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Online Technologies in STEM Education

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STEM education has become the normative base for teaching natural sciences, physical-mathematical disciplines and engineering sciences in a number of coun-tries. This technique has become the basis for a series of reforms for secondary and higher education in the USA, Australia, and some other countries. The meth-od involves the integration of training in the fields of mathematics, technical spe-cialties, scientific research and engineering. The widespread use of this technique and its active research throughout the world over the past ten years is due to the need to improve the quality of technical education and the ever-increasing rate of technological progress. This research is devoted to studying the impact of the STEM education introduction for 3rd year students of technical and pedagogical departments for improving the quality of training. The study involved two groups of students from two universities in Russia and China. The sample consisted of 316 people from each university, and the same amount was for control group to verify the results. The two study groups underwent training using two different STEM methodologies - “amalgam” and “interconnect”, which involve varying degrees of integration of various academic subjects within the coordinated STEM education. Both study groups used online-education integrated with STEM that helped to significantly increase the involvement of students in the learning pro-cess. All three groups passed pre-tests and post-tests on the learning outcomes before and after the introduction of the STEM education. The average grades re-ceived by students on studied disciplines show that the STEM education increas-es the academic performance with the statistical error of the study exceeded. The introduction of the “interconnect” method, which implies a greater integration of subjects during the training, showed provably higher results than the “amalgam” method. However, this study cannot be used to assess the quality and capabilities of each of these methods, since such an assessment requires additional research.
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PaperOnline Technologies in STEM Education
Online Technologies in STEM Education
https://doi.org/10.3991/ijet.v15i15.14677
Zi-Yu Liu ()
GuangXi Normal University, Guilin, China
51995812@qq.com
Elena Chubarkova, Marina Kharakhordina
Russian State Vocational Pedagogical University, Ekaterinburg, Russia
AbstractSTEM education has become the normative base for teaching nat-
ural sciences, physical-mathematical disciplines and engineering sciences in a
number of countries. This technique has become the basis for a series of reforms
for secondary and higher education in the USA, Australia, and some other coun-
tries. The method involves the integration of training in the fields of mathematics,
technical specialties, scientific research and engineering. The widespread use of
this technique and its active research throughout the world over the past ten years
is due to the need to improve the quality of technical education and the ever-
increasing rate of technological progress. This research is devoted to studying the
impact of the STEM education introduction for 3rd year students of technical and
pedagogical departments for improving the quality of training. The study in-
volved two groups of students from two universities in Russia and China. The
sample consisted of 316 people from each university, and the same amount was
for control group to verify the results. The two study groups underwent training
using two different STEM methodologies - “amalgam” and “interconnect”,
which involve varying degrees of integration of various academic subjects within
the coordinated STEM education. Both study groups used online-education inte-
grated with STEM that helped to significantly increase the involvement of stu-
dents in the learning process. All three groups passed pre-tests and post-tests on
the learning outcomes before and after the introduction of the STEM education.
The average grades received by students on studied disciplines show that the
STEM education increases the academic performance with the statistical error of
the study exceeded. The introduction of the “interconnect” method, which im-
plies a greater integration of subjects during the training, showed provably higher
results than the “amalgam” method. However, this study cannot be used to assess
the quality and capabilities of each of these methods, since such an assessment
requires additional research.
KeywordsOnline education; online STEM courses; STEM education.
1 Introduction
The phenomenon of the STEM education dates back to the early 1990s and then
developed rapidly over two decades. Nowadays, STEM education has become a
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methodological base for studying the disciplines of the natural science in most countries
of Europe, many countries of Asia, Australia and the USA [1-4]. The abbreviation
STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) indicates the main direc-
tion of disciplines’ integration to the learning process. The rapid technological devel-
opment and the spread of practices previously considered as extremely rare and spe-
cialized require integration of such techniques [5]. Let us say, robotics, gene research,
and other specialized scientific research are now available not only for students, but
schoolchildren as well [4-6]. The introduction of network technologies, cloud-based
services, big data, as well as virtual and augmented reality into pedagogical practice
has dramatically increased learning opportunities. It became possible to teach not only
faster and deeper, but also to implement the concept of lifelong learning, as well as
complete immersion in the learning process and the availability of training not only in
classes, but at any student’s whereabouts [5,7]. The high need for specialists able to
solve real-world technology problems immediately after graduation, without additional
training or practice, has raised the question of preparing adequate technical personnel
very sharply.
