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Is Adding the E Enough? Investigating the Impact of K-12 Engineering Standards on the Implementation of STEM Integration



The problems that we face in our ever-changing, increasingly global society are multidisciplinary, and many require the integration of multiple science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) concepts to solve them. National calls for improvement of STEM education in the United States are driving changes in policy, particularly in academic standards. Research on STEM integration in K-12 classrooms has not kept pace with the sweeping policy changes in STEM education. This study addresses the need for research to explore the translation of broad, national-level policy statements regarding STEM education and integration to state-level policies and implementation in K-12 classrooms. An interpretive multicase study design was employed to conduct an in-depth investigation of secondary STEM teachers' implementation of STEM integration in their classrooms during a yearlong professional development program. The interpretive approach was used because it provides holistic descriptions and explanations for the particular phenomenon, in this case STEM integration. The results of this study demonstrate the possibilities of policies that use state standards documents as a mechanism to integrate engineering into science standards. Our cases suggest that STEM integration can be implemented most successfully when mathematics and science teachers work together both in a single classroom (co-teaching) and in multiple classrooms (content teaching—common theme).