Best Practices in STEM Education

Innovative Approaches from Einstein Fellow Alumni, Second Edition

by Tim Spuck (Volume editor) Leigh Jenkins (Volume editor) Terrie Rust (Volume editor) Remy Dou (Volume editor)
©2018 Textbook XLVI, 584 Pages
Series: Educational Psychology, Volume 27


Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education are seen by leaders from across the globe as key to economic success and prosperity. The goal of Best Practices in STEM Education: Innovative Approaches from Einstein Fellow Alumni, Second Edition is to improve the state of STEM education, not only in the United States, but internationally as well—good education anywhere is good for education everywhere. As the body of STEM-learning research grows, this second volume provides the unique perspective of nationally recognized educators who have spent, collectively, more than 600,000 hours at the interface between teaching and learning. The 24 chapters included in this volume are the product of years of practice, mistakes, reflection, and refinement. They provide the experiential pragmatism backed by research so desired by practitioners. Each chapter communicates how its author has implemented a specific STEM practice in the classroom and how the practice might be modified for use in other classrooms, schools, and learning environments. These are stories of success, as well as stories of struggle. Readers of this second edition will gain powerful insight about what really works when it comes to teaching and learning STEM.
Best Practices in STEM Education: Innovative Approaches from Einstein Fellow Alumni, Second Edition will serve as an excellent resource for use in any science, technology, engineering, and mathematics teaching methods course, and no professional education library, K through college, should be without a copy