Initially, STEM was considered as a learning system for real practice, focused not
on more or less abstract knowledge, but on the creation of a natural practical experience
for students [1, 8]. A face-to-face training with the teacher played main role in this
process [2,8]. If in the traditional practice, teaching is performed mainly in classrooms,
then in this case students work more closely with the teacher, who conducts the stu-
dent’s practical actions, monitors the correctness of his steps, monitors the observance
of safety rules and shares personal experience of using theoretical scientific knowledge
[2,9]. A huge potential of STEM augmented by online teaching methods has been iden-
tified already in the first decade of the method existence. On the one hand, the remote
learning, basically, seems to contradict this method [10, 11]. On the other hand, it al-
lows increasing the effectiveness of training and the number of students [12]. This is a
critical issue for many countries, as there is a need in a sufficient number of specialists
and the demand for them in the economy is very high.
The training of teachers who would be able to use this method in practice is one of
the main problems of the STEM education. If the problem is easy to solve for universi-
ties [13], then for school education the training of STEM teachers is now one of the
most important tasks in many countries [5,14]. Special training systems for teachers,
international knowledge and resources sharing funds are being created for quickly ex-
change of teaching materials, course design, skills training system, etc. [13, 15, 16].
Researchers point out that in reality the STEM methodology came from successful peo-
ple living in a prosperous society. However, this method must be introduced in condi-
tions of rather limited resources, lack of time and teachers’ necessary skills and
knowledge to create and design student-training programs [5]. According to Radloff
and Guzey [17], video information plays an important role in advancing the process of
studying and improving the STEM methodology. The online courses can include the
use of YouTube videos, as well as special videos posted in the cloud-based resources
with limited access, recorded classroom lessons according to the STEM methodology,
also, teacher’s comments and solutions to their tasks online in Records [18]. All these
types of video materials are widely used in structured STEM programs developed and
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PaperOnline Technologies in STEM Education
implemented by European and American universities [19, 20]. Researchers note that
the video materials are the most popular and easy to perceive by the latest generations
of students who are already accustomed to this format of presenting information in gen-
eral on the Internet [21].Videos act as an incorporating aspects of visible personal ex-
perience into the learning process [17].
More and more research is devoted to the role of VR and AR in STEM education,
especially when it is conducted online [10, 22]. AR acts as markers and tags in the
performance of educational tasks and the study of objects from personal experience.
Thus, AR even allows doing what is impossible to do “face to face” with the teacher in
the classroom: to observe the subject from the inside or in chemical and atomic bonds;
to monitor the ongoing physical process in slow motion at different stages; to study a
subject or process from different perspectives simultaneously [3,18]. Likewise, AR
mechanisms make it easy to implement hints in the process of completing tasks or find-
ing answers to a task in the real world. They facilitate collaborative interaction in solv-
ing real problems and anyways are perceived better than the traditional slide as a way
of delivering educational information [22]. Virtual reality makes it possible to com-
pletely transfer all aspects of gaining real experience and even do the task yourself (with
such technical capabilities) in the virtual world (op. Cit.), However, many researchers
indicate that VR mechanisms are even dangerous for STEM as simulate all real expe-
rience. Thus, the experience quality completely depends on 1) the quality of the simu-
lation, 2) its accuracy under all the factors involved, and 3) the unpredictable nature of
an individual perception, which will affect the obtaining and consolidation of the expe-
rience [23]. Both VR and AR make it possible to transfer the STEM online to a much
greater extent and with better results.
