Bringing Invention Education into Middle School Science Classrooms: A Case Study | MIT J-WEL

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Bringing Invention Education into Middle School Science Classrooms: A Case Study

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This paper reports an exploratory case study on broadening youth participation in invention education by supporting teachers’ efforts to bring invention education into middle school science classrooms. Invention education has been suggested to be highly promising for engaging and empowering youth in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) learning; sustaining their interest; and preparing them to become future inventors and innovators. Students who are diverse by race, ethnicity, and gender, however, have traditionally been under-represented among STEM degree holders, which is ultimately reflected in who patents technological inventions. The integration of invention education into STEM coursework in students’ early years and across their years of schooling may be an effective approach for creating greater diversity among STEM graduates and patent holders in the U.S. Few studies, however, are available to inform understandings of this approach to teaching and learning. Greater insights are needed in effective approaches to teaching young people to think and work as inventors, the design and development of invention education curriculum, and the unique design considerations needed when developing invention curriculum for science classes offered during the regular school day. This study contributes to the literature by analyzing one teacher’s experiences with modifying and implementing a widely-used afterschool invention curriculum called Junior Varsity (JV) InvenTeams Chill Out! for 7th grade science classes. The teacher in this study cited his ability to present information through multiple channels, enrich students’ understanding, and produce excitement in classrooms as examples of the benefits of invention education. The study also makes visible the challenges he encountered during implementation of the curriculum, including encouraging students’ creativity, classroom management, and covering the mandated standards. Findings from this study can inform the design of invention curriculum and teacher professional development programs that aim to promote invention education in middle school.


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