The goals of the ISS-Above in Schools project were to:
1. Enhance the ISS-Above device into a classroom teaching tool
2. Develop a curriculum for middle school (grades 6-8)
3. Evaluate the impact of the device and curriculum on student learning, attitudes, and motivation toward science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects and careers
The curriculum is mapped to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and the “5 E’s of science instruction” (Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, Evaluate). It includes:
- 10 lesson plans
- 8 solo/group activities
- Materials in both English and Spanish
In January 2018, we sent out ISS-Above in Schools packages. Each package had the ISS-Above device, cables and other accessories, a classroom poster, a Quickstart Guide, and a newly developed Teacher’s Handbook with the curriculum. We sent packages to 88 public schools, including 53 Title 1 schools, and two private schools. We also send packages to 10 science centers and museums, but these informal educational settings were not included in the evaluation.
The main instruments for evaluation were pre- and post-participation surveys: 2,722 students and 23 teachers completed a survey before starting the curriculum, and 912 students and 25 teachers completed a survey afterward. The evaluation period was February through June 2018.
Reviewing Evaluation Results
Qualitatively, the evaluations showed that students and teachers enjoyed their ISS-Above units. Most participants responded positively to the curriculum, but some teachers found the curriculum too challenging for their middle school students. The students struggled the most with the lesson about orbits, which was the lesson that relied most heavily on mathematics. The surveys also provided information about which lessons the teachers used this year and which ones they plan to use next year.
Quantitatively, the surveys were analyzed to measure:
- Student learning about the ISS and related topics
- Students’ perception of, interest in, and motivation toward STEM, especially space science and the ISS
The analysis yielded the following statistically significant results:
1. Students showed increased knowledge about the ISS. For specific questions based on concepts covered in the curriculum, the percentage of correct answers in the post-participation surveys far exceeded the correct answers in the pre-participation surveys.
2. Students showed increased confidence in mathematics.
3. Students showed increased interest in STEM careers in 8 out of 12 fields (such as environmental science, biology, aerospace engineering, Earth science, and energy).
4. Students showed positive attitudes about having the ISS-Above in their classroom and seeing how their teachers used it.
What’s Next for ISS-Above?
We’re looking at how to find better ways of teaching the tough subject areas and create content that can support a student’s growth in those areas even though they’re challenging. We are working to make the math more accessible to middle school students. This does not mean watering down the math; it means thoughtfully restructuring the lessons to walk the students through the math in small steps. We also want to create more team-based activities.
We are planning a follow-up study in the 2018-2019 school year. We’re excited and looking forward to providing more materials to the teachers and possibly developing lessons for other grades!