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Best Practices in STEM Education: Innovative Approaches from Einstein Fellow Alumni

reviewed by Meseret Hailu & Neelakshi Tewari - July 27, 2020

coverTitle: Best Practices in STEM Education: Innovative Approaches from Einstein Fellow Alumni
Author(s): Tim Spuck, Leigh Jenkins, Terrie Rust, & Remy Dou
Publisher: Peter Lang Publishing, New York
ISBN: 1433154161, Pages: 584, Year: 2018
Search for book at Amazon.com

In Best Practices in STEM Education: Innovative Approaches from Einstein Fellow Alumni, editors Tim Spuck, Leigh Jenkins, Terrie Rust, and Remy Dou offer an expertly curated set of pedagogical resources. As an edited volume that covers a wide breadth of topics, including a description of different student populations, effective classroom management techniques, and extant literature, this book is both practical and thorough. The contributing authors are award-winning K-12 teachers who offer personal insights about effective classroom practices. In terms of organizational structure, each chapter usually begins with a teaching anecdote followed by a description of a best practice, and then suggestions for readers about how to implement that practice in their own classrooms. Often, each contributor also includes adaptable resources, including: grading rubrics, example worksheets, sample assignments, and discussion prompts. While the text is cohesive across 24 chapters, the first 12 chapters generally focus on specific populations while the second half focuses on specific pedagogies.

The first half of the book is focused on teaching specific subjects within STEM to different populations, such as women, historically underrepresented students, elementary school students, and experiences of K-12 teachers conducting research. The broad themes introduced are project-based learning in STEM, interdisciplinary learning, and creating systems around STEM learning and careers.

In Chapter One, Nancy Spillane discusses different usages of words in different subjects, especially in chemistry and biology, to emphasize the need for interdisciplinary learning. She also describes her experience of using theater to engage students with the subject. Leigh Jenkins (Chapter Ten) and Dave Oberbillig (Chapter Eleven) discuss the use of service-learning and outdoor ecological inquiry as primary methods to teach STEM. Through the examples of greenhouse renovation for farmers’ markets and site-mapping for biodiversity observation, the authors indicate high interdisciplinary learning and real-world application of STEM teaching. Carmelina O. Livingston (Chapter Two) explains that standardized testing is a roadblock to STEM learning. She and Tim Spuck (Chapter Six) also discuss the importance of a serious focus on STEM learning in elementary schools as students seem to lose interest as they progress beyond elementary.

Project-based learning (PBL) is a major focus in the first half. Tim Spuck discusses this approach as a way to create authentic STEM learning inside and outside of the classroom. Arundhati Jayarao (Chapter Seven) explains how PBL can be used to teach innovation by allowing students to come up with their own ideas for experiments in different subjects and fostering creativity and mentorship in the case of inter-grade grouping. Creating systems around STEM learning is a focus, especially in case of engaging girls in STEM subjects and careers. Terrie Rust (Chapter Three) describes her experience creating a system involving community colleges and four-year colleges, along with societies for women in STEM to mentor girls and inspire enthusiasm for STEM. Similarly, Brenda Gardunia (Chapter Four) emphasizes the creation of a safe space, a learning environment, and multiple chances to show mastery in teaching mathematics to underrepresented students.

For teaching STEM to Hispanic English Language Learners (ELLs), Eduardo Guevara (Chapter Five) proposes the Student-Centered Sheltered Instructional Approach and Growth model which also involves PBL. On similar themes of system-creation and PBL use, Jean Pennycook (Chapter Eight) and Sue Whitsett (Chapter Nine) discuss Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) in terms of professional development and enhancing the teaching of science respectively. They focus on how the research experiences help teachers become more confident in the teaching of science while students enjoy “doing science” through research-centric methods. The first half of the book concludes with three excellent case studies promoting 21st-century learning skills through global STEM projects. Dan Carpenter, Florentia Spires, and Joseph Isaac (Chapter Twelve) present their own global STEM projects along with a comprehensive how-to enabling adaptation by anyone interested in doing so.

