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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 Website: 

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.

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.

Summary of Recent Activities

Following are the main activities carried out by PI Dr. Irwandi and his colleagues during the first quarter of 2020:
  • February 8: The Unsyiah STEM Research Center collaborated with Unsyiah Lab High School to hold a Mini-Workshop on Making STEM + C Modules for Physics, Chemistry, and Biology Teachers. Dr. Irwandi and co-PI Dr. Rini Oktavia provide materials and explanations to teachers related to experiments that can support the classroom learning process through the ISLE-Based STEM approach.
  • February 11: The Aceh Education Office invited the Unsyiah STEM Research Center team to hold a joint meeting, during which they expressed their desire to work together in preparing the STEM + C module for high school students. This meeting resulted in the creation of a working group consisting of six representatives from the Unsyiah STEM Research Center, the two best science and mathematics high school teachers in Aceh, and seven staff members from the Aceh Education Office. The group held its first meeting on February 20. Some activities they planned were to have been carried out in March – May, but they had to be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • February 13: The head of the Aceh office of the Bank of Indonesia invited the Unsyiah STEM Research Center team to attend a meeting with the head of the Banda Aceh City Education and Culture Office and the Head of Foundations and Staff of the Sunflower School. The meeting focused on seminar activities related to character education for Acehnese elementary and junior high school students. The activities also had to be postponed to due pandemic-related social distancing restrictions. 
  • February 24: The Unsyiah STEM Research Center team attended the inauguration of the workspace of the Indonesian Realistic Mathematics Education Research and Development Center (P4MRI). During this time, the PI and his colleagues established good cooperation with P4MRI to provide training to science and mathematics teachers in Aceh.
  • February 25: The head of the Sabang City Education and Sports Service (Desiyana, M.Pd) visited Unsyiah to sign the Cooperation Agreement related to implementation of STEM Education in Sabang City.
  • March 3: Dr. Irwandi visited the office of Unsyiah’s Vice-Rector 1 (Prof. Marwan) to discuss allocation of space on campus that could be used for the STEM Display Room. Bearing in mind that the major state-owned company PT. Pegadaian has agreed to fund the purchase of STEM learning equipment for Aceh's educational system, special space for these purposes is necessary.
  • March 10: Dr. Irwandi attended the IMT-GT Uninet STEM Meeting at Putra Malaysia University (UPM). This activity is a regular meeting held to facilitate STEM collaboration among Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. At the meeting, Dr. Irwandi promoted the activities to be carried out in October 2020, which include the South East Asia-STEM (SEA-STEM) International Conference and The STEM Carnival Week. These activities led by the STEM Unsyiah Research Center will involve many researchers and STEM scholars. At the meeting, Dr. Irwandi invited IMT-GT Uninet STEM network members to participate.
Since the beginning of its development, the Unsyiah STEM Research Center has focused on improving the quality of education in Aceh. The PI and his colleagues have met, held hearings, and collaborated with the Department of Education both at the provincial and regional levels. Many cooperation agendas, including making modules and workshops for PAUD (early childhood education) and SMA (high school) teachers will be conducted in the future. They have also approached and collaborated with State-Owned Enterprises (BUMN) through their Corporate Social Responsibility programs. Their input and support are very beneficial for the STEM programs, and the STEM Research Center is increasingly becoming known among government officials and teachers. The cooperation so far has begun to show results. The Aceh Education Office has invited the Unsyiah STEM Research Center to prepare four science and mathematics modules for high school students. Also, the Banda Aceh City Education and Culture Office strongly supports STEM + C activities starting from Early Childhood Education. As noted above, PT. Pegadaian has agreed to provide supporting equipment for STEM + C learning for Acehnese students and has also prepared funds for the training of teachers related to STEM + C to other Aceh regions. So far, teachers have begun to recognize STEM Education, and specifically the ISLE-Based STEM learning approach has begun to be adopted in the learning processes at schools. The teachers have reported that the ISLE-Based STEM approach has given them a solution to teach science and mathematics in a fun way that still reinforces conceptual understanding.

Although some activities have had to be postponed and many agencies closed beginning in March due to the coronavirus situation, the STEM Research Center team has focused on continuing to work online from home. For the time being, their public teacher training sessions are postponed, so instead the researchers are focusing on creating STEM experimental tools, writing scientific articles, and preparing websites, flyers, and other materials for the SEA-STEM International Conference and the STEM Carnival Week in October 2020.

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