Some controversial questions in online STEM courses are no clear answer yet. Par-
ticularly, a number of studies indicate that e-learning is less effective for groups of
students at increased risk of underperforming or expelling from the educational process
and their chances of getting a degree are reduced [24,25]. Such risk groups include
women, “people of colour” and Afro-American students, representatives of non-tradi-
tional social groups, students from low-income families, and those who are the first
university-student in a family [12, 25, 26]. Moreover, according to the available statis-
tical data, the representatives of these risk groups make up from half to the vast majority
of students from a number of institutions in the USA, some European countries, and
many Asian countries [12]. Most of those students try to obtain technical specialties,
and for them STEM is the prevailing teaching method that may provide results of the
highest quality. A number of studies show that the critical factors for increasing the
effectiveness of training for these risk groups are financial assistance and the availabil-
ity of the right teaching methods that increase motivation and support learning levels
that are not assumed by regular courses [12, 21, 27]. “Scaffolding” is a separate area
among such teaching methods, there [28, 29], that separates of the educational process
into smaller stages and more active support student when moving from one such stage
to another. Studies show that this method gives a noticeably relevant increase in the
quality of education and reduces the number of risk groups’ representatives who leave
before graduation or receive lower grades than they could.
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2 Materials and Methods
The study involved two groups of students from Kazan Federal University (Russia)
and GuangXi Normal University (China). The study groups equally consisted of 316
students each, to eliminate the influence of national and state affiliation from the study.
Each group equally included third-year students from both universities of typologically
close departments, namely natural history and physical-mathematical sciences. A con-
trol group included 316 students of a similar age equally from both universities that
they were not trained with the STEM education.
Both study groups used the STEM education and almost completely similar educa-
tional and research materials, and teaching methods. The use of two STEM techniques:
“amalgam” and “interconnect” was the only difference between the study groups. Thus,
“amalgam” technique implies intersections between disciplines only when they natu-
rally meet with each other in solving real problems. “Interconnector” technique empha-
sizes the connections between different disciplines, included to STEM program, and
each lesson indicated related connections and topics for other disciplines, even if they
did not meet directly in practice [7].
The online STEM courses are created by the most affordable means of online com-
munication in accordance with the structure published and developed by a number of
researchers and based on the existing programs of teaching engineering, physical-math-
ematical and natural sciences at the above-mentioned universities. No changes to these
programs were made in order to maintain the structure of training and the implementa-
tion of university programs. The training materials and the work of the teachers who
accompanied the online course were structured to stick to the main principles of STEM
[4]:
Forming of a visual representation of the studied material, firstly possible to remem-
ber, and reproduced in the laboratory or classroom;
Creating an intersection between different subjects, for which joint recordings of
various subjects’ teachers were used with a parallel explanation and providing the
principles of various devices, the use of mathematical calculations to prepare exper-
iments or develop real operating devices, describe natural phenomena, etc.;
Providing as much information as possible on each topic for students’ independently
choose of the training form that considers the personal training characteristics of a
particular student [30].
As an online digital environment for the STEM, there was used educational materials
in the form of annotated teaching aids, divided into training segments with teacher com-
ments, special educational tasks as text files, graphic information and three-dimensional
models of the objects available for viewing in a browser. The educational information
was available as on a special server of each university reachable for students, as well as
on the public cloud-based servers Drop Box and Google Drive. All materials were di-
vided into topics of individual lessons, and teachers provided direct links and indicated
logical connections that allowed students to immediately switch to educational materi-
als of other subjects that complemented as part of STEM-coordination. Training
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materials were available on both a computer and mobile devices. Direct contact with
the teacher, as well as special means of academic performance rating, throughout the
study, were performed with the help of social networks, in particular Facebook. Social
networks and specially created network groups were used for classes and experiments
discussing; creating temporary groups of participants working on a project; generating
online reporting on student performance and participation in educational and project
groups; for personal consultation with a teacher or sharing interesting student materials
found by students. Teachers, as well as senior students and team leaders were constantly
moderating the learning process, materials posting, and discussions for excluding un-
necessary files and messages that are not related to the educational process in the com-
munication flow.
The study lasted for a month and a half (30 academic days), involving a full range
of online services and opportunities to continue successful learning outside the class-
room. Students were using the online STEM courses mainly to get a wider involvement
in classes, to get access to more teaching materials, or to study missed laboratory classes
and practices.
