Project Title: Seeds of STEM: The Development of an Innovative Early Childhood STEM Curriculum
Topic and Goal: Early Learning Programs and Policies, Development and Innovation goal
Purpose: The purpose of the project is to develop a much needed STEM curriculum for Head Start classrooms, through collaboration between Head Start teachers and higher-education experts. It is expected that high quality STEM curriculum will contribute to an increase in student STEM readiness.
Setting: The project will take place in Head Start programs in urban areas in Massachusetts.
Sample: Pilot study participants will include 16 preschool teachers and 270 preschool aged
children (3- to 4-years old). The majority of the child sample will be from low-income families.
Intervention: The Seeds of STEM 8-lesson curriculum will be developed by a team of engineers, STEM pedagogy experts, a cognitive psychologist, and eight Head Start classroom teachers. Each lesson will be developed through 10-week iterative process that is based on an initial assessment of teacher needs and relies on continual feedback from 34 classroom teachers regarding feasibility of implementation. Curriculum development will include testing and development of formative and summative student assessments and development of curriculum fidelity measures. The curriculum is intended to build teachers’ knowledge and support their ability to teach young children the engineering design process.
Control Condition: All teachers will receive a one-day professional development (PD) session and a list of STEM learning outcomes. Post-PD, intervention teachers will receive the curriculum, but control teachers will not. Intervention students will receive curriculum-based lessons but students of control teachers will receive lessons developed by the control teachers.
Research Design and Methods: The pilot study is designed as an underpowered efficacy study. Each of 16 classrooms will be randomly assigned to an intervention or control group.
Key Measures: Implementation feasibility will be assessed via a researcher-created survey and a review of videos of attempts at implementation by teachers. Fidelity of curriculum implementation will be measured using a researcher-developed survey and video observation protocol and data from formative assessment of students. The pilot study will include classroom-, teacher-, and child-level data collection. The Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) will be used to collect data on classroom practices. To assess teacher self-efficacy, we will use the Teacher Efficacy and Attitudes Toward STEM Survey, Personal STEM Teaching Efficacy and Beliefs –Engineering Survey. To assess teachers’ perceptions of engineers we will follow the Draw An Engineer protocol. We will use researcher-created assessments of teacher content knowledge and of knowledge of how to teach the engineering design process. The team will develop formative and summative assessments of children’s use of engineering design process vocabulary, execution of problem solving design steps, and ability to transfer knowledge and skills.
Data Analytic Strategy: During curriculum development, the researchers will conduct descriptive analyses of teacher survey responses and conduct qualitative analyses to code for issues of curriculum quality and usability. To determine curriculum impact on teacher and student outcomes, comparative quantitative data from the pilot study will be analyzed using parametric and non-parametric techniques, and comparative qualitative data will be analyzed through an iterative process of induction and interpretation. Regression analyses will be conducted to determine the extent to which the moderating variables measured through CLASS contribute to student learning outcomes. For implementation fidelity, descriptive analyses will be conducted for quantitative data and induction will be used to code and interpret qualitative data.
This study is supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through Grant R305A150571 to Worcester Polytechnic Institute. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent views of the Institute or the U.S. Department of Education.