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • Praise for the First Edition
  • Advance Praise for Best Practices in STEM Education
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Figures, Photos, and Tables
  • Acknowledgments
  • Foreword
  • Introduction
  • What’s New in This Edition?
  • About the Einstein Fellowship
  • About the Authors
  • Chapter One: The Search for Interdisciplinarity: Moving from Biology, Chemistry, and Physics to STEM and Beyond (Nancy Spillane)
  • Introduction
  • Who Am I?
  • What Is STEM?
  • What Is Meant by “Interdisciplinary”?
  • What Are the Conversations in Science Education?
  • Background
  • What Is Already Happening in K–12 Science Education?
  • Current Ideas on Interdisciplinary Learning
  • On Crosscutting Concepts
  • A Brief History of Interdisciplinary Learning
  • John Dewey and Interdisciplinary Learning
  • Author’s Best Practices: What Do I Do?
  • Non-Chemistry Professional Development Experience
  • Some Examples
  • A Story About a Play
  • Adaptation of Best Practices
  • Some First Steps
  • Conclusion
  • Works Cited
  • Chapter Two: Building a Foundation for Successful STEM Education at the Elementary Level (Carmelina O. Livingston)
  • Introduction
  • Background
  • What Is STEM and Why STEM Education?
  • Why Is Elementary STEM Learning So Crucial to STEM Education?
  • Standards-Based, Interdisciplinary, and Real-World Instruction and Learning
  • Best Practice
  • The Practice of Standards-Based Instruction and Learning
  • The Practice of Interdisciplinary Instruction and Learning
  • The Practice of Real-World Instruction and Learning (Emphasis on Project-Based Learning and Real-World Scientific Research)
  • Emphasizing Twenty-First-Century Skills for Innovation with Instruction and Learning
  • Using the Best Practices with Ocean Science and Engineering
  • Implementing Best Practices with Limited Resources
  • Conclusion
  • Appendix
  • Organizations
  • Resources
  • Works Cited
  • Chapter Three: Engaging Girls in STEM Careers (Terrie Rust)
  • Introduction
  • Background
  • STEM Best Practice: Girls Exploring Technology (GET) Club
  • GET Faces New Challenges
  • How Others Can Adapt This Best Practice
  • For the STEM Educator: Getting Started
  • Classroom-Level Program
  • School-Level Program
  • Forming Partnerships
  • Funding
  • Publicity
  • School-Level Specialized Workshops
  • Informal STEM Education Organizations
  • Focus on High School Girls
  • Conclusion
  • Appendix
  • Works Cited
  • Chapter Four: Teaching Mathematics to At-Risk Students (Brenda Gardunia)
  • Introduction
  • Background
  • Who Is an At-Risk Student?
  • My Best Practices and How Others Can Adapt Them
  • Background Information
  • Create a Safe Environment
  • Multiple Chances to Show Mastery
  • Be Yourself
  • Common Core State Standards
  • My Favorite Lesson
  • How Do Students Benefit from This Type of Lesson?
  • Professional Development
  • Conclusion
  • Appendix A
  • Appendix B
  • Works Cited
  • Chapter Five: The Student-Centered Sheltered Instructional Approach and Growth (SSIAG) Model (Eduardo Guevara)
  • Introduction
  • Background: Components of the SSIAG Model
  • Best Practice: The SSIAG
  • Five Strategies—The Core of the SSIAG Model—That Can Be Implemented By Teachers
  • Strong Evidence Supporting the SSIAG Model
  • Conclusion
  • Works Cited
  • Chapter Six: Putting the “Authenticity” into Science Learning (Tim Spuck)
  • Introduction
  • Background
  • Defining Authentic Science
  • Coming to Know Science: My Personal Story
  • Best Practices: Authentic Science in Action
  • Setting the Stage for Authentic Science in the Classroom
  • Keeping the Pump Primed
  • Authentic Science: Project-Based Learning
  • Embedding Research Projects into the Regular Classroom
  • Implementing Authentic Science Outside the Regular Classroom
  • Getting Started with the Authentic Science Rating Instrument
  • An Example of the ASRI in Action
  • Conclusion
  • Appendix
  • Authentic Science Rating Instrument Developed by Tim Spuck
  • Works Cited
  • Chapter Seven: Engaging Young Minds to be Tomorrow’s Innovators (Arundhati Jayarao)
  • Introduction
  • Background
  • The Role of Competitions in Education
  • Teaching and Learning Innovation
  • Project-Based Learning (PBL)
  • Best Practices
  • Engaging Young Minds at Oakcrest School
  • Teaching Innovation to Oakcrest Sophomores
  • Start with a Bang and Definitely Do Not End with a Whimper
  • Teaching Innovation to the Oakcrest AP Class
  • Teaching Innovation to Oakcrest Physics Students
  • Adapting Best Practices in Your Classroom
  • Conclusion
  • Works Cited
  • Chapter Eight: Expand the Horizons of Your Students by Expanding Yours (Jean Pennycook)
  • Introduction
  • Background
  • Best Practices
  • Why I Participated in an Immersion Professional Development Program
  • An Added Benefit of Experiences Outside the Classroom
  • Case Studies
  • Expanding Your Horizons
  • Science Teacher and Researcher (STAR)
  • NOAA Teacher at Sea
  • Earthwatch Educator Fellowships
  • PolarTREC
  • School of Rock (SOR)
  • Los Alamos Opportunities for Teachers
  • Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL)
  • Toyota International Teacher Program
  • National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Summer Grants Workshops
  • Conclusion
  • Appendix
  • Additional Sources
  • Works Cited
  • Chapter Nine: Research Experiences for Teachers Can Enhance the Teaching of Science (Sue Whitsett)
  • Introduction
  • Fall Semester 2008, After 5 Summers of Research Experiences
  • Background
  • Best Practices
  • Adaptations of the Best Practices
  • Conclusion
  • Day 2 of the Semester
  • Day 3
  • Days 4 and 5
  • Day 6
  • Works Cited
  • Chapter Ten: Modeling Sustainability Through STEM Service-Learning (Leigh Jenkins)
  • Introduction
  • Background
  • Best Practice
  • Modeling Sustainability in Your School and Community
  • Conclusion
  • Appendix
  • Resources
  • Works Cited
  • Chapter Eleven: Outdoor Ecological Inquiry Brings Students and Nature Together (Dave Oberbillig)
  • Introduction
  • Background
  • Best Practice
  • Applying Best Practices in the Classroom
  • Conclusion
  • Appendix
  • Measuring Biodiversity Lesson Plan
  • Works Cited
  • Chapter Twelve: Twenty First Century Skills Inspired Through Global STEM Projects (Dan Carpenter / Florentia Spires / Joseph Isaac)
  • Introduction
  • Background
  • Five Conceptions
  • Global Awareness
  • Parallel Activity
  • Shared Data
  • Limited Collaboration
  • Engaged Collaboration
  • Best Practices for Global Collaborative Projects
  • Authentic Global Project Reflections
  • Authentic Projects
  • Adapting the Global STEM Education Practice
  • Developing an Outline for the Global Project
  • Identification of Global Leaders
  • Job-Embedded Professional Learning
  • Cultural Considerations
  • Global Communication for Project Implementation
  • Additional Considerations
  • Global STEM Collaboration
  • Conclusion
  • Appendix A
  • Appendix B
  • Appendix C
  • Appendix D
  • Appendix E
  • Appendix F
  • Appendix G
  • Works Cited
  • Chapter Thirteen: Alternative Reality: Gamifying Your Classroom (Remy Dou)
  • Introduction
  • Background
  • Quest to Learn
  • Interview with a Gamer: Dr. Shannon Mortimore-Smith
  • Best Practices
  • Introduction to Gaming Principles: Adam Mortague
  • Using Rewards Systems
  • Structuring Classes Like a Game
  • The Avatar
  • Challenges
  • Choice and Teamwork
  • Bosses
  • Point System
  • Atmosphere of Gaming: Nomenclature
  • Atmosphere of Gaming: Boundaries
  • Are You Ready? A Basic Outline
  • Additional Thoughts: MMOGs