The use of the STEM education showed a number of problems, already at the initial
stage, and the solution was precisely in online-education. Firstly, there were a number
of practical limitations affecting a wider involvement of students in the learning process
and in the personal experiments, also the use of materials, the preparation of laboratory
samples, etc. An insufficient amount of materials, teaching means, instruments and
tools for large groups was such a limitation, which at the same time made teaching
groups of more than 10-12 people very challenging. Therefore, the STEM learning pro-
cess in the classroom anyways was in a form of collaborative learning, the group's gen-
eral participation in the experiment or working under sample. Thus, some students had
no possibility of direct, participation, and could only observe. Majority of students
could participate only in part of the actions sequence provided by the educational ma-
terial. Significant difficulty was also in the proper time use for explanations, consider-
ing the individual characteristics of all students, different types of perception and speed
of thinking and memorizing. It was quite difficult for teacher to accompany each stu-
dent and the group as a whole with the active involvement of the entire group members.
If during a regular classroom collaborative learning the group can share tasks and ex-
perience, then for STEM practice the teachers’ participation is critical, as they control
the result achievement, as well as, the observance of safety and other aspects of the
experience.
As many researchers indicate [5, 11, 15, 17], one of the main problems in imple-
menting STEM is teachers’ lacking of necessary training, skills and experience of using
this methodology. The training materials of new formats are to be created. Those could
be video recording of experiments or the process of working samples creating, etc.
However, it requires specific skills that not all teachers have.
The use of e-learning acted as a buffer that damped all the problems described above,
allowing students to connect the experience gained in the classroom with the experience
of more thoughtful and detailed perception of the same material later. Thus, the already
acquired experience was streamlined and its fixation was more durable.
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The results of the study were assessed using the pre-test and post-test, carried out
before and after the study. Tests were carried out in the form of an average assessment
received by students of both study groups, as well as a control group on STEM program
subjects. The grades obtained by each student were averaged based on the usual assess-
ment methods for both universities involved. Grades for disciplines were brought to-
gether and the arithmetic mean was calculated, and then put on a ten-point scale for the
convenience of reflecting the results and simplifying their subsequent processing. The
adequacy of such an assessment method is confirmed by the previously coordinated
programs with a homogeneous assessment system and thematic dividing throughout the
academic semester used for different subjects.
To conduct a pre-test, the results of academic performance for a similar period of
study time were used (one and a half months, 30 academic days, the same number of
topics studied in the same set of subjects).
3 Results
The data on pre-tests and post-tests of all the studied groups were summarized in one
graph per each group in order to make the result of using the STEM technique more
graphically noticeable. It should be especially noted that the majority of students in all
three groups receive overall average grades that is widely spread in pedagogical prac-
tice. The pre-test results of all three can be considered identical - the differences be-
tween groups were not beyond the statistical error. Thus, all factors affecting academic
performance for all three groups were similar and had no different. Natural discrepan-
cies between individual performances in groups were virtually erased by averaging
grades of studied subjects and when assessing the overall average score for the entire
program. Meanwhile, there can be noticed more staidly manifest over longer time
changes, which affect all disciplines simultaneously [7].
There is significant difference in the results for groups of students who received var-
ious grades on pre-tests and post-tests. Thus, Figure 1 shows that the difference in the
pre-testing and post-testing for those who received an average score of 34 points and
78 points are within the study error, while the largest differences for groups were 56
points and 910 points. If the second result can be explained by rapid increase academic
performance with applying the STEM, then an increase of average scores is not clear
to the end. It might be the result of the “migration” of those who received lower grades
on a pre-test, and improved academic performance through e-learning. This hypothesis
is supported as the number of those received the lowest scores critically and relevantly
decreased (Figure 1, group 12 points).
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Fig. 1. Results of the pre-test and post-test for the STEM “amalgam” group
The results presented in Figure 2 are especially important as somehow reflect the
differences between two types of STEM education. The graph shows a group for which
the interaction between STEM subjects was much higher and teachers constantly drew
and emphasized interdisciplinary parallels. We consider that the difference in results
lays in changes of training quality in all groups, they are relevant, and are not within
statistical error. Thus, the use of the STEM “interconnector” methodology increased
the average performance of all subjects in the study group. Moreover, the number of
students who received an average grade below 7 points decreased in all selected, and
the number of students with the highest marks increased. Thus, the constant accentua-
tion of interdisciplinary relations might stimulate the study and automatic memorizing
of material related to not only the studied subject, but also the coordinated. Meanwhile,
there were no really radical changes in the quality of training. The most noticeable re-
sults are for the group with highest grades (from 15.19% in the pre-test to 28.16% in
the post-test, which shows an increase of 81.06%) and for group with 3-4 points
(13.61% of all participants in the pre-test, 6.96% in the post-test, the total increase is
95%). However, such significant results are partly due to the method of calculation, as
both groups are very small in comparison to others., The difference in academic per-
formance for the groups with average grades of 56 points and 78 points tends to
statistical error, although it goes beyond its (30.64% and 22.16% for the two groups
mentioned).
