Teachers are Superheroes: Designing and Implementing STEM Project-Based Learning

By Dr. Tracy Vasquez and Dr. Marjaneh Gilpatrick

a teacher performing a stem based learning activity with her students

Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), has been a focal point in education for several years. With the increase of the job opportunities in these areas, it is important for educators to support these subjects. Inquiry-based learning supports higher-order thinking and transferrable skill development. While teachers have soared right into online and blended learning formats over the course of this year, we still see many different approaches to teaching the standards and implementing curriculum. One practice is incorporating STEM content through project-based learning and inquiry-based learning. This allows students to effectively build critical thinking skills and apply the learned content.

Preparing an Essential Question

As an educator, you need to know what STEM standards your students must achieve. You also need to know your students, their interests, background knowledge and skills. This will be a good starting place to create an essential question. An essential question promotes inquiry and requires the student to justify their answer. The solution to a posed problem, which the students will discover through the project development, will help them understand the steps to solve a problem. Subsequently, this will support students with problem-solving skills and the scientific process.

Design a Plan and Create a Schedule

Once the students have identified the essential question, aligned to the specified academic standard, they can create a detailed plan of how they will arrive at a solution to address the question. You can help them schedule specific times during the school day when they will focus on their project. As the teacher, it is also your role to guide students in developing the science and math content skills and organizational skills they will need to move further in this project. You may need to coach them on creating realistic timeframes and pacing as they progress in their plan.

Progress Monitoring

The students’ schedule will assist them in working toward their goal, but it is your responsibility to check in regularly and monitor their progress. In doing so you will be promoting the development of their self-discipline and accountability. Additionally, as you check in with students, you are demonstrating an interest in their project and at the same time guiding them along in the process. For example, having a few prepared questions will help you stimulate thought in the students and prompt them to demonstrate academic language in their response.

Assess and Evaluate

While progress monitoring provides some formative feedback to you as the teacher, an assessment of the experience needs to occur once the project is complete. This can be done by the students and by you. Students can use rubrics for self-assessment or peer-assessment and present as a speech or presentation that incorporates technology or art. Through this demonstration the students should show their mastery of the standard and objective. Project-based learning can be an innovative and fun way to engage students in STEM content and process.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.