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Research & Publications

STEM Research Reports and Whitepaper Series

The LBJ Institute for STEM Education and Research publishes online research papers and essays that relate to project activities, contribute to expanding the body of research on STEM Education, and enhance dialogue among educators, policy makers, and community members. The STEM Research White Paper Series includes working papers, original research studies, and reflective essays by authors affiliated with the LBJ Institute for STEM Education and Research. Authors are responsible for the content, and the views and interpretations expressed are not necessarily those of LBJ Institute research staff and other affiliated researchers. Questions regarding the content of individual research white papers should be directed to the authors.

Research Reports

A-Prototype-for-NASA-Educator-Resource-Collaboration---A-Narrative-Case-Study-Examining-Development-of-EPDC-s--Balancing-Act-Spacecraft-Mass-Properties-Digital-Badge.pdf

Volume 3, Issue 6- June, 2019

By Anne Weiss, Ph.D., Ms. Amanda Cutright, Ms. Kristyn Damadeo, and Kimberly Brush Ph.D.

This paper utilized a narrative research case study design in order to document the ‘life’ history of the Balancing Act-Spacecraft Mass Properties digital badge from concept to development to publication.  The researcher utilized two data collection methods during badge development: visual observation and document analysis.  An unobtrusive observation occurred informally during a late January 2018 meeting for selected OSTEM, FTMO and PAO members, who briefed each other on Orion Ascent Abort-2 flight test mission objectives, mass properties technical knowledge, and possible solutions for effectively disseminating the project’s content and message to students, teachers and the public. For document analysis, the researcher reviewed email messages, previously produced photographs and videos, FTMO technical documents, and EPDC badge development materials from mid-spring to summer 2018.  In doing so, the author constructed a timeline of salient events, or “turning points” in the evolution of a high-quality STEM education resource, NASA STEM EPDC’s Balancing Act-Spacecraft Mass Properties digital badge, using a highly collaborative creative process. Finally, to verify the badge’s accuracy, the writer conducted member checks with representatives of the OSTEM, FTMO and PAO teams

PDF Icon Redesigning Computer Science: An Early Intervention to Combat Undergraduate Student Misconceptions

Volume 1, Issue 2 - June, 2019

By Laura Rodríguez Amaya, Ph.D., Mina Guirguis, Ph.D., and Jocabed Marquez, Ph.D.

Research regarding student perceptions of Computer Science as a field of study, and their motivation to pursue such studies as a career opportunity, reveal misconceptions and lack of motivation. These misconceptions are thought to impact students’ understanding of the discipline and lead to the decline in enrollment in Computer Science degrees. This study explores the impact of redesign in introductory computer science courses on student understanding of computer science. An introductory Computer Science course was redesigned by adopting course modules containing paradigms shifts that gave students a holistic view of the field of computer science. Student responses from a pre and post survey after the intervention were analyzed to assess if there were any changes in students’ understanding of computer science after the implementation of the new modules in the computer science foundation class. Findings show a positive impact on students’ understanding of computer science.

PDF logo NASA Educator Professional Development Collaborative Impact on Educators’ Teaching Practices in Puerto Rico

Volume 1, Issue 1 -  May, 2019

By Laura Rodríguez Amaya, Ph.D., Araceli Martinez Ortiz, Ph.D., Víctor M. Concepción Santiago, Ed.D. and Samuel García, Jr., Ph.D.

The focus on STEM teacher quality to motivate and prepare students for STEM careers have resulted in an increase number of professional development programs. In Puerto Rico, teacher STEM education professional development efforts are becoming a focus of formalized efforts. This mix-methods study looks at 1) the direct impact of NASA professional development training on educator teaching practices in Puerto Rico, and 2) if type of educator, years as educator, mode of professional development training, professional development exposure, and main subject of educators predict NASA professional development impact on educator teaching practices.