  • Conclusion
  • Appendix
  • Works Cited
  • Chapter Fourteen: Using Whiteboards to Create a Student-Centered, Collaborative Classroom (Buffy Cushman-Patz)
  • Introduction
  • A Whiteboarding Classroom
  • Whiteboarding as a Practice
  • Background
  • Designing the Learning Environment
  • Meeting next generation standards
  • Best Practices: How to Adapt Whiteboarding to Your Classroom
  • Building the Culture
  • Creating Productive Student Groups
  • Selecting Problems for Students to Whiteboard
  • Choosing Their Own Problems
  • Preparing Whiteboards
  • Preparing for Presentations
  • Giving Presentations
  • Asking Questions
  • Guiding Q&A Sessions
  • Finishing Presentations
  • Assessing
  • Improving the Culture
  • Modifications
  • Pitfalls to Avoid
  • Conclusion
  • Appendix
  • Works Cited
  • Chapter Fifteen: Communicating Science to Public Audiences Through Media in High School: Improving Students’ Attitudes and Motivations in Science (Bernadine Okoro)
  • Introduction
  • The Case for Media Literacy in Today’s Schools
  • Making a Case for Media Literacy in the Science Classroom
  • Background
  • Research Suggests Scientific Literacy Can Be Beneficial for STEM and Non-STEM Fields
  • What Are Some of the Skillsets Needed to Become Media Literate?
  • Case Study
  • Communicating Scientific Concepts in Chemistry to Public Audiences Through Student-Created Magazines
  • Introduction to the Core Idea: Gases and Their Properties
  • Incorporating English Language Arts into Chemistry Through Poetry
  • Developing Gas Law Explanations: Boyle’s Law and Charles’ Law
  • Developing Explanations for Gas Laws While Capturing the Science Visually: Gay-Lussac’s Law
  • Incorporating Language Development, Chemistry and Print Media to Gases: Project Based Learning-Magazine Creation
  • Ideas for Adaptation by Others
  • Conclusion
  • Appendix A
  • Appendix B
  • Note
  • Works Cited
  • Chapter Sixteen: Discourse Strategies for English Learners in the STEM Classroom (Jenay Sharp Leach)
  • Introduction
  • Background
  • English Learners and Science Instruction
  • Persisting Opportunity Gaps
  • STEM Classroom Discourse
  • Scaffolding Discourse
  • Best Practices: Discourse Strategies
  • Discourse Scaffolds
  • Discourse Structures
  • Adopting Discourse Strategies in Your Classroom
  • Consensus Placemats
  • Three-way Interview
  • One Strays
  • Classroom Management Considerations
  • Conclusion
  • Works Cited
  • Chapter Seventeen: Increasing Literacy Skills in the STEM Classroom (April Lanotte)
  • Introduction
  • Background
  • Literacy Expectations
  • Increasing Text Understanding
  • Successful Versus Struggling Readers
  • Best Practices
  • What I Learned Along the Way
  • A Few of My Favorite Things
  • Additional Literacy Techniques and Strategies
  • Pre-reading Writing Strategies and Activities
  • During-reading, Writing, and Listening Strategies and Activities
  • Post-reading Strategies and Activities
  • Adapting Your STEM Classroom to Include Literacy
  • What NOT to Do
  • Conclusion
  • Appendix
  • Leveled Reading
  • Primary Source Materials
  • Pedagogy Textbooks That Support Reading and Writing in Content Areas (Books I Use in the Reading in the Content Area Course I Teach)
  • Works Cited
  • Chapter Eighteen: Promoting Science Literate Identities Through the Use of Trade Books (Paulo A. Oemig)
  • Introduction
  • Background
  • Misconceptions in Teaching Content Area Literacy
  • Comprehensible Input, Sociocultural Perspectives and Trade Books
  • So Why Trade Books?
  • Best Practice
  • Carlos y el Zorrillo
  • Full Speed Ahead! How Fast Things Go
  • Things That Float and Things That Don’t
  • Adapting the Practice
  • How to Select Trade Books
  • How to Use Trade Books
  • Inquiry and Trade Books
  • Conclusion
  • Appendix A
  • Appendix B
  • Appendix C
  • Works Cited
  • Children’s Literature Cited
  • Chapter Ninteen: Building Community Partnerships and Integrating Arts and Social Studies to Strengthen STEM Learning (John F. Smith and June Teisan)
  • Introduction
  • Background
  • From Separate Subjects to STEM to STEAM and STEMS
  • Building Community Partnerships for Context and Connections
  • Challenging Standardized Learning and the Narrative of Failure
  • Best Practices
  • Community Connections with Art and Social Studies Can Enliven Learning
  • Linking Learning to Critical Issues in the Community
  • Community Connections Coupled with Math, Art, and Technology
  • Taking Learning Beyond the School
  • Empowering Students for Positive Social Impact
  • How Others Can Implement
  • Map Out Community Characteristics with Arts and Social Studies Connections in Mind
  • Build a Network of Community Contacts
  • Maintain and Strengthen Partnerships
  • Overcoming Obstacles
  • Conclusion
  • Works Cited
  • Chapter Twenty: Zoology Brüt: Using Backward Design to Explore the Sixth Extinction Through Art, Architecture and Appetite (Melissa George)
  • Introduction
  • Background
  • Understanding Students
  • Understanding by Design
  • Zoology Brüt: A Best Practice Design
  • Phase 1: Covering Content or Creating Context? (2013–2014)
  • Phase 2: Identifying Results, Determining Evidence, Planning Experiences (2014–2015)
  • Phase 3: Reflecting and Revising (2015–2016)
  • Using Backward Design for Course Planning
  • Conclusion
  • Works Cited
  • Chapter Twenty-One: Using Self-Regulated Learning Processes to Support Scientific Thinking (Erin Peters-Burton)
  • Introduction
  • Background
  • Forethought
  • Performance
  • Self-Reflection
  • Self-Regulated Learning in Practice
  • Metacognitive Prompting
  • Effectiveness of the Metacognitive Prompts
  • SRL-based Curriculum
  • How Others Can Support Self-Regulated Learning in Practice
  • Metacognitive Prompts
  • Organizing a SRL-based Curriculum
  • Forethought
  • Conclusion
  • Works Cited
  • Chapter Twenty-Two: Teaching Students Metacognition Through Discipline-Based Research and Technology (Rebecca Vieyra)
  • Introduction
  • Background
  • Research on Metacognition and Self-Regulation
  • Metacognitive Strategies and Tools from General and Physics Education Research
  • Role of Technology in Metacognition
  • Best Practice
  • Diagnosing Common Naïve Conceptions and Assessing Concepts in Newton’s Laws
  • Teaching Newton’s Laws with Research-based Metacognitive Practices
  • Learning and Knowledge Transfer
  • A Technological Solution: Mobile Accelerometers
  • Using Physics Toolbox Sensor Suite
  • Transferring Understanding from the Classroom to Home and Field
  • Metacognition in Summative Assessments
  • How Others Can Adapt This Best Practice
  • Identify Your Discipline-Specific Learning Challenges, Strategies, and Tools
  • Make Student Thinking Visible and Explicit
  • Using Sensors to Address Pervasive Challenges
  • Conclusion
  • Works Cited
  • Chapter Twenty-Three: Applications of Satellite Imagery, Remote Sensing, and Computer Visualizations: Observing the Earth and Visualizing the Future (John D. Moore)
  • Introduction
  • Background
  • Best Practice
  • Adoption of Best Practice
  • Conclusion
  • Works Cited
  • Chapter Twenty-Four: Integrating Informal STEM Learning into Your Curriculum (Remy Dou / Terrie Rust)
  • Introduction
  • Background
  • Best Practice
  • Taking Students into the Field
  • Bringing the Experts to the Classroom
  • Adapting the Best Practice
  • Field Trips
  • After-School Programs
  • ISL Resources Accessible for Classrooms
  • Conclusion
  • Appendix A
  • Appendix B
  • Appendix C
  • A Sampling of ISL Resources
  • Appendix D
  • Funding Sources
  • Works Cited
  • Index
  • Series index

