STEM/STEAM Curriculum Design

Solutions to Long Standing Problems

In our work with thousands of teachers in hundreds of secondary schools, as well as faculty from dozens of colleges and universities, we have heard recurring concerns voiced: too many students have low motivation and poor work habits; too many are not as well as prepared for the next level as they should be; too many don’t know the basics and cannot apply what they know. Conversely, many students have told us they find the teaching dull and the curriculum meaningless to them.

21PSTEM’s Approach

We believe the heart of any school is its core purpose, its reason for being. To engage and motivate students, a school, and each course of study within it, must have a palpable sense of purpose.

We believe that a school’s purpose must be sufficiently defined so it can guide the organization of the curriculum as a whole. We have found many school mission statements to be insufficient.

We consider the curriculum in its largest sense to be a student’s entire school experience and that each course must have what we call an “engagement proposition” so that every student knows what they are intended to learn and why.

We believe that disciplinary subjects should serve the school’s purpose and not the other way around. We regard state standards as flexible enough to permit a wide choice of curricular organization and choice of materials.

We think the “classroom” can take many forms but that learning is ultimately about a relationship between the knower, what is to be known and a human teacher, who we regard as an indispensable facilitator of that relationship.

To maximize student understanding of concepts and the retention of information, we believe subjects ought to be internally coherent while at the same time reflecting the cognitive psychology of the learner. To the greatest extent practical, there ought to be abundant opportunities in the curriculum for cross-disciplinary connections so that the curriculum affords students insight into the seamless integration of the natural world.

21PSTEM’s Curriculum Development Services

We offer a range of STEM and STEAM related curriculum services from individual course evaluation and redesign to new school curriculum development including capstones and laboratory activities.

STEM Course Curriculum Analysis and Evaluation
  1. Evaluate a school’s current math and science curriculum for alignment to the Common Core- Math, Next Generation Science Standards and state standards and assessments
  2. Evaluate a school’s current math and science curriculum for the existence of clearly articulated learning outcomes or goals and their levels of cognitive demand
  3. Analyze the current math and science curriculum for conceptual integrity and learning progressions
  4. Analyze to what extent the curriculum addresses well-known student misconceptions
  5. Evaluate to what extent units of learning are framed with an “engagement proposition” that is, a reason to learn the material
  6. Evaluate to what extent the curriculum is embedded in a meaningful content, contains interactive lessons and provides opportunities for applications and extensions
  7. Analysis alignment of math curriculum to the needs of the science curriculum and whether the science courses units are sequenced together as a whole to elucidate NGSS’ cross cutting concepts
  8. Perform similar #1-7 analysis and evaluation for online courses and web-based diagnostic, supplemental and remedial interventions
STEM Course Curriculum Redesign
  1. Redesign a school’s current math and science curriculum so that it is aligned to the Common Core- Math, Next Generation Science Standards and state standards and assessments
  2. Co-Develop clearly articulated learning outcomes or goals and with high levels of cognitive demand for math and science courses for inclusion in the curriculum
  3. Redesign the math and science curriculum for conceptual integrity and learning progressions
  4. Provide materials and options in the curriculum to address well known student misconceptions
  5. Suggest frames for units of learning to engage learners at the outset of every unit and lesson
  6. Provide options as to how curricular units can be embedded in meaningful contexts with interactive lessons and opportunities for applications and extensions, including interactive laboratories, such as Digital Fabrication Labs (FAB Labs)
  7. Provide options for aligning the math curriculum to the needs of the science curriculum and help sequence the science course units so they work together as a whole to elucidate NGSS’ cross cutting concepts.
  8. Suggest online courses and web-based diagnostic, supplemental and remedial interventions that have demonstrated effectiveness in scientific studies
New STEM School Curriculum Design – An example from Egypt

21PSTEM, in collaboration with TIES, has developed and field tested an 18-step curriculum design process for the construction of purpose-driven STEM and STEAM curricula. This process was used in Egypt as part of a $25million USAID grant to design from scratch new Model STEM [is this the correct url?  http://egyptstemschools.blogspot.com/] schools based on a set of Design Principles. The purpose of these STEM schools is to prepare students to be able to address Egypt’s ten “Grand Challenges” as a country.

The Egyptian STEM curriculum features an inquiry, theme-based design with semester long “capstone projects.” Students take integrated courses in biology, chemistry, physics, earth science and pure and applied mathematics as well as humanities and arts each semester throughout their high school careers. Although the first two schools established utilizing this model are just four years old, its students have already won numerous prestigious international awards for their projects, such as using nanotechnology for water desalination. Students are highly motivated and have no difficulty articulating what they are learning and why. See this short video clip [need url] of our Maadi STEM School for Girls.

The 21PSTEM 18-step process requires approximately two years of development and field testing. For a further description of the process, see a paper presented at the American Education Research Association, April 2014 [need url for publication]

New STEAM School Curriculum Design – An example from Philadelphia

We are now adapting the 21PSTEM-Egypt curriculum development process to the Greater Philadelphia STEAM Initiative that seeks to re-conceptualize the relationship between a city rich in informal education assets and impoverished urban schools. The goal is to develop a “place-based” integrated curriculum that blends both the informal and formal learning spaces. The STEAM concept paper is available here. [need file]

For more information about 21PSTEM’s curriculum development services, please contact

Gary R Cooper, Ed.D, gcooper@21pstem.org or F. Joseph Merlino at jmerlino@21pstem.org

For more information, please contact

Gary Cooper – gcooper@21pstem.org
F. Joseph Merlinojmerlino@21pstem.org