STEM Strategies in K-15 Education in Colombia

By Maria Figueroa

Universida de Los Andes

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Transforming Education from Innovation to Implementation Conference: Session F3

The Center for Research and Development in Education (CIFE) at Universidad de los Andes (Bogotá, Colombia) has launched a STEM program as a part of its mission to produce research based knowledge for the improvement of education at all levels and systems.

Since 2009 CIFE has offered a STEM specialization within the master's of education program. The STEM specialization encourages teachers to become deliberative, reflective STEM learners as well as becoming more skilled leaders of their students' STEM knowledge, skills, and thinking.

Incorporating research findings on how best to engage students with science, these programs integrate the teaching and learning of the STEM subjects (Science, Engineering, Technology, and Mathematics) by taking advantage of cross and interdisciplinary connections between the disciplines, as well as connections with other subject areas.

Currently, the STEM concentration has 25 students. Since this specialization is new, most of the projects carried out by previous graduates have focused on teaching about a specific area. However, some recent graduates have researched about the design of STEM assessments and about Science learning in Engineering. It is expected that research on STEM and the
integration among the areas will increase in the near future.

STEM at CIFE allows educators to learn first‐hand of the natural integration that occurs in these areas. This program emphasizes how STEM teachers can present an integrated curriculum, aimed at solving real‐world problems, and providing students access to 21st century skills.

CIFE also fosters STEM integration in several other ways, including the Pequeños Científicos program and training faculty in STEM areas within the Universidad de los Andes and other universities.

Pequeños Científicos ("Little scientists") is an inquiry-based K-12 teaching program that started in the year 2000. Its goal is to reform science teaching and learning in schools in Colombia, training teachers to use guided inquiry. Currently, 200 schools are participating in Pequeños Científicos and the program is being implemented in different regions of Colombia.
Several alliances between Universidad de los Andes and governmental agencies, universities, and local sponsors have been done as well as workshops for teachers to become teacher trainers, in order to increase the program and its participants.

CIFE also offers specific programs directed to teaching assistants within the Sciences School. In the past couple of years, more than 150 teaching assistants (TA's) from different Science departments have participated in workshops in which topics such as inquiry teaching and assessment, and ways of integrating different disciplines are presented in order for the TA's to
incorporate them in their teaching and assessment. In addition, every year, professors from the Sciences School received workshops offered by CIFE for improving their teaching at the University level.

Other STEM activities done at the University level, are the ones related with the Engineering Faculty. An education for engineers course is offered every year by CIFE and the Engineer school. In addition, in 2012, there will be a research project that studies Physics and Mathematics teaching for Engineers.

Therefore, CIFE and STEM faculties and departments across the university are committed to the development, research and evaluation of Integrated Teaching and Learning through STEM at the K‐18 level.