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Figures, Photos, AND Tables


Figure 1.1. Scaffolding, Transfer, and Application

Figure 3.1. GET Program Outline

Figure 3.2. GET Logo

Figure 3.3. GET Icon

Figure 3.4. GET Nomination Letter

Figure 3.5. GET Flyer

Figure 3.6. GET Checklist

Figure 3.7. GET FAQs

Figure 6.1. Acquisition of Tools vs. Opportunity for Creativity

Figure 6.2. The Authentic Science Environment Is the “Science Soup of the Day.”

Figure 12.1. Global Collaboration Through Partnerships

Figure 12.2. Certificate of Recognition Sample

Figure 16.1. In STEM Classrooms, Students Investigate, Evaluate, and Develop Explanations and Solutions.

Figure 16.2. Consensus Placemat

Figure 16.3. Graphic Organizer for Three Way Interview

Figure 17.1. Frayer Model

Figure 17.2. Graphic Word Organizer Example

Figure 18.1. Student-Created Trade Book

Figure 21.1. Phases of SRL in the Independent Research Project. ← xiii | xiv →

Figure 21.2. Phases of SRL in the Knowledge Building Section of the Class.

Figure 21.3. Phases of SRL in the Citizen Science Section of the Class.

Figure 22.1. Diagnoser Tools Pre-test Question

Figure 22.2. Physics Toolbox Sensor Suite Displaying Graph of G-forces in an Elevator.


Photo 2.1. Constructing an ROV

Photo 3.1. GET Members with Astronaut Sally Ride at the February 2006 Sally Ride Science Festival at ASU.

Photo 5.1. Family Science Night.

Photo 5.2. Student Field Trip to Moody Gardens in Galveston, TX.

