Teaching the natural-social subject on integrative stem approach for the first grade students

Abstract. STEM education has attracted a lot of concerns. Many papers have studied on STEM education in different disciplines or at a different level of grades. This work addresses the issues in teaching the natural-social subject for the first grade student in Vietnam primary school with the methods of survey and observation. A solution was suggested to implement the teaching plan on the engineering design-based framework which was developed to be consistent with the features of the first grade level. The result shows prospects of the integrative STEM education, even to the first grade students. The study of STEM disciplines and the methodologies to satisfy the students should be considered.

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HNUE JOURNAL OF SCIENCE DOI: 10.18173/2354-1075.2017-0131 Educational Sci., 2017, Vol. 62, Iss. 6, pp. 74-81 This paper is available online at TEACHING THE NATURAL-SOCIAL SUBJECT ON INTEGRATIVE STEM APPROACH FOR THE FIRST GRADE STUDENTS Duong Phu Viet Anh1 and Nguyen Hoai Nam2 1Faculty of Primary Education, Hanoi National University of Education 2Faculty of Technology Education, Hanoi National University of Education Abstract. STEM education has attracted a lot of concerns. Many papers have studied on STEM education in different disciplines or at a different level of grades. This work addresses the issues in teaching the natural-social subject for the first grade student in Vietnam primary school with the methods of survey and observation. A solution was suggested to implement the teaching plan on the engineering design-based framework which was developed to be consistent with the features of the first grade level. The result shows prospects of the integrative STEM education, even to the first grade students. The study of STEM disciplines and the methodologies to satisfy the students should be considered. Keywords: STEM education, primary education, first grade, engineering design-based, integrative STEM, STEM integration 1. Introduction Education for students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) has received increasing attention of scholars and stakeholders in many countries [3]. STEM education contributes to the development of a STEM-capable workforce and the interest and engagement in STEM of students [10]. Students engage in the practices, cross-cutting concepts, and core ideas of science in order to develop critical thinking and consuming [5]. Moreover, students’ motivation, achievement and problem-solving as well as understanding of the various roles of engineering in the society was enhanced with the inclusion of engineering experiences within the STEM curriculum, contextualizing mathematics and science content [8, 16]. The concerns about STEM integration come from the two frameworks as the merging of the disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics [14] or the integration in the classroom where students engage in rich contexts by going through multiple entry point and engineering design experiences [12]. In the second framework, students can learn from failure, standards-based mathematics and science content through student-centered pedagogies that promote team-work and communication skills. Whereas in the first framework, the integrated STEM was defined as a range of experiences with some degree of connection (between STEM subjects). The experiences may occur in one or several class periods, or throughout a curriculum; they may be reflected in the organization of a single course or an entire school, or they may be presented in an after or out-of-school activity (p.31 in [10]). Received date: 10/3/2017. Published date: 15/5/2017. Contact: Nguyen Hoai Nam, e-mail: namnh@hnue.edu.vn 74 Teaching the natural-social subject on integrative STEM approach for... Engineering has the advantage to students, especially in the primary/elementary school as they enjoy with hands-on activities and creative works [15, 17]. The use of engineering design as a context for learning within science and mathematics is a common trend while as different levels of integration is applied between the STEM disciplines [2, 12]. Because engineering is interdisciplinary in nature and requires the use of mathematical and scientific knowledge in order to solve the types of real-world problems, it makes connections between learning and the real world [2, 12, 16, 18]. Engineering design-based experiences help students to deepen conceptual understanding in other disciplines, like science [1, 11]. This accounts for the selective engineering design experiences as an organizing framework for structuring learning experiences within STEM, in several curricula [1, 2, 5]. Though the use of engineering design as a context for integrated STEM learning is promising, the application at the primary level must be concerned. The shortage of experiences in engineering instructions, the lack of the materials and resources needed for effective implementation of integrated STEM instruction and the limitation of content knowledge within engineering and STEM accounts for the under prepared and overwhelmed feeling of primary teachers [2, 6, 12]. A solution is implemented that provides teacher the literacy of STEM integration and engineering design [2, 12, 14]. In this work, we use the engineering design-based approach to the first grade student in primary school and investigate the affection to the students’ interest and outcomes for a science topic. 2. Content 2.1. Methodology The authors use the engineering design-based approach for teaching a topic belonged to the natural-social subject on STEM education. The topic is related to the botany. The feature of topic was analysed to evaluate the proper with STEM education. Two surveys of interview modality have been applied. The first survey (pre-survey) of students attitudes about learning was implemented before applying the lesson with STEM integration. The survey helps the authors to find out the possibility of dealing with integrated STEM toward the first grade student. The second survey (post-survey) supplies the information of the experimental lesson on STEM integration approach. We provided further context of the study and overview of methods in the following sections. 