Problem-based learning in STEM: Facilitating Diversity and Change in Pre-college Engineering Education through Online Collaborative Teacher Communities in virtual STEMlabs

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The gap between the need for and the number of STEM-educated individuals has become increasingly apparent, both globally and locally in many countries, e.g. in Denmark, where some areas see a rise in demand for STEM competencies up to as much as 88% over the last decade, with companies facing severe difficulties filling positions as a result. Additionally, research shows a decreasing interest in STEM-related disciplines in countries such as Denmark, contributing further to the problem of maintaining a sufficient pool of engineering-educated individuals and pre-college students choosing STEM-educations and careers. Especially girls tend to lose interest in STEM during grades 4-8, which indicates that these subjects currently fail to motivate and engage this student group and convey the possibilities related to STEM-education and career paths. Therefore, building upon research within these domains, it is crucial to examine global and local factors causing the gender gap and lack of diversity that exists in STEM-education and interest in some countries, as well as to develop didactical practices that focus on motivation and diversity in STEM and the acquisition of relevant competencies for the 21st century. Problem Based Learning (PBL) as a student-centered teaching approach has a focus on processes such as collaboration, critical thinking, and problem-solving and has been shown to be efficient as a tool and framework for didactical interventions within a STEM context, particularly in higher education. However, research on the application of PBL as a method for facilitating STEM-motivation and competencies in K-12 is still rather limited.

This paper presents the reasoning behind and first phases of LabSTEM North, a Danish research project which aims to explore central and contextual problems related to recruitment and motivation in STEM and develop a coherent problem-based STEM-didactics through collaboration and co-creation in digitally supported professional learning communities for teachers across the entire K-12 system in Northern Jutland, Denmark. Through this, the LabSTEM North project aims to motivate students’ interest in STEM-related educations and career paths and facilitate a change in the local K-12 system to counter the so-called “leaky pipeline” of potential STEM-candidates, including women and minorities.

Following a Design-Based Research (DBR) model, LabSTEM North incorporates multiple iterations based on the involved teachers’ understandings, their professional practice, and co-creation of problem-based learning designs across STEM subjects, student age groups, and institutional boundaries. During the progress of the LabSTEM North project, an objective is also the production of open-access teaching material that the involved researchers and teachers in collaboration are designing and testing in practice. The project is currently in the stage of establishing digital STEMlabs and online communities in collaboration with 13 pre-college schools and educational institutions with more than 80 teachers participating in workshops and working groups to co-create the first iteration of a new problem-based based STEM teaching practice. Thus, this paper also intends to provide early experiences and valuable insights into the potentials and challenges of building digitally supported STEMlabs and online teacher communities for the development of boundary-crossing and engaging STEM-teaching and learning in pre-college education.
TitelPaper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN
Antal sider9
Publikationsdatoaug. 2022
StatusUdgivet - aug. 2022
BegivenhedASEE 2022 Annual Conference: Excellence Through Diversity - Minneapolis, USA
Varighed: 26 jun. 202229 jun. 2022
Konferencens nummer: 129


KonferenceASEE 2022 Annual Conference


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  • LabSTEM Nord

    Bertel, L. B. & Møller Jeppesen, M.


    Projekter: ProjektForskning