The second half of the book is focused on specific pedagogical interventions, including: embedding English literacy into STEM disciplines, interdisciplinary instruction, and teaching students about the process of scientific inquiry. For example, in Chapter Fifteen, Bernadine Okoro posits that media literacy can be used as a mechanism for deep STEM learning. Okoro details how principles of chemistry can be communicated to a wider audience through magazine writing. Similarly, Jenay Sharp Leach (Chapter Sixteen) and April Lanotte (Chapter Seventeen) point out how STEM learning can often be inhibited by a lack of reading comprehension and familiarity with English vocabulary. By incorporating literacy skills and discourse strategies, these authors show how STEM teachers can foster student success. Lanotte also includes an appendix of literacy resources, including primary sources and textbooks. In Chapter Eighteen, Paulo A. Oemig encourages secondary teachers to incorporate trade books in addition to conventional textbooks. Interdisciplinary instruction remains a major focus in the second half of the text. In Chapter Thirteen, Remy Dou encourages readers to leverage the appeal of games as an instructional tool for disciplines like genetics. Dou argues that gaming provides students with a chance to collaborate and engage in active learning. In Chapter Nineteen, John F. Smith and June Teisan advocate for the necessity of community partnerships as a method of connecting course curriculum to students’ lived experiences. Melissa George, in Chapter Twenty, offers an incredibly detailed application of backward design to teach students a place-based curriculum. This particular chapter stands out as creative, both in scope and methodology.

John D. Moore (Chapter Twenty-Three) is a proponent of using data visualization assignments based on the Geoscience and Remote Sensing Laboratory. Moore stresses the need for innovation and interdisciplinary inquiry, both for individual learners and for the advancement of U.S. society more broadly. In Chapters Fourteen, Twenty-One, Twenty-Two, and Twenty-Four, contributing authors focus on the theory of knowledge by explaining why it is necessary to teach students how to think scientifically. Buffy Cushman-Patz (Chapter Fourteen) highlights the utility of whiteboards as a way to center student learning in mathematics. On the other hand, Erin Peters-Burton (Chapter Twenty-One) offers examples of meta-cognitive prompts to help students engage in scientific ways of knowing. In Chapter Twenty-Two, Rebecca Vieyra encourages teachers to use research-based methods while instructing K-12 students. Finally, Remy Dou and Terrie Rust (Chapter Twenty-Four) emphasize the need to give students tactile experiences outside of the classroom to integrate the content they learn. Specifically, they discuss the value of student visits to factories, fisheries, theaters, and museums.

Overall, the second edition of Best Practices in STEM Education is a superb resource for K-12 teachers who are invested in improving their pedagogy. Future editions of the text could be made even stronger by incorporating a more pronounced analysis of racial disparities in STEM education as well as drawing from longitudinal studies done about STEM classroom interventions.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: July 27, 2020
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 23392, Date Accessed: 8/9/2020 11:29:03 PM

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About the Author
  • Meseret Hailu
    Arizona State University
    E-mail Author
    MESERET F. HAILU, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Higher and Postsecondary Education at Arizona State University. Her research focuses on the retention of minoritized undergraduate students in higher education. Recently, her projects are focused on 1) Black immigrant women in the U.S. who persist in engineering, and 2) How higher education institutions in Eastern/Southern Africa conceptualize and implement equity initiatives. Her research has been published in Journal of Research in Science Teaching, International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, Harvard Educational Review, Gender and Education, and Review of Research in Education.
  • Neelakshi Tewari
    Arizona State University
    E-mail Author
    NEELAKSHI TEWARI is a Ph.D. student in Education Policy and Evaluation at Arizona State University. She is interested in internationalization of higher education, public purposes of higher education, higher education policy-analysis and student development. Currently she is working on an analysis of quality in Indian higher education and the relationship between state appropriations to higher education and online education.
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