Photo 6.1. Oil City High School Students Nick Kelly and Sandy Weiser Fill the Dewar on the Kitt Peak National Observatory’s 0.9-Meter Telescope During an Observation Run.

Photo 6.2. During the 2009 Winter Meeting of the American Astronomical Society, Oil City High School Students Discuss Their Research with Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, Astrophysicist and Host of the PBS Series NOVA scienceNOW.

Photo 8.1. Jean During Her Immersion Research Experience with Penguins in Antarctica.

Photo 9.1. Petals That Students Removed Covered with PVA.

Photo 10.1. 2009/2010 Advanced Placement Environmental Science Students Pose for a Group Picture After Taking Measurements and Making Plans for the Greenhouse Renovation.

Photo 11.1. Hellgate High School Students Begin the Hike up Specimen Ridge, Yellowstone National Park.

Photo 17.1. Word Wall in an 8th Grade Science Teacher’s Classroom. .

Photo 19.1. Floral Displays in June’s Classroom, Donated by Local Funeral Homes, Ready to Enrich the Planned Botany Studies.

Photo 19.2. Great Lakes Studies Included Bird Watching Hikes Led by Staff at Wild Birds Unlimited and the Michigan Audubon Society on the Grounds of Edsel and Eleanor Ford Estate.

Photo 19.3. Students Explore the STEM and Social Justice Themes in Diego Rivera’s “Detroit Industry” Murals at the Detroit Institute of Arts as Part of the “Detroit 1933/2033” Project.

Photo 20.1. One of Many Rain Barrels Entered in Community Water Conservation Contests.

Photo 22.1. Student Maneuvers Bowling Ball Around Obstacles with a Broom. ← xiv | xv →


Table 2.1. Prepare and Inspire K–12 Students in STEM

Table 2.2. Essential Practices of STEM

Table 5.1. Hispanic Educational Attainment in the United States

Table 5.2. Hispanic Poverty Level in the United States

Table 5.3. Indicator One: Class Averages in Five Texas School Districts. Academic Year 2007–2008

Table 5.4. Indicator Two: Bench Mark Test Scores in Five Texas School Districts. Academic Year 2007–2008

Table 5.5. Indicator Three: Timely Submissions of Assigned Work in Five. Texas School Districts. Academic Year 2007–2008.

Table 5.6. Indicator Four: Number of Same-Student Discipline Referrals in Five Texas School Districts. Academic Year 2007–2008

Table 12.1. Platforms That Engage Students Beyond Their Community

Table 12.2. Identifying a Global Partner

Table 12.3. Part I: Timeline for Global Collaborative Partnership

Table 12.4. Part II: Timeline for Global Collaborative Partnership

Table 12.5. Samples of Cross Cultural Competencies to Consider

Table 12.6. Use of a Checklist for Potential Collaborative Partner

Table 14.1. Recommended Supplies

Table 15.1. Woodrow Wilson High School Demographics

Table 16.1. Example Tiered Sentence Starters

Table 16.2. Elaboration and Clarification Questions

Table 16.3. Scientists’ Meeting Discourse Prompts

Table 16.4. Engineers’ Meeting Discourse Prompts

Table 17.1. Modified KWL Chart Sample

Table 18.1. Possible Features to Include in the Things That Float and Things That Don’t Data Table

Table 19.1. STEM-based Acronyms

Table 19.2. Possible Pedagogical Approaches to Community-Based Learning and Partnerships

Table 20.1. Understanding by Design Template, Stage 1

Table 20.2. Understanding by Design Template, Stage 2

Table 20.3. Understanding by Design Template, Stage 3

Table 21.1. Rubric for Class Discussion

Table 21.2. Intersections Between SRL Phases and 5e Model of Instruction

Table 22.1. Answer Selections and Their Corresponding Facets for the Diagnoser Pre-test Question

Table 22.2. Force Diagrams Corresponding to Motion of Hover Ball ← xv | xvi →

Table 22.3. Force Diagrams and Corresponding Motions and Sensations of an Elevator

Table 22.4. Sampling of Amusement Park Physics Assignment

Table 22.5. Example Reflection Sheet with a Diagnostic Question, Pre- and Post-answer, Corresponding Learning Target, and Confidence Rating to be Completed by the Student Before Checking Answers

Table 22.6. End-of-Unit Reflection Questions

Table 24.1. Major Events in Informal Science Learning

| xvii →


The editors would like to express our deep gratitude to all the authors who took time from an already busy life to share their best practices with others. In addition, we would like to acknowledge educators who, on a daily basis, strive to enrich the lives of all children without bias, who uphold that responsibility with fervor, and who balance their role as parent, counselor, mentor, and friend each day in the classroom. Those educators go above and beyond the required workday to provide a whole child experience toward the goal of creating a productive populace of life-long learners. Further, we recognize that it is through equality in education opportunity that we achieve a more fair and just society for all. Every child, regardless of economic status, gender, race, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, etc. comes to us with tremendous gifts and talents. We applaud those educators who seek constant innovation in teaching and learning: unlocking the process of discovery for all.

| xix →


The Teacher’s Voice: Notes from the Frontline of Education Reform

“Education is the future.” We hear that often because it is central to the knowledge economy and the success of a strong democracy in our ever-more-technical age. When finding ways to improve education, many leaders in the field draw on a plethora of books, studies, and on-line material. What we too seldom hear, however, is the teacher’s voice.

