On September 23, students in both the Third and Fourth Forms took a pretest to determine the attitudes and skills that they will bring into this year regarding Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) subjects. This will be followed up with a posttest at the end of the year, and the results will be compared. The goal of administering this test and gathering the results is to understand how effective Groton’s STEM subject classes are.
The pretest contained three sections, the first of which asked for attitudes about STEM subjects. It asked for a rating based on how much the statement given was either agreed or disagreed with, providing statements from “I think we learn about interesting topics in STEM classes,” to “I would consider a career in a STEM subject.” The second section asked for a few math questions (mostly algebra) to be answered. The third and final section had two parts. Each was a different set of data that had to be graphed, either by Microsoft Excel or by hand, and then analyzed to see if there was any correlation between the data. It took most students about forty minutes to complete the pretest.
Mr. Gemmell and Mr. Prockop, who organized this assessment, said they are not using it to compare the students taking the integrated STEM Foundations courses with the students in traditional math and science classes. Instead, they are going to look at the results to see how effective all the STEM subject classes are overall, and how the students are progressing relative to the course they are taking. The goal is for students in STEM courses and traditional classes to progress at a similar rate.
The curricula of the STEM Foundations 1 and STEM Foundations 2 courses are meant to cover the same topics as in the traditional math and science courses, but in a way that weaves together the two subjects and applies them to real world scenarios. The courses are usually substituted for Geometry, Algebra 2, Biology, and Chemistry. By the time a student has completed STEM Foundations 2, he or she should be able to enter seamlessly into the traditional courses, moving on to Precalculus and a lab science. Many students in the past have gone straight into AP Chemistry.
The main difference between STEM Foundations classes and traditional math and science courses is the combination of the two subjects. STEM classes also are presumed to accelerate inquiry and discovery. STEM incorporates the use of technology and engineering into much of their curriculum, as its name suggests. There is also an element of computer programming in both courses. Students in STEM Foundations 2 have the chance to learn the design process and go through it. Design is a big part of the engineering in STEM. In STEM Foundations 1, students have recently completed a project where they found the center of the Circle.
Many students who are involved in the STEM Foundations classes enjoy them. All the students are given the chance to opt-out of the class after their first year, and almost all of them have stayed in the past few years. These two classes certainly offer different styles of learning, however, their main goal is the same as many of the other classes at Groton: to prepare students for the real world. These courses are going to evolve over the years just the same as all classes do, to better serve the students of Groton. The results of this pretest will be helpful in deciding how the course evolves.
As members of the math and science departments look through the results, they are investigating if any of the curriculum may need revision in the near future. This year is only the third year of the STEM Foundations 1 course and the second year of STEM Foundations 2 course since their establishment, and the curriculum is still very flexible as the classes are being perfected. This pretest and the posttest may influence the classes, but we are still unsure as to how. The STEM program will, however, certainly continue to grow and expand in the future.