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University of Cincinnati

NSF Awards: 1102990

The Cincinnati Engineering Enhanced Math and Science Program (CEEMS) empowers teachers in urban, rural, small town, and suburban districts to integrate challenge based learning and engineering design into the science and math content they teach.

NSF Awards: 1102990

The Cincinnati Engineering Enhanced Math and Science Program (CEEMS) empowers teachers in urban, rural, small town, and suburban districts to integrate challenge based learning and engineering design into the science and math content they teach.

Public Discussion

## Julie Steimle

Lead PresenterProgram Director, CEEMS

This video is a “teaser” about the Cincinnati Engineering Enhanced Math and Science Program (CEEMS). We chose to tell our story from the point of view of three teacher participants, but we likely left you with a lot of questions. So, fire away! We would love to dialogue about CEEMS. I would also like to learn how others with similar projects measure “success.” We attempt to measure success through student pre and post-assessments and instruments that assess changes in teachers’ instructional practices. However, I know that we are not capturing the whole picture, so I would love to learn what you are doing.

## Joni Falk

What a fabulous video! Was it challenging to convince teachers that including engineering would help them meet their science goals as opposed to being “one more thing to include in an already packed curriculum?” In terms of curricula, what are you giving the teachers and what are they being asked to develop? Do they have an opportunity to share what they are doing in different schools? And does it vary greatly?

What has been your greatest challenge? I know, too many questions, but you got me interested!

## Julie Steimle

Lead PresenterProgram Director, CEEMS

Thanks for the great questions. Teachers are always reluctant to try engineering initially in their classrooms, particularly due to the amount of extra time they perceive it will take for students to complete an engineering challenge. Our teachers are in CEEMS for two years. Over two summers, they take 20 credit hours of coursework, participate in professional development, and receive coaching from educators and engineers who help them develop 2-3 units featuring engineering design and challenge-based learning that they will implement in their math and/or science classrooms the following school year. The teachers get to choose which standards in their curriculum will be addressed in the units and come up with unique engineering challenges with the help of their coaches. The coaches continue to provide support as teachers implement the units in their classrooms. Since they are implementing at least 5 engineering design units over two years, they become much more proficient at implementing successful units by the end of their time with us. The most successful teachers integrate multiple standards into one engineering unit, which justifies devoting more instructional time to the units.

As a requirement of participation, teachers do disseminate what they have learned in a variety of avenues: staff/team meetings in their own school, PD in schools and districts outside of their own, and at conferences. Some teacher work one-on-one with another teacher to share their unit and coach that teacher through the process of implementing it. All teachers present at a regional STEM Conference offered annually at the University of Cincinnati, which attracts approximately 300 teachers each year.

The biggest challenge has been finding ways to quantify our impact. Currently, we collect pre and post-assessment data on students before and after each engineering unit is implemented. This year, we were able to find “comparison teachers” for some of our CEEMS teachers, who agreed to give their students the same pre and post assessment tests but taught the same content in a more traditional manner. We are hoping this will yield some interesting discoveries. We also collect data on teachers’ instructional practices prior to entering the program, at the program’s mid-point, and at the end of the program. However, this data is mostly self-report. This year, we also added teacher/student observations during the implementation of CEEMS units and during times when instruction is more traditional. Again, we are hoping this will help inform our project even more. I would be interested in learning about how other projects have added more rigor to their evaluations.

## Katie Rich

I was struck by the comment that the most critical part of designing a unit is to have a strong hook for the student. I’ve found that to be very true in my work, as well! Choosing projects that are simultaneously interesting to students, tractable, and addressing necessary content standards is a constant challenge. How have you chosen projects, and have you noticed anything that your most successful projects have in common?

## Julie Steimle

Lead PresenterProgram Director, CEEMS

The teacher chooses the projects, not the project team members. Also, the teacher introduces the unit with a hook and then leads the students through a series of exercises that makes the students think they have chosen the challenge. In some cases, the teachers did modify their original challenge to more closely match student feedback as long as the new challenge still addresses the necessary academic standards. For example, one teacher designed a unit where students would learn about cells and living organisms by creating a recipe for yeast bread: http://ceas.uc.edu/special_programs/ceems/CEEMS.... The students lobbied that they preferred to design a recipe for a yeast pretzel. Their plan was to make pretzels that were better than the local pretzel shop at the mall. Since the content addressed would be the same, the teacher modified the unit in order to increase student engagement and buy in. The approach we use in our project is challenge-based learning, which is similar to problem and project based learning except it adds the critical feature of student buy-in.