Now a group of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) teachers have taken a big step forward: putting the teacher’s voice on center stage. The essays in Best Practices in STEM Education are written by participants in the Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship Program. Developed and supported by the Department of Energy, the Einstein Program brings outstanding K–12 STEM teachers from around the country to Washington, D.C., where they work for 1 and sometimes 2 years. The teachers serve in technical agencies including the Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Some work in congressional offices or on congressional committees whose members can and have drawn on their experience to help draft legislation, and others have been placed at the U.S. Department of Education.

Over the past several years, the Program on America and the Global Economy of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars has held a number of events with the Einstein Fellows, who, in addition to being outstanding teachers, have all reflected on past efforts in order to help define new directions for school reform. In short, they are system thinkers about education as well as experienced ← xix | xx → educators themselves. In this book, Einstein Fellows have come together to share their thinking and insights on best practices in STEM teaching and on how to continue to hone the skills of teachers.

Several prominent themes run through the chapters. Many stress the importance of project-based learning. There is a parallel emphasis on increasing student engagement through the active solving of real-world problems. They preach the same philosophy when it comes to afterschool education opportunities: when classroom structures confine learning, afterschool programs can increase motivation and access. Some of the themes focus on honing a teacher’s skills through summer sessions in a lab where science practices are applied, rekindling the spark that led the teacher into a particular STEM field to begin with.

Whether you are an administrator, teacher, or informal educator, there is something for you in Best Practices in STEM Education. This book offers tips on implementing project-based learning, enhancing teacher preparation and meaningful professional development, improving communication in the classroom, reaching the most challenging students, increasing female participation in STEM, using language arts to enhance learning, and using science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to improve learning for all students. You will read stories and case studies about students moving from Fs to As, growing food for their school cafeteria, and contributing to professional science through the discovery of asteroids and exploding stars.

The wealth of knowledge in this collection is seemingly endless and as diverse as the authors themselves. It is no surprise that they have received numerous local, state, national, and international awards recognizing them as outstanding STEM master teachers. The authors, too, are unique in that they maintain strong connections to their disciplines outside of education, many of them having explored different careers before coming to teaching. Such experience adds to their ability to think about education as a part of the greater picture of the American economy and American competitiveness.

In the next few years, Congress is expected to turn its attention to renewing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the latest version of what is commonly known as the No Child Left Behind Act. The House Science Committee is already thinking about renewing the America Competes Act. Earlier versions of the America Competes Act emphasized investments in physical science and STEM education from elementary to postgraduate levels. As Congress and the Obama administration consider renewing major legislation dealing with education, they will draw on a host of academic specialists, Washington-based think tanks, and leaders within teacher associations. Too often, however, individual teachers with recent classroom experience are absent from the witness lists. In our work on education, and STEM education in particular, we here at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars have learned a great deal from listening ← xx | xxi → to and talking with the Einstein Fellows. I strongly encourage teachers, those who prepare teachers, school administrators, those who fund school reform, Congress, and the Obama administration to give this publication a thorough review as they work to prepare the next generation of STEM innovators. This collection of essays offers lessons for us all.

Kent H. Hughes, Director

Program on America and the Global Economy

Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

1300 Pennsylvania Ave., NW

Washington, DC 20004–3027

June 2014

| xxiii →


Between the private sector and government, it is estimated that the United States spends over $400 billion annually on research and development—nearly twice that of its closest competitor, China. Investment in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) has been identified as the critical piece necessary for the nation’s economy to remain innovative and competitive, one that is crucial to improvements in the quality and longevity of human life. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the Space Race and other STEM initiatives brought many into STEM-related careers. Those individuals are nearing retirement age and will soon leave the field. Who will take their place? Who will be the innovators of tomorrow? Are the students we are preparing today ready to meet the current and future STEM challenges facing our planet?

There is immense concern that the United States is falling behind in its competitiveness and ability to meet the global challenges that lie ahead. Compared to students in other countries, U.S. 15-year-olds rank 20th in science, 27th in math, and 17th in reading, as measured by the 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). When these same students arrive in our colleges, they struggle there as well. Fewer than 40% of students who enter college majoring in a STEM field complete a STEM degree. In addition, the general public seems to struggle in its understanding of STEM concepts. A recent Pew Research Poll showed that 85% of scientists view the public’s lack of scientific knowledge as a major problem, and nearly 50% believe the public has unrealistic expectations of scientists. Even after years of media focus and attention, 35% of Americans do ← xxiii | xxiv → not know that carbon dioxide is a gas linked to rising global temperatures, nearly 50% do not know that stem cells can develop into many different types of cells, and more than 50% do not know that an electron is smaller than an atom. We are indeed a nation at risk.

