Augusto Macalalag

Augusto Macalalag

GLENSIDE — Through a $2.8 million grant from the National Science Foundation, faculty from Arcadia University, La Salle University, Villanova University, and Saint Joseph's University, along with Mercyhurst University in Erie, will collaborate on how Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) interdisciplinary learning impacts 7th- through 12th-grade student understanding.

This collaborative research is funded through a NSF grant with a total intended award amount of $2.8 million, of which $2,031,108 is awarded to Arcadia University. This program is meant to help teachers prioritize critical thinking and real-world applications to STEM over procedural knowledge; “Collaborative Research: Understanding STEM Teaching through Integrated Contexts in Everyday Life” provides a series of professional development programs for STEM educators at the middle school and high school levels to encourage connections between curriculum topics.

“What if we get students involved in the context of data, like should speed limits be reduced in Philadelphia?” said Arcadia University Associate Professor of Education Dr. Augusto Macalalag, who will lead the research project as Principal Investigator. “Instead of saying let’s calculate the velocity or speed, which students think is boring, let’s engage them in something where they have context such as what is the basis of speed limits in areas of Philadelphia, where are accidents predominantly happening and why, what are the cultural practices with regards to driving and speeding, and who decides the speed limits. There is a context of why STEM is being learned and taught beyond learning science and mathematics.”

The first professional development cohort of educators from the School District of Philadelphia, Cheltenham School District, American Paradigm Schools in Philadelphia, Simon Gratz High School Mastery Charter Schools in Philadelphia, and Mariana Bracetti Academy Charter School in Philadelphia will begin a weekly series of in-person and online workshops in the near future.

“This project will hopefully reframe the way in which teachers in STEM think about the purpose of science and science education,” said Lisa Marco-Bujosa, Ph.D., assistant professor of education at Villanova University. “This is an exciting opportunity to work with my peers to broaden our scope and impact in local communities on the issues of urban science education, equity and social justice in STEM.”

“I am extremely excited to be working with an outstanding group of researchers and educators on this project,” said Joseph Johnson, Ph.D., associate professor of physics, Mercyhurst University. “There is real potential here to positively impact students’ lives and support science and STEM literacy for populations that have been traditionally underserved. We won’t just be identifying problems, but actually taking steps to support teachers and learners of STEM.”

“By linking STEM to important social issues, this project will support teachers to help their students discover how STEM is part of their everyday lives,” said Victor Donnay, Ph.D., founder and director of Philadelphia Regional Institute for STEM Educators (PRISE). “This project exemplifies PRISE’s mission to bring together educators from multiple institutions to improve STEM education in the region - doing together what we cannot do alone.”

“This project is a tremendous opportunity for La Salle’s Education faculty to collaborate on a multi-year professional development and research program with area institutions,” said Greer Richardson, Ph.D., La Salle University professor of education. “What we know is that tapping into students' funds of knowledge as a starting point for instruction is key to fostering both interest and engagement. Further, as students make choices about the topics they investigate, they become agents of their learning. The project is designed to support teachers in developing science learning that centers around the lives of their students and the communities in which their students live.”

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