February 2008, Volume 9, Number 2
STEM Transitions: Providing Integrated Teaching Resources for the Community College Classroom
The demands of today’s global economy continue to stimulate conversations and public policy initiatives concerning the competitiveness of the United States in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). There is growing recognition that community colleges can play a major role in leading efforts that bring together industry leaders and educators to address the challenges of preparing students for success in STEM courses, and ultimately, STEM-focused careers.
According to the National Science Board (2006), changing workforce requirements mean new workers will need even more sophisticated skills in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Scientific and engineering-related occupations are expected to continue to grow more rapidly than occupations in general. In fact, long-term growth in STEM occupations has far exceeded that of the general workforce. A new project, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education through a cooperative agreement with the League for Innovation, is intended to help ensure the rigor of math and science concepts taught in the six STEM-related clusters at the community college level.
Titled “STEM Transitions: Enhancing Mathematics and Science Rigor Through Evidence-Based Curriculum Projects,” the initiative will build on the League’s College and Career Transitions Initiative, which has made significant strides in assisting colleges in their efforts to develop rigorous programs of study that equip students with the skills and credentials required for success in high-growth, high-demand career fields. The League, through the CCTI, has contracted with the Center for Occupational Research and Development (CORD) to lead the project.
The CORD staff began work on the project in November and will continue their efforts throughout 2008. The project involves the development of context-based instructional materials that demonstrate the convergence of technical and academic concepts within STEM-related clusters. It will provide community college faculty with teaching resources that offer both academic rigor and career-related skills.
CORD will develop 62 integrated curriculum projects for use in math, science, and technical courses in the six STEM-related clusters: health science; information technology; manufacturing; transportation; science, technology, engineering and mathematics; and agriculture. The resulting integrated projects will be designed to aid in mastery of mathematics and science concepts, while motivating students to pursue STEM-related careers. Each project will include guidelines and background material necessary for the project to be taught within a cluster course as well as the related academic area. The projects will include assessment strategies and rubrics, authentic tasks that encourage career exploration, and evidence-based teaching strategies. They will revolve around industry scenarios, involve teamwork, and build critical thinking skills.
The STEM Transitions project will involve several major phases, beginning with the identification of math and science concepts embedded within the career cluster standards. The CORD project staff will be assisted by dozens of faculty conferees from community colleges across the country and representatives from the States Career Cluster Initiative. Collectively, they will engage in the development of projects that target the instruction of essential math and science topics through an integrated, contextual teaching approach involving applications from the six STEM-related technical areas. The projects will evolve from simple scenarios to complete, web-based teaching resources by the end of the project. In the fall of 2008, interested community college faculty will have the opportunity to participate in the broad field review of the final project drafts. Following a brief revision phase, the 62 integrated projects will be made available to the public via the project website.
To learn more about STEM Transitions, please visit the project website at http://www.stemtransitions.org. This article was prepared by Hope Cotner, Vice President, Community College Initiatives, CORD.
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