STEM by Design: Strategies and Activities for Grades 4-8 by Anne Jolly

7. STEM Lesson Design Preliminaries

  • Since most math and science teachers can’t teach each other’s subject, it is essential that they work together on a regular basis. A good goal for starters is two STEM lessons per semester. You should focus on topics recently studied, be knowledgeable about the content, keep it real, establish criteria that will define success, know your constraints that will usually feature the cost of materials, and know the engineering design process. At the end of this chapter you will find tools for brainstorming lesson development and the engineering design process for student teams and teachers.

8. Designing a Stem Lesson

  • Anne starts with a lesson outline that includes, a catchy title, brief description, learning outcomes, prerequisite knowledge, course standards, engineering connection, sources, materials, and teacher preparation. She suggests that you look for existing ideas and offers a number of websites you can start with. Include the website associated with this book. Since these lessons are designed to apply important content, they should be planned well in advance. Share your outline with colleagues and work together to tweak it.
  • Try to set up the lesson with an engaging video, field trip, or interview. Make sure that teamwork expectations are spelled out and there is a list of desired team behaviors here to work from. Be explicit about the math and science connections and the role of technology. Look for authentic connections with other subjects like help from the language arts teacher for the communication process and the art teacher during the design process. As the lesson rolls out, be sure to assess the lesson itself.

9. Assessing STEM Impact

  • This is not an in depth treatment but it does offer guidance. Anne chooses to focus on formative assessment. Start with the criteria from your lesson plan and score each one as not yet (0), partly successful (1), mostly successful (2), or completely successful (3). Don’t forget that failing to meet criteria is normal in STEM projects. Look for persistence and improvement. You can also have students rate themselves using a checklist of desired team behaviors. As you watch teams, keep referring back to the engineering design process to see where they are at. For summative assessments try open-ended questions that focus on higher-order thinking and problem-solving skills.
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