STEM Research Whitepaper Series

PDF Icon Climate Change, Water Resources and Renewable Energy: Engaging K-16 Students on Solutions for Global Challenges

Susan Kohler and Dr. Laura Rodríguez Amaya
Contact Author: Susan Kohler at susan.m.kohler@nasa.gov
Vol. 3, No. 4 - April, 2019

Although the literature in active learning is relatively new dating back to the early 1990s, it can be traced back to the early writings of John Dewey in the early 20th century (Wurdinger and Carlson 2010). Active learning is stepping out of the traditional lecture approach to teaching to provide opportunities for student to “talk and listen, read, write, and reflect as they approach course content” (Meyers and Jones 1993). Furthermore, active learning experiences can be enhanced by the intentional inclusion of relevant projects for participating learners. When students can relate to the problem at hand, learning is enhanced by students’ opportunity to tap into their own funds of knowledge and cultural wealth for a meaningful and authentic learning experience.

Citation: Kohler, Susan and Laura Rodríguez Amaya (2019). Climate change, water resources and renewable energy: Engaging K-16 students on solutions to global challenges. (STEM Research White Paper Series, Vol. 3, No.4). Texas State University: LBJ Institute for STEM Education and Research.


PDF Icon  Teachers Positively Affecting Student Learning - Continuous Engagement in NASA STEM EPDC PD can change the culture of the STEM classroom

Lester Morales
Contact Author: Lester Morales at lester.morales@nasa.gov
Vol. 3, No. 3 - March, 2019

The use of professional development programs for teachers is one strategy for facilitating changes in classroom practices. Professional development can provide opportunities for teachers to reflect critically on their practice and to construct new understandings about content, pedagogy, and learners (Darling-Hammond and McLaughlin 1995; Sparks and Hirsh 2000). In recent years, concern about the mathematics and science achievement of U.S. students has led to increasing interest in STEM education. The present literature regarding the effects of teacher PD on student achievement outcomes indicates differential effects depending on the quality and the specific features of PD provided (Capraro, Capraro, Scheurich, Jones, Morgan, Huggins, Han 2016). Staff development helps prepare teachers for the complexities of educating the millennial generation with the advanced skills and knowledge they will need for the unknown future. It helps teachers enhance their knowledge of content, so they are better able to answer students' questions, enliven lessons, and help students solve problems (Sparks, Hirsh, & National Staff Development Council, O. O. 2000).

Citation: Morales, Lester (2018). Teachers Positively Affecting Student Learning - Continuous Engagement in NASA STEM EPDC PD can change the culture of the STEM classroom. (STEM Research White Paper Series, Vol. 3, No.3). Texas State University: LBJ Institute for STEM Education and Research.


PDF Icon  NASA, Engineering Practices & the NGSS Science Standards: A Conversation with Teachers about Integrating NASA STEM EPDC Pedagogical Practices in the Classroom

Dr. Samuel García Jr. & Sara Garcia-Torres
Contact Author: Dr. Samuel Garcia Jr. at s_g182@txstate.edu
Vol. 3, No. 2 - February, 2019

Historically, serving as an educator has been regarded by many as a noble career. A career of service, generosity, and sacrifice that simultaneously is at the center of much scrutiny, debate, and power struggle. As educators working in partnership with public school educators focusing on STEM education in a non NGSS state such as Texas we have taken special interest in the effects of integrating the engineering design process. For the past four years NASA EPDC Texas State University has been fully committed to serve as a vehicle that provides exceptional NASA-based resources and intellectually rich professional learning experiences to both informal and formal STEM educators at all levels. The purpose of this work is to advance and promote high-quality, diversity focused professional development for STEM educators who will serve to educate the next generation of STEM professionals.

Citation: Garcia Jr. S., & Garcia-Torres, S. (2019). NASA, Engineering Practices & the NGSS Science Standards: A Conversation with Teachers about Integrating NASA STEM EPDC Pedagogical Practices in the Classroom (STEM Research White Paper Series, Vol. 3, No.2). Texas State University: LBJ Institute for STEM Education and Research.


