Motivating Students' STEM Learning Using Biographical Information

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Janet N. Ahn
Myra Luna-Lucero
Marianna Lamnina
Miriam Nightingale
Daniel Novak
Xiaodong Lin-Siegler


Science instruction has focused on teaching students scientific content knowledge and problem-solving skills. However, even the best content instruction does not guarantee improved learning, as students’ motivation ultimately determines whether or not they will take advantage of the content. The goal of our instruction is to address the “leaky STEM pipeline” problem and retain more students in STEM fields. We designed a struggle-oriented instruction that tells stories about how even the greatest scientists struggled and failed prior to their discoveries. We describe how we have gone about designing this instruction to increase students’ motivation and better prepare them to interact and engage with content knowledge. We first discuss why we took this struggle-oriented approach to instruction by delineating the limitations of content-focused science instruction, especially from a motivational standpoint. Second, we detail how we designed and implemented this instruction in schools, outlining the factors that influenced our decisions under specific situational constraints. Finally, we discuss implications for future designers interested in utilizing this approach to instruction.



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Ahn, J. N., Luna-Lucero, M., Lamnina, M., Nightingale, M., Novak, D., & Lin-Siegler, X. (2016). Motivating Students’ STEM Learning Using Biographical Information. International Journal of Designs for Learning, 7(1).
K-12 Classroom Implementation


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