## Katie Rich

This is a really interesting example. Thanks for sharing.

Can you talk a bit more about the exercises that lead students to choose the challenge?

## Julie Steimle

Lead PresenterProgram Director, CEEMS

Katie, thanks for the good question. Every teacher goes through the process a little bit differently, but I will try to describe it as generally as I can. First, the teacher introduces a relevant big idea to the students, which could be anything from reducing one’s carbon footprint to school lockers that are too small. The big idea is introduced through a hook, such as short video, a short article, a class discussion, a guest speaker, or a mini design challenge that gets students interested and engaged in the big idea. Students then work individually and in teams to brainstorm some essential questions related to the big idea, which the teacher shares with the class. Next, the teacher asks for feedback and ideas about a challenge the class could work on in teams related to the essential question. The teacher will collect ideas and promise to get back to the students the next day with the chosen challenge for all his/her classes, based on student input and the content that needs to be covered. Often, the teacher returns to the students the next day to suggest the same challenge he or she originally envisioned. However, if the correct hook was chosen and the teacher carefully guides the selection of the essential question, at least a few students would have suggested the same challenge the teacher had already designed.

For example, a middle school math teacher has the class skype with his cousin, who is a disabled, wheelchair bound veteran. The vet talks about how hard it is to access places without a wheel chair ramp. That naturally leads the class to think about how they could help veterans by designing a wheel chair ramp using their knowledge of slope.

If interested, we have a video that shows one example of a teacher leading the students through the process of introducing the big idea to choosing a challenge: https://sites.google.com/site/ceemscbl/.

## Irene Lee

That’s a great example of modification of a curriculum to give students agency. Could you tell us more about the 5 engr. units that are covered over the 2 years?

## Julie Steimle

Lead PresenterProgram Director, CEEMS

The five engineering projects are unique to each teacher. The teachers choose the academic content and standards they want to cover in each unit and choose the big idea, hook, and engineering challenge they feel will both engage students and help them master the content. You can browse some of the units created by our teachers in our searchable database: http://tinyurl.com/CEEMSunitsearch. There are some “repeats” as the first time teachers develop and implement an engineering design unit, they are encouraged to modify another teacher’s unit to fit their curriculum. For example, one teacher developed a unit where students designed and tested earthquake resistant structures on a shake table based on middle school earth science content. A middle school math teacher modified the unit to address the concept of the Pythagorean Theorem as it relates to stability in buildings.

## Evan Korth

It is great that you are in so many different types of schools. Are you finding differences between them? Which schools seem to have the most promise with your approach?

## Julie Steimle

Lead PresenterProgram Director, CEEMS

Evan, we have had the most success in schools where several teachers have participated in CEEMS. It helps when they can collaborate with others right in their buildings. A few of our participating middle schools practice team teaching, which means that the same group of students have the same language arts, math, science, and social studies teachers. In those buildings the math and science teachers have been able to collaborate and “team teach” engineering design units with the math teacher focusing on the math content and the science teacher focusing on the science content.

However, generally speaking, the remote rural schools have appreciated CEEMS the most. I think this is partially due to the fact that they do not have many other outside partnerships due to the distance from universities and businesses. We wrote a paper about our impact in rural schools that will be presented at the upcoming ASEE Conference.

## Jim Boyd

CEEMS seems like a great way get kids to engage in STEM. Thanks for all the great information in the comments too!

Is there any sort of followup process or training for teachers who have been through the program? It sounds like they are able to track progress of their students. Is there formalized tools they use for that, or just personal assessment of students?

## Julie Steimle

Lead PresenterProgram Director, CEEMS

Jim, that is a great question. Unfortunately, we do not track the students’ progress beyond their participation in the program. However, we do follow the teachers and survey them to see if they are still following the pedagogies they learned through CEEMS.

Further posting is closed as the showcase has ended.