2.2. Context of the study The study was implemented during the time the first author had carried out the practical teaching at the 1A class of Hoang Dieu primary school (which locates in Ba Dinh district, Hanoi, Vietnam), as a mission before leaving university. The first author had six weeks for the practical activities but six lessons for teaching. The plan teaching was obeyed to the curriculum. The teaching scripts had been accepted by the supervisor at the primary school before being carried out. With the permission, the first author had only one lesson for dealing with STEM integration approach. 2.3. Participants The participants (n=49) were divided into 12 groups. They were the first grade, mostly at 7 years old and learning together for over a semester. Inspire of active characteristic, the students usually were forced to learn a normal lesson with a sticky position. In this sense, it seemed easier for the teacher (supervisor) to manage the whole class in the traditional modality. 75 Duong Phu Viet Anh and Nguyen Hoai Nam 2.4. The features of the natural-social subject and the botany topic for the first grade level According to the curriculum, the natural-social subject comprises three components: humankind and health, society and nature. The botany is a part of the natural branch, which is familiar with the first grade students’ knowledge and experience. Students have experienced by observing pictures in the textbook and objects in the environment that they live. With the guidance of the teacher, students utilize knowledge and skills. However, the guidance should be realized step by step with the difficulty of question prospered to the ability of students. Two groups of methodologies are used for teaching the natural-social subject depended on the difficulty/complex of problem toward students or even on the sense of the teacher. 2.5. The pre-survey results The results showed that 100% interviewed students like experimental lessons, whereas 91% students like model tools. Almost of them prefer to work collaboratively and evaluating partner in the team works. They like to study the natural-social subject and working actively. This result is aligned with other studies [15, 17] which brings about a basement for applying an integrated STEM lesson. During the time for observation on others’ lessons, the author found the limitation of using active methods which focus on students. Teachers often use the familiar teacher-based as presentation, question-answer, explanation. . . The lack effectiveness of group-based revealed as only one or two students distributed mainly to the achievements of the group while others did privately. The others of active learning as problem solving-based, experiments-based, experience-based. . . rarely exploited which put students in the boring states. The analysis provided grounds to employ the active learning in implementation of the engineering design-based framework. 2.6. The engineering design-based framework In K–12 education, engineering design has come to be seen as the central practice for students engaged in engineering activities [4, 10]. The basic approaches include the following steps (not necessary in order) (p. 45 in [10]): - Identify the problem or objective - Define goals and identify the constraints - Research and gather information - Create potential design solutions - Analyze the viability of solutions - Choose the most appropriate solution - Build and implement the design - Test and evaluate the design - Repeat all steps as necessary - Communicate the results The framework is the basement for designing a lesson on STEM integration approach. This lesson is called “Playing as a city planner”. The script is described briefly as follows: 76 Teaching the natural-social subject on integrative STEM approach for... A lesson script according to the engineering design-based approach. Playing as a city planner. Topic: Challenge for city planner. - S: Role of plants for city environment. - T: Skills of using scissors, cellophane tape, soft silicon pipe - E: Skills to cut the soft silicon pipe and stick it without touching plants - M: Skills of measurement, estimate numbers of the soft silicon pipes accordance with the road length Description: Students working in group mode with 4 members. The materials for a group include: - A hard cover in A4 size decorated with several plants - A cellophane tape - A measure tape - A small ball - A soft silicon pipe Task (define goals and identify the constraints): Build a road from A to B. There are several old trees in the space between A to B. A road must be built without cutting tree and the least expensive. Requirements (identify the problem or objective): Make a road with the soft silicon pipe attached to hard cover. The ball can roll from A to B. Activity 1: Design a plan. - Private work phase: + Make a draft of road (draw road on the duty paper) + Measure the length of designed road + Estimate and compare the length of designed road with the soft silicon pipe - Team work phase: Choose the best or the most appropriate design. Possibly need the guidance of the teacher Activity 2: Carry out the plan and do experimental - Team work phase: Build and implement the design. If failure, thinking to choose another solution. - Possibly need the guidance of the teacher. Activity 3: Evaluate and disclose - Team work phase: revise works - Communicate to the teacher - The teacher evaluates the team works and encourages student Because the first grade students are new bees for the complex problems which are not familiar, they need the guidance of the teacher. The teacher needs to demonstrate first to help students identify the problem or objective. The demonstrative draft as follows: After having observation, students can do solely and in group, with the management for the whole class activities of the teacher. 