Delving deeper into integrated STEM education: Heads, hearts, and hands.

Year: 2018

Author: Blackley, Susan, Howell, Jennifer

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In this presentation, we reflect on the impact of LEGO robotics on school students’ engagement with integrated STEM education, and examine student learning outcomes in science, technology and mathematics, as well as the development of key 21st century competencies. The data are drawn from research conducted at four different school sites over the past 18 months, and involves the analysis of students’ text responses to activity sheets provided after each weekly 90-minute session, conducted over a 4- or 6-week period. We share a method of assessing STEM concept development – a component of STEM education that is lacking in the literature.
LEGO WeDo and Mindstorms EV3 were the tools used at each site as these two products provide opportunities to develop skills in all of the STEM disciplines, they require participants to actually construct the robots, and use visual programming to enable movement and sounds. In this presentation, we use the term heads-hearts-hands learning referring to the characteristics of effective integrated STEM education: head – cognitive demands and intellectual engagement; heart – enthusiastic engagement and interpersonal skills; hands – fine motor skills and spatial reasoning.
We share our Model of Structured Release of Instructor Control as a process to support teachers to implement integrated STEM education in their classrooms. We also share a Framework for Integrated STEM Development that captures cognitive and behavioural stages that individuals pass through in the process of engaging sith authentic integrated STEM education. This framework has been distilled from our classroom observations of both students and teachers, and we posit that it could provide a useful lens for teachers when planning for STEM activities. Finally, we present some key “big ideas” of the STEM disciplines that, in conjunction with a conscious focus on interpersonal skills and learning competencies, can underpin both teachers’ knowledge about and confidence in planning and implementing integrated STEM education.