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Fig. 2. Results of the pre-test and post-test for the STEM “interconnector” group
According to Figure 3, the results of the knowledge testing in the control group
showed the distribution of grades extremely close in both tests. The differences between
the two tests for the entire group are mainly within the statistical error. Thus, we can
conclude that the level of knowledge assimilation and academic performance in the
control group was stable and approximately and also it was not affected by any addi-
tional factors. Therefore, the discrepancies in the pre-test and post-test in the studied
groups are associated precisely with the use of the STEM education that influenced the
change in performance for both groups.
Fig. 3. Results of the pre-test and post-test for the control group
Figures 1 and 2 show that the largest number of studied groups students had average
grades, according to averaged indicators for the entire set of STEM subjects. However,
a comparing of the data obtained, both studied groups had a significant shift in the peak
of the graph (percentage of students) towards higher grades. There was no critical
change in the quality of training, the tendency of most students to average scores is
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persistently maintained, but the number of students received high marks significantly
increased.
4 Discussion
STEM education is widely used for deepening the teaching of technical subjects.
However, there is currently no single opinion on the essence of STEM technique. Some
researchers associate it with contextual teaching and learning as experiential learning
and mixing basic skills with real-life training [26]. The STEM range of problems cannot
be understood in a mono-disciplinary context as it requires studying the impact of the
methodology immediately on a group of disciplines. Therefore, our study as well as
most researchers tries to evaluate students’ average performance, rather than the effec-
tiveness of a particular discipline [5]. The STEM methodology has been developing
from the concept of STEM education, used to determine the quality of different sub-
jects’ involvement in the teaching process for technical specialties and training scien-
tists. This term was understood as the ability to apply scientific content for solving real
problems. Now, STEM is generally understood as a methodology for problem-oriented
learning [4]. STEM was designed to bridge the gap in pedagogy between theory and
practice in solving increasingly complicated and complex tasks.
Among the definitions given to this technique, a number of more complete ones can
be distinguished. Determining the essence of the methodology in this case is very im-
portant for the formation of practical training programs and determining their effective-
ness. Particularly, STEM is a problem-solving method, based on the principles of sci-
entific thinking, mathematical concepts and procedures, and also incorporates engineer-
ing strategies for applying appropriate technologies. A general definition of STEM in-
dicates that it is a “phenomenon of an interdisciplinary nature with a very blurry ideo-
logical background and a specific core oriented toward solving problems in the real
world”. Thus, very numerous variants of STEM methods are used, which can be divided
according to the principles of methodology. This separation is based on the depth of
integration of various subjects within the training - from a very superficial as with
"amalgam" (the intersection of different sciences only where they have common points)
and to full integration, when all disciplines are studied as a whole, and learning is inte-
grated and coordinated through the sharing of knowledge from all areas to solve real
problems. Therefore, STEM is often considered a part of problem-oriented teaching
methods [7].
Meanwhile, we were not able to find studies comparing effectiveness of different
STEM approaches, possibly due to its high complexity and the lack of clear criteria for
assessing the integral interaction between different components of a single disciplines’
complex. Attempts to create a single STEM program have not yet been made, and teach-
ers can use the approaches that they themselves choose and the ideology that they con-
sider more acceptable for their work. This problem requires further study and careful
development of individual methods and technologies within the STEM education,
which will provide a number of optimal ways to create specific training programs in
the future.
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The STEM is usually implied as the use of a number of specific elements in educa-
tional programs: active learning strategies; full students’ involvement strategies; train-
ing based on experience and personal work; statement of open tasks and training ques-
tions with on correct answer or solution; integration with the real life needs, modern
practice [19]. Some studies also emphasize that the effectiveness of STEM as a holistic
methodology largely depends on the correct system of the final assessment of student
results [19].