The call for the creation of a STEM Master Teacher Corps, a team of experienced and highly vetted educators that will lead the charge to improve STEM education, has been sounded. President Barack Obama’s FY2014 budget called for the creation of such a corps to be established through the U.S. Department of Education. The authors of Best Practices in STEM Education: Innovative Approaches from Einstein Fellow Alumni are part of an elite group of K–12 STEM educators recognized nationally as Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellows. Not unlike the proposed STEM Master Teacher Corps, Einstein Fellows are recognized as some of America’s most talented STEM teachers, whose expertise is leveraged by federal agencies to improve STEM education and raise the profile of the STEM teaching profession. Collectively, the authors have more than 600,000 hours of practice teaching STEM. Just as important, Einstein Fellows, while limited in number, have been offering their STEM expertise in Washington, D.C. for over 20 years!

The goal of this publication is to help improve the state of STEM education. As the body of STEM-learning research grows, this volume provides the unique perspective of nationally recognized education professionals who have spent years at the interface between teaching and learning. The chapters that follow are the product of years of practice, mistakes, reflection, and refinement. They provide the experiential pragmatism backed by research so desired by practitioners. Each chapter communicates how its author has implemented a specific STEM practice in the classroom and how the practice might be modified for use in other classrooms, schools, and learning environments. These are stories of success, as well as stories of struggle.

Although the chapter order has been given significant attention, this book may also serve as a reference guide to a variety of STEM education professionals. The chapters may be read in order, or readers may choose to skip around from one topic of interest to the next. From the benefits of interdisciplinary teaching to the role of informal education in the classroom, every topic contributes to building an effective STEM education system. More important, the methods proposed are not only supported by research, but have been tried and proven by educators in a variety of diverse STEM classrooms around the country.

In the event that you have questions about what an author has written, or if you want additional information, please do not hesitate to contact individual authors. In addition, if your school or district seeks professional development to implement practices outlined within this volume, please feel free to contact the editors or authors directly. The Einstein Fellows initiated this publication to serve ← xxiv | xxv → as a resource for teachers and schools. This volume will be effective only if its pages become worn and tattered.


The increased interest in the topic of STEM best practices led to the request for this revised edition by the publisher, Peter Lang, who selected the first edition as their 2014 Book of the Year. We’re grateful to those who’ve not only praised Einstein Fellows: Best Practices in STEM Education, but who have used it in their teaching practice. We’ve been excited at the usage across a broad audience. We are especially pleased that the first edition has been translated into Spanish which will lead to an even broader impact.

The book title has changed in the second edition from Einstein Fellows: Best Practices in STEM Education (first edition), to Best Practices in STEM Education: Innovative Approaches from Einstein Fellow Alumni.

Eight new chapters have been added to the original 16 chapters. These additional chapters, representing 11 new authors, provide unique approaches to STEM learning, offering readers further ways to incorporate innovative STEM best practices into their teaching.

All web links have been updated where necessary.

Author bios have been updated. Many of the authors have had exceptional experiences since the last edition that are worthy of sharing.

Nationally-recognized changes to educational terminology have been noted.


Founded in 1990, the Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship Program is a paid fellowship for K–12 STEM educators who have demonstrated excellence in teaching and leadership in STEM. The Einstein Fellowship aims to increase understanding, communication, and cooperation between the legislative and executive branches of the government and the STEM education community. This goal is achieved by embedding experienced and highly vetted STEM educators into a variety of federal agencies, which have included the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Department of Education, as well as in the offices of congressional leaders on Capitol Hill.

The Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship Act, authorized by Congress in 1994, gave the Department of Energy (DOE) federal responsibility ← xxv | xxvi → for the program. Today, the Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship Program is managed by the DOE Office of Science’s Office of Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists in collaboration with the sponsoring agencies and the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE). ORISE is a world class DOE institute designed for a variety of research and scientific workforce endeavors. Teachers interested in applying for the Einstein Fellowship can apply online at http://science.energy.gov/wdts/einstein.

