Practice Brief 31 -- Topics: Instruction Background Equity ESPAÑOL Culture

How to launch STEM investigations that build on student and community interests and expertise

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Why It Matters To You
  • Teachers can help their students care about what they are learning, understand why it is relevant to their lives, and how to apply it to improve their lives and the lives of others.
  • District Staff & PD Providers should provide teachers with examples of interest-driven and locally-relevant science and engineering investigations.
  • School Leaders should support teachers in adapting curriculum to build on student and community interests and expertise and in bringing community experts into the classroom.

What Is The Issue?

Students are frequently asked to engage in prescribed science investigations that have already been fully designed in the curriculum. It can sometimes be very challenging for students to find those investigations personally meaningful. Ideally, the phenomena they study should be personally compelling. A formative assessment strategy called self-documentation can focus students’ science and engineering investigations on their personal and community interests in ways that make them more personally relevant.



Reflection Questions

  • Which curriculum units do you teach that could be connected to students’ lives outside of school?
  • How will you create a safe classroom culture where students are able to openly share aspects of their lives? How can you help them share only what they and their families are comfortable sharing?
  • You should model how STEM relates to your own cultural life. Do any self-doc task yourself before asking students to do it. What would you focus on?

Things to Consider

“There are literally millions of potentially interesting things in the world to see, to do, to learn about. But they don’t become actually interesting until we devote attention to them.”

—Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of Flow

Self-Doc Example on Microbiology & Health
(Picture shows self-doc pics being clustered for a class)

Attending to Equity

Recommended Actions You Can Take


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Work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 Unported License. Others may adapt with attribution. Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Opinions expressed are not those of any funding agency.