09 SES 06 B, Investigating Outcomes in the STEM-field at Primary- and Lower Secondary School Level
Many national governments and organizations around the world (e.g. American National Science Foundation, European Union countries etc.) within their educational policies recognized the problem of lower interest for careers in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and related fields (STEM). Therefore, a big effort is made in order to encourage the interest for these fields among students (Honey, Pearson & Schweingruber, 2014).
Some of the current international projects have focus on the students’ achievement in the fields of science and mathematics, such as PISA or TIMSS (OECD, 2003; Braš Roth, Gregurović, Markočić Dekanić & Markuš, 2008; Mullis & Martin, 2013). Their frameworks influenced changes in many national science or math curricula (e.g. KMK, 2003). PISA examines mathematical and science literacy on 15-year old students, while the TIMSS study encompasses students at the age of 10 and 14. This age interval is generally taken as an important for forming attitudes about future interests and careers (Lindahl, 2007) as well as acquiring knowledge and competences necessary for following educational levels (OECD, 2003).
Recent studies on STEM achievement refer to the problem of traditionally separated school subjects involved in STEM areas (mathematics, science, biology, physics, chemistry etc). “Most studies of STEM learning consider each discipline singly and do not measure students’ ability to make connections across disciplines” (Honey et al, 2014, p. 52). Also, “assessment instruments on integration in STEM are rare because theories and tests have generally focused on content area-specific concepts and procedures” (Honey et al, 2014, p. 52). Therefore Xie, Fang and Shauman (2015) discuss the term 'STEM education' which emphasizes logical and conceptual connections across different STEM fields. In this view, the STEM education is considered as a whole, not as a set of separated subjects. However, the idea of simply integrating STEM subjects in school practice is complex and should be considered carefully. According to meta-analysis about integrated mathematics and science instruction conducted by Hurley (2001), there are fewer positive benefits of integration for mathematics outcomes compared to science outcomes. The results indicate that it is difficult to enhance good mathematics achievement just by integrating the math into another discipline.
These findings imply that we should take the integration into account carefully, focusing on logical and conceptual connections across different STEM subjects. Cognitive abilities which connect STEM disciplines are problem-solving, spatial ability, numeracy, comprehension, reasoning, knowledge acquisition, abstract thought, and connection-making (Xie et al, 2015). Cognitive ability is strongly associated with students’ school performance, particularly in math and science tests (Deary, Strand, Smith & Fernandez, 2007).
The results of Croatian students on PISA and TIMSS assessments show the low or average results in science and mathematics (Braš Roth et al, 2008; NCVVO, 2012a; 2012b). Also, the achievement of Croatian students in science and mathematics is low in comparison to their achievement in other school subjects (Burušić, Babarović & Šakić, 2008). These findings motivated us for examining the STEM achievement of Croatian 10, 11 and 12-year-old students. This is the period when the Croatian students change from lower to middle compulsory education. Valid STEM achievement instruments and especially psychometric validated integrated STEM knowledge tests are still missing in Croatia.
With the purpose to adequately measure STEM knowledge in Croatian primary schools, we designed three STEM tests, following the above-mentioned outlines for STEM education and the analysis results of current curriculum resources (MZOS, 2006; 2010). The aim of this research is psychometric validation of this newly designed STEM tests for grades 4, 5 and 6.
Braš Roth, M., Gregurović, M., Markočić Dekanić, A. & Markuš, M. (2008). PISA 2006. Prirodoslovne kompetencije za život. Zagreb: Nacionalni centar za vanjsko vrednovanje obrazovanja - PISA centar. Burušić, J., Babarović, T., & Šakić, M. (2008). Vanjsko vrednovanje obrazovnih postignuća u osnovnim školama Republike Hrvatske: Učenici 8. razreda, školska godina2007/2008., istraživački izvještaj. Zagreb: NCVVO/ Institut društvenih znanosti Ivo Pilar. Deary, I.J., Strand, S., Smith, P. & Fernandes, C. (2007). Intelligence and educational achievement. Intelligence, 35, p. 13–21. Honey, M., Pearson, G. & Schweingruber, H. (Eds.) (2014). STEM Integration in K-12 Education: Status, Prospects, and an Agenda for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academic Press. Hurley, M. M. (2001). Reviewing Integrated Science and Mathematics: The Search for Evidence and Definitions From New Perspectives. School Science and Mathematics, 101(5), 259-268. KMK - Beschlüsse der Kultusministerkonferenz. (2003). Bildungsstandards im Fach Mathematik für den Mittleren Schulabschluss. Beschluss vom 15. 10. 2004. Retrieved from http://www.kmk.org/fileadmin/Dateien/veroeffentlichungen_beschluesse/2003/2003_12_04-Bildungsstandards-Mathe-Mittleren-SA.pdf (1.1.2017) Lindahl, B. (2007). A longitudinal study of students' attitudes towards science and choice of career. In NARST annual conference, New Orleans. Mullis, I.V.S. & Martin, M.O. (Eds.). (2013). TIMSS 2015 Assessment Frameworks. Chestnut Hill, MA: TIMSS & PIRLS International Study Center, Boston College. MZOS - Ministarstvo znanosti, obrazovanja i športa (2006). Nastavni plan i program za osnovnu školu. HNOS. Zagreb: Ministarstvo znanosti, obrazovanja i športa Republike Hrvatske. MZOS - Ministarstvo znanosti, obrazovanja i športa (2010). Nacionalni okvirni kurikulum za predškolski odgoj i obrazovanje te opće obvezno i srednješkolsko obrazovanje. Zagreb: Ministarstvo znanosti, obrazovanja i športa Republike Hrvatske. NCVVO - Nacionalni centar za vanjsko vrednovanje obrazovanja (2012a). TIMSS 2011. Izvješće o postignutim razultatima iz matematike. Zagreb: Nacionalni centar za vanjsko vrednovanje obrazovanja. NCVVO - Nacionalni centar za vanjsko vrednovanje obrazovanja (2012b). TIMSS 2011. Izvješće o postignutim razultatima iz prirodoslovlja. Zagreb: Nacionalni centar za vanjsko vrednovanje obrazovanja. OECD - Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (2003). The PISA 2003 assessment framework – mathematics, reading, science and problem solving knowledge and skills. Preuzeto s http://www.pisa.oecd.org/dataoecd/46/14/33694881.pdf (1.6.2016.) Xie, Y., Fang, M. & Shauman, K. (2015). Stem Education. Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 41, pp. 331-357, 2015.
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