Earth Science and Geospatial Literacy: Preparing Students for a Technology-based World  LBJ Institute WhitePaper - Earth Science and Geospatial Literacy: Preparing Students for a Technology-based World

Jennifer Jensen
Contact Author: Jennifer Jensen at jj41@txstate.edu
Vol. 3, No. 1 - January, 2019

Geo-literacy is the ability to make decisions based on an understanding of the systems and connections in the world.  GeoSTEM combines STEM knowledge and geo-literacy to help prepares student for our 21st century technology-based world. Although geospatial technology education is often overlooked as a STEM field, it indeed combines many components of STEM education. The challenge is moving away from viewing geospatial resources simply as tools, but more of an inclusive part of overall STEM education (Moore et al., 2012)

Citation: Jennifer Jensen (2019). Earth Science and Geospatial Literacy: Preparing Students for a Technology-based World (STEM Research White Paper Series, Vol. 3, No.1 ). Texas State University: LBJ Institute for STEM Education and Research.


PDF Icon  Nurturing Culturally Responsive STEM Educators: Assessing the Impact of NASA STEM EPDC Professional Development on Educator Pedagogical Beliefs and Practices

Samuel García Jr. and Sara García-Torres
Contact Author: Samuel García Jr. at s_g182@txstate.edu
Vol. 2, No. 7 - July, 2018

Future Aerospace-engineering and Mathematicians Academy better known as FAMA is part of a national effort funded by NASA’s Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) designed to improve early awareness opportunities for children to learn about STEM careers and opportunities through preparation. The program specifically targets historically underserved and underrepresented students in STEM disciplines.

Citation: García Jr., S., & García-Torres, S. (2018). NASA STEM EPDC Long- Duration Professional Development Leads to Positive Changes in Educator Professional Practices (STEM Research White Paper Series, Vol. 2, No.7). Texas State University: LBJ Institute for STEM Education and Research.


PDF Icon  STEM Curriculum Review Framework

Laura Rodriguez-Amaya, Araceli Ortiz and Judy Loredo
Contact Author: Laura Rodriguez-Amaya at lc16@txstate.edu
Vol. 2, No. 6 - June, 2018

NASA STEM Educator Professional Development Collaborative (EPDC) is a national, diversity-focused professional development system that leverages NASA assets and resources to achieve excellence in STEM Education.  As a cooperative effort between NASA and Texas State University, EPDC provides a multitude of face-to-face and online professional development opportunities, and NASA resources for educators in K-12, university, and community settings.

Citation: Rodriguez Amaya, L., Martinez Ortiz, A., & Loredo, J. (2018). STEM Curriculum Review Framework (STEM Research White Paper Series, Vol. 2, No. 5). Texas State University: LBJ Institute for STEM Education and Research.

Additional Resources:

PDF Icon  STEM Curriculum Review RUBRIC

Citation: Rodriguez Amaya, L., Martinez Ortiz, A.,Vomvoridi-Ivanovic, E., Sorto, M.A., Close, E., Dickinson, G., Bos, B., Bowman, A. (2015). STEM Curriculum Review Rubric. LBJ Institute for STEM Education and Research, Texas State University.


PDF Icon  LBJ Institute - NASA STEM EPDC Teams Up with ATE on STEM Education in the Future Commission

Leslie Huling and Brandon Rodriguez
Contact Author: Leslie Huling at la03@txstate.edu
Vol. 2, No. 5 - May, 2018

The Association of Teacher Educators (ATE) have joined forces with the NASA STEM Educator Professional Development (EPDC) to launch a joint ATE/NASA EPDC Commission on STEM Education in the Future. The three-year Commission was appointed by ATE national president, Dr. Karen Embry-Jenlink of Stephen F. Austin State University, and is chaired by Dr. Leslie Huling, senior advisor of the LBJ Institute for STEM Education and Research at Texas State University and project director of the NASA STEM EPDC. The Commission was launched at the 2018 ATE Annual Meeting in Las Vegas and was one of three major STEM initiatives featured at the ATE Annual Meeting.

Citation: Huling, L. & Rodriguez, B. (2018). NASA STEM EPDC Teams Up with ATE on STEM Education in the Future Commission. (STEM Research White Paper Series, Vol. 2, No. 5). Texas State University: LBJ Institute for STEM Education and Research.