Researches on online STEM courses have three main directions. Firstly, researchers
are trying to highlight some common grounds for the effectiveness of such programs
and on their basis develop a universal methodology or structure that would allow cre-
ating working and easy-to-implement training sequences [3,11,23,30]. Secondly, meth-
ods for assessing the real effectiveness of such programs are being studied, in particular,
evaluation teachers’ work, whose role in STEM is especially great [2,20]. Thirdly, there
is a discussion about the boundaries of using online STEM courses and how actually
such an approach can be applied to this teaching methodology [6,26]. According to the
majority of researchers, online-education is not able to completely replace work in the
classroom and laboratory, and attempts to teach mainly online lead to low effectiveness,
rapid dropout and students usually do not achieve their academic goals [25]. Mean-
while, online-education improves the quality of class collaboration that naturally occurs
while working on a project within STEM education and simultaneously provides an
opportunity to extend the time of interaction between participants through online com-
munication and information exchange [11,18]. Online-education does not replace the
main elements of STEM, but makes easier sharing of the information between the par-
ticipants and the teacher in the learning process. It also speeds up the response and
feedback to student actions, makes it possible to conduct wider contextual research,
which is very important for solving real problems and implementing of existing pro-
jects.
5 Conclusion
The study was devoted to studying the impact of online STEM courses on the stu-
dents’ academic performance from two universities. The study was also to determine
the presence or absence of relevant differences in learning outcomes when applying
two different STEM methodologies, so-called “amalgam” and “interconnect”. These
problems are practically not studied, despite the extremely active development of re-
search in the field of STEM, around the world. The study was carried out using a pre-
test and a post-test of academic performance in two study groups who were using online
learning for STEM according to the two indicated methodologies. Meanwhile, the tech-
nique was not applied for the control group. The study showed unambiguously higher
learning outcomes for groups with applying the STEM methodology; moreover, rele-
vant differences in the quality of two methodologies were noticed. The group trained
with the “interconnect” methodology demonstrated higher results.
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The study can be used by teachers for their practical activities within selected STEM
methodology, and can also serve as the basis for further studies of various programs of
integrated teaching in natural sciences using this method.
6 Acknowledgement
The first author was partly supported by Project of National Social Sciences Foun-
dation of China (No.19BYY098); Innovation Project of GuangXi Graduate Education
(No. JGY2018020; JGY2019031).
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iJET Vol. 15, No. 15, 2020
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PaperOnline Technologies in STEM Education
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8 Authors
Liu Zi-Yu is from School of Foreign Language, GuangXi Normal University, Gui-
lin, China.
Chubarkova Elena Vitalevna, PhD, Director of the Institute of Information Sys-
tems, Russian State Vocational Pedagogical University, Ekaterinburg, Russia.
Kharakhordina Marina Viktorovna is from Russian State Vocational Pedagogical
University, Ekaterinburg, Russia.
Article submitted 2020-04-06. Resubmitted 2020-05-23. Final acceptance 2020-05-25. Final version pub-
lished as submitted by the authors.
32
http://www.i-jet.org
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This review identifies 20 studies pertaining to teacher professional development for STEM education. Using a mixture of content analysis with reference to the TPACK framework, and open and axial coding, a descriptive model was constructed. The model describes the connection of the various categories of variables associated with teacher professional development for STEM. How content, pedagogy, and technology are featured in current STEM research are treated as properties of the core phenomenon of teacher professional development for STEM. Design considerations for future research are presented. The study recommends that design thinking, epistemic fluency and technological pedagogical engineering knowledge could be the anchors of future research.
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This chapter describes the development and integration of engagement-rich, short-immersion field experiences using international and online settings in STEM education areas, specifically science and technology. Many STEM programs in higher education settings are now utilizing online and international formats to add value to their programs and to give students unique delivery options that are outside of the traditional college classrooms. Online and international settings create challenges and opportunities to the way that field experiences must be organized and managed. This chapter addresses how some programs are meeting these challenges and using online and international program development to their advantage as STEM fields continue to emerge.