STEM Research End of Course Reflection


EDU6978 – Introduction to STEM Research was an enjoyable course that helped me better understand the STEM model and ways of implementing formative assessment techniques in my classroom. The course started by introducing the initial purpose of STEM, as a way to integrate math, science, engineering (problems solving) and technology into high school courses to prepare students for work in industry. We discussed there are different models for STEM that are being implemented, sTEm, SteM, S | T | E | M and STEM. Each capitalized letter represents an emphasis a school puts on each subject, while dividers separate the courses into discrete subjects not connected. We learned that the intent of STEM was to share the responsibility equally over all four topics and help students notice as many connections between these as possible.

While discussing formative assessment, my biggest take away from the course was the sections about how to appropriately question students. Wiliam’s (2011) Embedded Formative Assessment book. From this section, Wiliam (2011) stresses using randomness to select students for answering questions in class for assessment. Randomness allows teachers to hear all students equally, not just the most vocal and engaged in class. Additionally, Wiliam cites research (Brosseau, 1984) who suggests participation should not be optional and that students must be held accountable for answering questions by the teacher to remain engaged in the content. To aid in this, teachers should ask questions first and then select students to respond, this helps students to always be ready to answer. As soon as a solution is deemed correct, students stop thinking so it is important to avoid Initiate-Respond and Evaluate (IRE) style classroom banter. I had never thought bout making answering mandatory and have been searching for ways of helping include all students in class.Talk Moves

While watching the questioning presentation for module 3 and talking with another teacher at a conference over the summer, I learned about Talk Moves. These are a way for teachers to ask questions of students and help them explore more, some examples include revoicing student statements to help them hear about their reasoning (even if their logic is flawed), saying, “tell me more about that” to help students articulate their thinking, asking another student to restate a comment, waiting for students to think while responding to the group and more. As I continue, I want to improve my questioning skills and ability to help ask questions that make students think. I would really like to improve as a questioner in helping students think without scaring students away from the conversation. I have already set a goal to write some socratic questions, possibly those used in talk moves, and will work at incorporating these more into my rhetoric as a teacher engaging students in inquiry learning. I am really excited to implement some of this research, I think that the Embedded Formative Assessment book by Wiliam (2011) is has several practical, simple to implement ideas that improve teachers instruction and help students become more aware of their learning, understandings and misunderstandings. Now that I have this knowledge, it’s time to introduce the students.


Brousseau, G. (1984). The crucial role of the didactical contract in the analysis and construction of situations in teaching and learning mathematics (G. Seib, Trans.). In H.-G. Steiner(Ed.), Theory of mathematics education:ICME5 topic area and miniconference (Col. 54, pp. 110-119). Bielefeld, Germany: Insitut für Didktik der Mathematik der Universität Bielefeld.

Wiliam, D. (2011). Embedded formative assessment. Solution Tree Press.



EDSP 6644 bPortfolio Reflection

Peer Review Paper: Special Learning Needs In Secondary Mathematics Classroom

This peer review paper focuses on students with specific learning disabilities, particularly around mathematics learning and how teachers can improve student learning in spite of students learning disabilities. Individualized and differentiated instruction is one of the largest challenges I face at this time. I’m challenged to create an appropriate adjustment for students with special needs. A common misconception that I learned was the relationship between a students reading ability and their understanding of mathematics. Many people believe that a reading disability is also connected with a student’s mathematical disability and this is not true. While a specific learning disability (LD) in reading is the most common type of LD’s, this does not generally impact a student’s ability to perform well in math class at a cognitive level. Students with reading disabilities still struggle in math classes because of their ability to access the information, they are however, completely able to problem solve appropriately.

Additionally, through the peer review research task, I learned how to improve my instructional strategies to impact student learning overall. The use of Enhanced Anchored Instruction (EAI) is an easy way to help students with math LDs more than traditional instruction and also improved the learning of students without LDs. Since reading and mathematics are not necessarily connected types of LDs, I am able to help a student with a reading disability access the cognitive tasks in mathematics by helping them through the math language in the questions. Once the student understands the requirements, of the task, they will be able to perform well on the math task. The EAI is beneficial because students can learn the nuanced connections between concepts when working in a familiar contexts.

Students who are struggling with mathematics often encounter problems at the numeracy problem, the scheme for how the numbers work. To assist these students, I could provide a different learning medium to help them access the ideas. For example, to help students struggling in numeracy, providing counting block manipulative or a number line may help that student overcome their learning disability to access the content. It is essential for me to be able to assess what concept or idea the student is struggling to overcome to address the barrier to learning.

M6 Reflection – Challenges Implementing STEM

What do you view as some of the challenges associated with implementing an effective STEM model given your current teaching context? What are some potential solutions and/or innovations you can create to eliminate some of these challenges?

As a beginning teacher, I think I have been more adventurous in the ways I approach lesson plans and creating curriculum that of some of my teacher peers. One of my greatest challenges is my content knowledge for teaching interdisciplinary topics. In efforts to construct lessons that incorporate complex scientific topics or technology (such as computer programming), I am limited by my experiences working in those fields. Even providing students with context specific activities, I only have academic settings to apply my understanding of application. I have never worked in industry so I cannot provide real world experiences. Thus, I rely heavily on other sources, such as textbooks and the internet to provide high quality content for my students. This is a lot of additional work for me as a teacher, I’ll discuss this later.

