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Cycle 6 (2017 Deadline)

Integrating ISLE in integrated science instruction to improve science teachers’ abilities on STEM education

PI: Irwandi Irwandi,, Syiah Kuala University
U.S. Partner: Eugenia Etkina, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Project Dates: December 2017 - November 2020

Project Overview

Since the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) was firstly administered, Indonesia has consistently performed poorly in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). In 2015, Indonesia was ranked 63rd for mathematics and 62nd for science out of 70 countries. Current results of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) also show that the abilities of Indonesian students to apply and reason in science and math are below average. One reason could be that common teaching practices in Indonesia rarely promote critical thinking skills. Therefore, improvement is needed in teacher content knowledge and skills in STEM education. Responding to this challenge, in late 2013 Indonesia launched a new curriculum promoting critical thinking, called “Curriculum 2013” or K-13. K-13 introduces the scientific approach as a teaching methodology following five stages: observing, questioning, experimenting, rationalizing, and communicating. The Indonesian government has invested a great deal in training teachers in K-13, but many problems have been encountered in implementation, as the teachers were not ready and lacked sufficient pedagogical content knowledge to integrate the scientific approach into their instruction.

Investigative Science Learning Environment (ISLE), an approach developed by U.S. partner Dr. Eugenia Etkina of Rutgers University, improves students’ scientific abilities by bringing actual science practice into the classroom. In ISLE students learn by observing real phenomena, analyzing patterns, devising explanations, and testing them experimentally (Etkina, 2015). Inspired by taking an ISLE training workshop from Dr. Etkina in 2015, the PI Dr. Irwandi and his team will use their PEER support to develop ISLE-based integrated science instruction to improve teachers’ abilities in STEM education. In the initial phase, they will apply ISLE instruction in integrated science courses at the secondary school level in Indonesia, and later they will apply it in the lab instruction component of a university-level basic physics course.

Summary of Recent Activities

From the time the project was launched in December 2017 through the end of the first reporting period in March 2018, Dr. Irwandi and his colleagues worked hard to lay the groundwork for their upcoming planned activities. They purchased computer hardware, software, and other equipment and supplies and began their project website, which is available at In early January they also launched the STEM Research/Study Center of Syiah Kuala ( Outreach and collaboration meetings were conducted with numerous researchers, provincial and district educational boards and other government agencies, and NGOs, and in late March a partnership agreement was signed with the Aceh Provincial Education Board. The PEER researchers also began a series of focus group discussions on Curriculum 2013 and more general STEM education issues and developed survey instruments to be used with teachers and students. In addition, they began work on the ISLE-based STEM modules they propose to implement and test.

6-052 STEM Center Launch6-052 Focus Group Discussion
Dr. Irwandi speaks at an event to launch the STEM Center at Syiah Kuala University (photos courtesy of Dr. Irwandi).Participants in a focus group discussion organized as part of the project.

Work will continue on these and other project activities during the spring and summer of 2018. The team will administer the two main survey instruments they developed and tested: (1) a survey on students’ perceptions on the use of cutting-edge technology in science education and (2) a survey on identification of science teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge of science, especially in physics. A second focus group discussion will also be organized and additional work will be done on the ISLE-based module for the study of physics. Team members will conduct two training workshops for students, teachers, and staff, one on the use of the LabView software they obtained for the project and the other on creating videos for making more engaging ISLE-based STEM modules for use with students. Thanks to supplemental Partner Cooperation funds provided by PEER, Dr. David Brookes, a colleague of U.S. partner Eugenia Etkina, will visit Indonesia to work with the PEER team from July 5 through 23. His busy schedule will involve participation in focus group discussions in both Banda Aceh and Bandung, a major national workshop on integration of ISLE in science instruction in Banda Aceh, and field data collection activities in Sabang.

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