Core Guiding Question What is Excellent STEM Teaching?

In order to create a certification program for STEM teaching we began with two essential questions. The first of these is, “What is STEM?” We answer that question in three fundamental ways: the elements of STEM, how those elements interrelate, and how those elements relate to the learner and the world at large.

First, STEM is an acronym for four different fields, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. These are the elements of STEM education and all teaching and learning in STEM is related to building capacity in these areas. Second is the interrelationship of these elements. While each one is something distinct, these fields are not treated as wholly separate entities. STEM education seeks to take advantage of the similarities and interplay of skills and knowledge among these fields to weave together a rich and meaningful learning environment. Lastly, STEM teaching is dedicated to engaging students in ways that other areas cannot, in order to develop unique cognitive skills, habits of mind, and attitudes that will benefit learners throughout their lives. STEM teaching also recognizes that a learner who masters the STEM curriculum is uniquely empowered to enter into the world of the 21st century.

The second question we need to answer when developing a STEM teaching program is, “What constitutes excellent STEM teaching?” Answering this question entails determining what excellent teaching in general is, as well as the ways in which excellent teaching in a STEM classroom might be different from a non-STEM classroom. The final list of teaching practices we developed show a clear progression from the general—those teacher actions that are effective in any classroom—to those teacher actions that are more specifically appropriate in the STEM classroom.

Overall Structure

The 15 teacher actions selected for our NISE Foundational STEM certificate are organized into three domains. These domains reflect three big ideas that we believe are essential for effective STEM teaching. They are Creating an Environment for Learning, Building Scientific Understanding, and Engaging Students in Science and Engineering Practices. The teacher actions reflect not only these three big ideas, but also the guiding principles outlined above. Further, these actions are themselves broken down into thirty-nine indicators that form the basic structure of the certificate program.

Certificate Overview

Domain 1: Creating an Environment for Learning

Creating a Positive Classroom Culture Action-I
The Physical Space - Safe and Accessible Indicator 1
The Physical Space - Student Interactions Indicator 2
Classroom Routines and Procedures Indicator 3
Student-Teacher Interactions Indicator 4
Academic Focus Indicator 5
Response to Failure and Intellectual Risk Taking Indicator 6
Student to Student Interactions Indicator 7
Student Interdependence Indicator 8
Collaboration and Conflict Resolution Indicator 9
Technology Integration Indicator 10
Enhancement of Learning with Technology Indicator 11
Real-World Connections Indicator 12

Domain 2 Building Scientific Understanding

Implementing Inquiry Action-V
Student Contribution Indicator 13
Lesson Sequence Indicator 14
Probing for Preconceptions Indicator 15
Resolving Misconceptions Indicator 16
Processing Time Provided Indicator 17
Levels of Cognition Indicator 18
Equity of Responses Indicator 19
Follow-up to Student Response Indicator 20
Checking for Understanding Indicator 21
Utilizing Formative Assessment Data Indicator 22
Reading in Science Indicator 23
Writing in Science Indicator 24
Conceptual Understanding and Vocabulary Indicator 25
Nonlinguistic Representations Indicator 26
Presentation of Ideas and Listening to Others Indicator 27

Domain 3 Engaging Students in Scientific and Engineering Practices

Cultivating Scientific Investigations Action-X
Investigable Questions Indicator 28
Investigative Design Indicator 29
Identifying Engineering Problems Indicator 30
Engineering Design Process Indicator 31
Organizing and Displaying Data Indicator 32
Interpreting Data Indicator 33
Authenticity of Driving Question Indicator 34
Student Autonomy Indicator 35
Development of Explanation Indicator 36
Support of Explanation Indicator 37
Analysis and Critique of Explanations Indicator 38

The Three Domains & Actions of STEM Teaching

Domain 1 Creating an Environment for Learning

Domain 2 Building Scientific Understanding

Domain 3 Engaging Students in Scientific and Engineering Practices