Neither the U.S. Department of Energy or the AEF Program endorse this publication or the ideas expressed in it.

| xxvii →

About THE Authors

Dan Carpenter, PhD is an Assistant Professor in STEM Education at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. Dan earned a BS in Natural Science Education, an MA in Curriculum and Instruction and a PhD in Education, all from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He is currently the STEM Education Program Chair and co-chairs one of the largest blended delivery PhD programs in the world. His research interests include inquiry instructional models, school improvement processes, standards-based application in instructional settings, and the development of 21st century skills in K–16 settings. Prior to working at Texas Tech, Dan served as a high school science educator for about 20 years. Dan spent most of his career working in the Midwestern United States on school culture and professional learning community models. The models served both practice and policy on shared leadership structures that promote teacher job-embedded professional development and organizational improvement through teacher-driven data systems. Dan is passionate about providing all students with high quality STEM education. Dan served as an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow at the National Science Foundation in the Division of Graduate Education (2005–2006), where he developed program evaluation policy for education programs. (Contact Dan at daniel.carpenter@ttu.edu)

Buffy Cushman-Patz is the founder and School Leader for the School for Examining Essential Questions of Sustainability (SEEQS), a public charter ← xxvii | xxviii → secondary school in Honolulu, Hawai’i. Buffy served her Einstein Fellowship from 2010–2011 as the inaugural fellow in the Office of Legislative and Public Affairs (OLPA) at the National Science Foundation. Following her fellowship year, Buffy completed her EdM in School Leadership at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (2012), with School Development as her concentration. During the program she simultaneously wrote and submitted the charter application for SEEQS and earned her principal’s license while serving as a member of the leadership team of Neighborhood House Charter School in Dorchester, Massachusetts. Prior to the fellowship, she taught math and science in public, charter, and independent schools in Hawai’i. Buffy earned an MS in Geology and Geophysics from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa and a BS in Geology from the University of Florida. In early 2010, Buffy returned to the Galapagos Spreading Center, her MS thesis study area, to serve as a Teacher at Sea, sharing geologic research conducted using the Alvin submersible with students in Hawai’i and around the world. She volunteered with Teachers Without Borders (2008 and 2010), leading math and science workshops for teachers in South Africa. Buffy’s exploration of teaching and learning through the lenses of theory, policy, leadership, and through her firsthand experiences as a teacher in both conventional and unconventional settings, guides her work as a School Leader. (Contact Buffy at bjc231@mail.harvard.edu)

Remy Dou, PhD grew up and taught in a richly diverse metropolis. From 2011 to 2013, as an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow, Dou worked at the National Science Foundation on projects related to both engagement and diversity in STEM education, including the development of a design and evaluation framework for federal STEM intervention programs. This framework was used by the White House’s Committee on STEM Education in the development of a five-year Federal STEM education strategic plan. Currently, he works in academia performing research investigating the affective outcomes of active-learning strategies in STEM education. His focus lies in career decision-making constructs, including self-efficacy, interest and recognition. He has presented on these topics at various organizations, including the National Science Foundation, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the National Association for Research in Science Teaching. In addition, he invests some of his time in curriculum development and pre-service STEM teacher training. Prior to becoming an Einstein Fellow, Dou taught high school biology, AP biology, chemistry, and physics. He also led teacher technology workshops and pre-service teacher training. As a ← xxviii | xxix → former K–12 Science Department Director, he helped transform his school’s science “culture” across all grade levels. He has received various awards, grants, and accolades for his work in K–12 education, as well as for his academic research. Remy’s many hobbies include writing, both nonfiction and fiction. He is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. He also serves as a department editor for The American Biology Teacher. (Contact Remy at douremy@gmail.com)


XLVI, 584
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2015 (May)
economic success teaching learning prosperity
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2018. XLVI, 584 pp., 39 b/w ill., 36 tables

Biographical notes

Tim Spuck (Volume editor) Leigh Jenkins (Volume editor) Terrie Rust (Volume editor) Remy Dou (Volume editor)

Tim Spuck is the STEM Education Development Officer at Associated Universities Inc. Major awards include the Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship, American Institute of Aeronautics & Astronautics Educator Achievement Award, Pennsylvania Christa McAuliffe Fellowship, and the Tandy Technology Scholars Award. Tim earned his M.Ed. in Science Education from Clarion University of Pennsylvania, and his Ed.D. Curriculum & Instruction from West Virginia University. Leigh Jenkins is currently a doctoral candidate in Administrative Leadership at Shenandoah University in northwestern Virginia. Leigh taught biology and environmental science for 18 years in West Virginia. She holds a M.A. in Sociology and an M.A. in Science Curriculum and Instruction. Leigh was awarded the Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship, Japan Fulbright Memorial Teachers Fund Scholarship, and was the 2016 West Virginia Conservation Teacher of the Year. Terrie Rust is an ITEEA Distinguished Technology Educator. She has contributed globally on STEM education projects, most notably while working in India. Terrie holds M.A. and M.Ed. degrees in education fields, and an Education Specialist (Ed.S.) degree in Organizational Leadership. Terrie received numerous awards for her teaching programs from ITEEA and ACTEaz. She is currently serving as a STEM consultant in the DC area. Remy Dou is a clinical assistant professor at Florida International University working on undergraduate and out-of-school STEM education research. Previously, he served at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and at the National Science Foundation as an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow. He is also a Worlds Ahead Graduate at Florida International University, received the Jhumki Basu Scholar Award from the National Association for Research in Science Teaching.


Title: Best Practices in STEM Education
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