Practice five of the Next Generation Science Standards suggest the importance of the connection between mathematics and sciences. Mathematics is a way to explain many scientific phenomena, and so mathematics can be taught through many scientific ideas. The whole reason Calculus was created was because Sir Isaac Newton was interested in physics and needed a way to explain how things changed over very short periods of time. Hence, we should be taking an approach to mathematics in with this idea in mind: “If math is the aspirin, how do we create the headache? (Meyer, 2014)” My fear in generating math content, is that I am unable to create such a headache for my students.

Another, probably more common response to the lack of implementation of STEM is the time constraints faced by teachers (Petrinjak, 2012). Within my context many teachers are more worried about a students ability and content knowledge than their ability to create well integrated STEM classes. It is not in the job description for teachers to collaborate with others to design a STEM integrated learning unit. According to the principals at my school, many teachers are independent workers in an environment that needs more collaboration. Luckily, there are new initiatives to entice teacher to collaborate more with others.

Earlier this year, I read a book called Teaching as Inquiry (Weinbaum, et al, 2004) about engaging in inquiry groups with other teachers. This book provided insight into how to create a collaborative work environment with other teachers to help improve my own teaching, be that STEM integration, classroom management practices or the like. Many anecdotes throughout the chapters empowered me to view colleagues as a support team, especially when teaching similar content. Other teachers have a lot of background knowledge too, collaborating with them to build a unit both teacher can use greatly reduces working time overall. Similar to the way that we are working collaboratively for the STEM Research class to design a project based learning unit, the time spent working collaboratively is much more useful than time spent along attempting to integrate STEM.

Working as a team can help a developing teacher find the “headache” needed to inspire some learning around STEM which can serve as the “aspirin.” Over the past year, I’ve had many headaches trying to figure out a STEM application, I could have cured that so quickly by asking a colleague for a simple application, someone who had the content knowledge I was lacking. Part of the Weinbaum book talked about creating a colleague climate. The saying, “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch my back” is all too true, as a new teacher working to implement STEM, many favors will need to be asked.

ICCSS2NGSSn my current context, I will be teaching Algebra 1 which is taught primarily to the 9th grade class. My school has a freshman program meant to help reduce the dropout rates early on. These cohort groups include science, English, history, and health, but Mathematics is missing from this equation. The teachers of these cohorts have a very special, administration facilitated, opportunity to work together, get to know students and collaborate in learning. Unfortunately, I am out of this collaborative look because students entering 9th grade are at vastly different levels of math (unlike the other topics). In the coming years, I want to start creating a structure around how to improve this cohort model to include math classes, even when students are not on track. Mayes & Koala (2012) published an alignment between mathematics and science practices, if teachers are able to work together could help with the collaboration process. These show important 21st century skills students need as a STEM model.

As mentioned earlier, time is a significant constraint on teachers as they work. In our lecture this week, Dr. Henrickson mentioned the need for teachers reject the need to create their own materials for every class session. They do not! A lot of curriculum out there is perfect for the needs of our students, there is a lot to pick from. Teachers DO need to be able to assess students needs and be able to select lessons that meet the standards aimed to be met. By selecting content rich activities, using an engagement learning method, students learn much more by inquiry than by traditional forms of education (Eddy, 2015), including IRE (Initiate, Response, Evaluate) or by providing students with copious amounts of worksheets (Wiliam, 2011). According to Eddy (2015) students need to have some background knowledge before the active learning is effective, but when students are asking questions about what they are learning, what learning that does occur is much stronger. She claims that the process may be slower, but the learning is significantly better (yes, statistically significant).

A few weeks ago, I attended a Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) workshop. Their process was developed for a chemistry undergraduate classroom to engage students in inquiry learning, but help guide them through the process. The POGIL workshop helped me understand that the scientific process is an inquiry based model and can be implemented in any classroom. Through active learning and student inquiry, along with “hinge point” questions or other formative assessment (William, 2011), teachers can improve their students content knowledge in a STEM integrated classroom. Some lecturing is required to help students gain essential skills, but overall, regular questions can be adapted to fit this model when facilitated by a teacher.

Overall, the challenges with implementing STEM is a challenging project. The major obstacles for me include content knowledge of STEM topics the the teacher collaboration to improve a rounded STEM program. The connection between math and science is strong, engineering can be incorporated in the problem solving aspect and technology is a tool to help scientists and mathematicians complete their work more economically, this is clear. What is not clear is how teacher will work together, either with each other or industry experts to create a learning plan for students to become STEM educated. Small steps as a new teacher will help get my school there, but many teachers will need to make larger differences to make a significant systematic impact.


Eddy, S. (2015). Active Learning Across the Sciences: Does It Work in College Classroom and Can We Make It Inclusive? POGIL Northwest Regional Workshop. Portland: Lewis and Clark College.

Mayes, R., & Koballa, T. R. (2012, December). Exploring the Science Framework: Making connections in math with the Common Core State Standards. NSTA K-12 Journal .

Meyer, D. (2015, June 17). If Math Is The Aspirin, Then How Do You Create The Headache? Retrieved August 6, 2015.

Petrinjak, L. (2012, June 8). Gauging the STEM Effect. Retrieved August 6, 2015.

Weinbaum, A., Allen, D., Blythe, T., Simon, K., Seidel, S., & Rubin, C. (2004). Teaching as inquiry: Asking hard questions to improve practice and student achievement. New York: Teachers College Press

Wiliam, D. (2011). Embedded Formative Assessment. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.