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Learning Together

Creating a Culture of Transdisciplinary Learning

Now, more than ever, STEM needs to be at the core of learning but, not STEM as a standalone, Integrated STEM. Districts and schools are faced with an unprecedented learning environment, in order to keep students engaged, content must connect across all subject areas. Students are often disinterested in school when they learn in an isolated and disjoined manner missing connections to crosscutting concepts and real-world applications. How do we move from a siloed approach to education to creating an Integrated STEM classroom, whether in person or virtual, that will prepare students as citizens for today and the workforce of tomorrow? Designing a professional development plan which focuses on “Integrated STEM”. The STEM Leadership Alliance and the STEM Happens Network used the collective framework authored by Advance CTE, ASSM, CSSS, and ITEEA in 2018 that defines the principles of Integrated STEM.

Principle 1:   Integrated STEM education should advance the learning of each individual STEM discipline

Principle 2:   Integrated STEM education should provide logical and authentic connections between and across the individual STEM disciplines

Principle 3:  Integrated STEM education should serve as a bridge to STEM careers

These principles drive how effective, integrated STEM education should be developed to ensure that ALL students have access to a high-quality education. The principles also provide opportunities for individual advancement within the individual STEM disciplines while also placing a premium on the connections between and across the disciplines. Quality instructional materials and resources are the foundation for a school, but human capital creates a learning environment, based on trans-disciplinary instruction that fosters critical thinking, innovation and 21st century skills. In addition, it is critical that integrated STEM education serve to provide equity and access while supporting all students in increasing their opportunities with respect to participation in future study and future careers in STEM.

For more information on the professional development opportunities for your school or district, please contact Below, is an outline of the opportunities available to transform the learning environment from a single subject approach to a transdisciplinary methodology that transforms how students learns.

As mentioned before, schools and school systems across the country teach STEM subjects in silos. As a result, math and science are not coordinated with technology and engineering engagement activities and learning, and STEM is not integrated across subject areas.  The model will support educators through professional development, assessing existing structures, and working with schools/districts to build leadership capacity to connect integrated STEM to the needs of the current and future workforce. Educators need to go through a process that changes the ways that educators teach. Especially, in this new world, teachers need to work with each other but also with business, nonprofits, and parents. The first step begins with a deep understanding of how to improve an organization and that starts with Leadership Development for the 21st Century which is a set of tools and principles that help organizations achieve greater velocity in achieving their goals. Inspired by the techniques that startups use to scale their businesses, the approach uses an iterative approach to rapidly improve processes and structures in order to improve student learning.  

To further move to an integrated STEM culture the professional development includes:

Science Note Booking and Using Phenomena Based Investigations: Participants will learn how to effectively set up a science notebook, learn the importance of a science notebook, use of Interactive and On-Line Notebook, look at Scientists Notebooks and explore the phenomena of water drops on a penny

The Three Dimensions of NGSS - The Next Generation Science Standards provide three distinct and equally important dimensions of science learning. The Three-Dimensions are Science and Engineering Practices, Cross-Cutting Concepts, and Disciplinary Core Ideas. In order, to shift teacher’s instruction an in-depth understanding of the Three Dimensions of NGSS must be understood. The integration of rigorous content and application reflects how science and engineering is practiced in the real world.

Understanding the Importance of Disciplinary Literacy and Content Literacy - A deeper understanding of disciplinary literacy compared to literacy across the content areas and how to combine the approach so students learn how to draw connections. Understanding the Importance of Disciplinary Literacy and Content Literacy.

The Anatomy of an Integrated STEM Unit of Study Across the Content Areas - Schools/Districts will learn and understand the critical components of an exemplar integrated STEM unit of study and begin to collaboratively develop an integrated STEM Unit of instruction by putting all of the components together. Teachers will leverage the existing curriculum, the Next Generation Science Standards and the alignment of literacy and math standards, as well as other resources. Teachers bring their current materials they are using to help begin the design process. Teachers will continue to work on developing the integrated STEM units.

Dissecting an Integrated Unit of Study Across the Content Areas - Schools/ Districts will continue to understand and use the critical components of curricula planning to dissect a completed iSTEM unit of study across the content areas, ensure that iSTEM unit includes common assessments with alignment to STEM/NGSS.

As we build capacity and proficiency in unit planning, teachers will incorporate instructional strategies and academic/essential skills that can advance student learning.   Participants will show progress in using questioning as a viable instructional strategy to provide students access to disciplinary-specific, complex text. 

The STEM Happens Network uses the Danielson Framework to shape the understanding of best practices and to ensure a strong feedback loop.  SHN values the role that feedback plays in a school culture – whether it is student to student, teacher to student, administrator to teacher, teacher to parent – feedback is vital to moving the work forward. “The work” is planning equitable and accessible learning experiences for all students that integrates STEM and builds the student’s literacy and numeracy skills as connected to the real world. 

A key element of SHN’s work is to develop a conceptual understanding for schools and districts on phenomena-based learning, rather than just project-based learning, so that students explore a problem within that phenomena that leads to project-based learning which leads to solutions. This approach encourages creative thinking and creates rigorous learning experiences for ALL students.  The professional development not only engages in developing skills but also in deliberate planning time for them to develop integrated STEM units and lessons aligned to the demands of the NGSS and Literacy, Numeracy and Engineering Standards. 


SHN’s human-centered approach to adult learning aligns with the Framework for Great Schools by developing a trusting relationship with all staff to drive systemic change in the way teachers plan, use integrated STEM, collaborate, and strengthen support for improving academic outcomes for ALL students.  By developing a learning community that encompasses all shareholders, we strongly believe that we will improve pedagogy in all our schools and teachers will plan strategically integrated lessons that will address the equity and access concerns in the instructional core.

Visit the STEM Happens Network for resources on how to create an integrated STEM classroom.

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