skills unique to each discipline. We envision the revised courses to be SCI 450 Earth and Life Science in Secondary Education, SCI 440 Physical Science in Secondary Education, and EDI 331 Methods and Strategies in Secondary Teaching (same course number but revised content and pedagogy).

STEM Integration in K-12 Education

Status, Prospects, and an Agenda for Research (2014)