77 Duong Phu Viet Anh and Nguyen Hoai Nam Figure 1. A demonstrative draft prepared for students’ implementation 2.7. The results and the post-survey 2.7.1. The results According to the authors’ observation, most students felt like STEM activities. They seemed concentrated on activities by group or solely. Students understood the challenges of STEM and remembered what related to the subject studied. They could deal with measurement tools and the implementation of design. All groups had finished their works in time. The 24 duty papers were delivered to groups (two papers for each group). 8/24 papers were drawn with 1 road, 13/24 papers were drawn with 3 roads, while 3/24 drafts were not used. Twelve hard covers were reversed for groups, while as 5/12 groups fulfilled the requirements. Others mistakes were: road not connected the cities properly (5/12), road touched on plants (4/12), road not the best solution (shortest – 1/12). Though the achievements at different levels, students had a chance of experience in engineering design and working process which brought about the interest to them. These findings are aligned with other studies [6, 8, 10, 15] and supported with the post-survey data. Figure 2. Sample mistake products of students’ implementation 78 Teaching the natural-social subject on integrative STEM approach for... 2.7.2. The post-survey Twenty two students were interviewed after having finished the lesson. Twenty one students (95%) stated that they liked integrated STEM lesson. One kept normal attitude because he was not allowed joining with team by the team leader though he wanted. Therefore he felt sad with group working. 100% students would like to enjoy more STEM lessons because they thought STEM lesson interesting and active. Nineteen students (86%) understood the role of plant to environment. Twenty students (91%) remembered and liked tools and materials to build the road. 100% students preferred to evaluate partners’ work. One student felt not satisfied because he had not received the clear guidance of the teacher. Figure 3. Working in group 2.8. Discussion In our study, the frameworks were developed in correspondence with the first grade students in primary school, according to the engineering design-based approach. The results of the two surveys to students showed the issues of current teaching with the natural-social subject and the positive side of teaching a science topic based on the engineering design. Students were introduced to an engineering design task through a brief design which described a client with a real-world problem that needed solving. The problem was familiar with them, thus it made a simple and clear concept of topic studied. The process was modified to include more teacher guidance for the first grade students which supported by other studies [7, 10]. The engineering design-based for STEM integration, thus, supposed reasonably to study in expansion [2, 6, 12]. The issues of teaching with the natural-social subject or subject of STEM education can be explained by the limitation knowledge of STEM field. Because integration of STEM content is difficult, the primary teachers have to face a great challenge [10, 13]. With the lack of STEM subject matter expertise and experiences, the teacher feels high anxiety and low self-efficacy which lowers the teaching effectiveness and makes students less interest in STEM subjects [13]. The other reasons may not be mentioned in other studies than Vietnamese researches that the different size of a traditional class. In other studies, a normal class has less than thirty students which gives a convenience for applying the student-centered methods in a lesson, whereas the amount of students reaches nearly or above fifty in a class which is not rare in Vietnam. This may account for the issues of teaching STEM subjects, in part. Many scholars argue that it is necessary to provide teacher the literacy of STEM integration and engineering design [2, 9, 12, 14]. It is necessary for the teacher 79 Duong Phu Viet Anh and Nguyen Hoai Nam to analyze the integrative STEM topic which helps to identify the prerequisite and the skills related to component field of STEM as in the table number one. Working in groups is the new modality of learning to the first grade students. The teacher should give guidance’s for student to work and control activities of group. However, the leader of a group should be selected by members of group. The interesting reveals that the democratic is essential, even to the first grade student. Because they have ability to evaluate others, therefore, students in a group seemed unsatisfied with the team leader chosen by the teacher. The experiment shows that students need a process of practicing working in group as well as collaborating efficiently. The details of instruction are not shown directly in the frameworks. However, the teacher should concern about the guidance and the management for the students at lower grade. The teacher as well as the student-teacher or pre-service teacher needs more time to guide students learning and working in active learning mode as the playing role. . . The limitation of the practical duration on STEM integration reduces the effectiveness of students’ outcomes and methodology. This weakness will be overcome for the next practical to concrete the best results. 3. Conclusion The study has proved the effectiveness of teaching the natural-social subject via the botany topic for the first grade student in the primary school. The work was implemented on the engineering design-based framework which was developed to be consistent with the features of the first grade level. Our findings show the prospects of the integrative STEM education, even to the first grade students. In order to concrete the good results, the experiences of students with the active learning modal as working in team under the reasonable guidance of the teacher is recommended. Not only the content of the STEM disciplines but also the methodologies should be addressed to satisfy the learner. REFERENCES [1] Bethke Wendell, K., & Rogers, C. , 2013. Engineering Design-Based Science, Science Content Performance, and Science Attitudes in Elementary School. Journal of Engineering Education, 102(4), pp. 513–540 [2] Brophy, S., Klein, S., Portsmore, M., & Rodgers, C. , 2008. 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