PDF Icon  LBJ-Institute WhitePaper - NASA STEM Engagement Research-based School to Home Science Programming for Students and Families

Araceli Martinez Ortiz, Sara Torres Gracia, Laura Rodriguez Amaya,  and Maria Thompson
Contact Author: Araceli Martinez Ortiz at amo56@txstate.edu
Vol. 2, No. 4 - April, 2018

The NASA Family Backpack program is a curricular program designed for use by educators as an inclusive tool to assist in connecting students’ science and engineering learning experiences between school and home. Sometimes, educators face a challenge in finding effective and novel approaches for bridging student’s learning between school and home in a culturally relevant way. With this program, educators continuously engage with families by sharing student experiences from the classroom, while simultaneously valuing family’s ideas and expertise, also known as their cultural wealth.

Additional Resources:

PDF Icon  FAMA Backpack Initiative Guide

Citation: Martinez Ortiz, A., Torres Garcia, S., Rodriguez Amaya, L., & Thompson, M. (2018). NASA STEM Engagement  Research-based School to Home Science Programming for Students and Families. The NASA FAMA Backpack Program (STEM Research White Paper Series, Vol. 2, No. 4). Texas State University: LBJ Institute for STEM Education and Research.


Micro-Certification as Professional Development for STEM Educators The NASA STEM EPDC Badging System  LBJ Institute WhitePaper - Micro-Certification as Professional Development for STEM Educators The NASA STEM EPDC Badging System

Araceli Martinez Ortiz, John Weis, and Julia Merritt
Contact Author: Araceli Martinez Ortiz at amo56@txstate.edu
Vol. 2, No. 3 - March, 2018

As the number of workers in science, technology and engineering continue to grow at greater than twice the rate of the growth rate for the total workforce, there is interest in preparing a greater number of students in STEM careers. Preparation in creative, critical thinking, hands-on learning is important to prepare students for such future careers. It is also important to prepare all citizens to be technologically literate and to obtain these important skills as foundations for future learning in any career. Therefore, there is also an increased need for educators who are STEM education savvy.

Citation: Martinez Ortiz, A., Weis, J., & Merritt, J. (2018). Micro-Certification as Professional Development for STEM Educators: The NASA STEM EPDC Badging System (STEM Research White Paper Series, Vol. 2, No. 3). Texas State University: LBJ Institute for STEM Education and Research.


Leads to Positive Changes in Educator Professional Practices  LBJ Institute WhitePaper - NASA STEM EPDC Long-Duration Professional Development Leads to Positive Changes in Educator Professional Practices

Laura Rodriguez Amaya and Araceli Martinez Ortiz
Contact Author: Laura Rodriguez Amaya at lc16@txstate.edu
Vol. 2, No. 1 - January, 2018

For decades, research has been conducted on the effects of professional development in educator teaching practices, attitudes, and skills (Desimone 2009; Deglau and Sullivan 2006). Usually these studies are small case studies or based on national surveys reporting on the status of professional development (PD) activities (Deglau and Sullivan 2006; NCES 2017).  With such limited data, researchers have not been able to identify a threshold for the duration of PD that will result in sustainable positive changes in instructional practices (Darling-Hammond et al. 2017; Desimone 2009).  This paper seeks to contribute to this research agenda and shares the results of a large-scale study on the effects of long-duration STEM PD on educator professional practices.

Citation: Rodriguez Amaya, L., & Martinez Ortiz, A. (2018). NASA STEM EPDC Long-Duration Professional Development Leads to Positive Changes in Educator Professional Practices (STEM Research White Paper Series, Vol. 2, No. 1). Texas State University: LBJ Institute for STEM Education and Research.


Geospatial Technologies and Geovisualization:  Powerful Instructional Tools for Meaningful STEM Teaching  LBJ Institute WhitePaper - Geospatial Technologies and Geovisualization: Powerful Instructional Tools for Meaningful STEM Teaching

Laura Rodriguez Amaya and Araceli Martinez Ortiz
Contact Author: Laura Rodriguez Amaya at lc16@txstate.edu
Vol. 1, No. 4 - December, 2017

Geospatial technologies (GST) and geo-visualization are powerful instructional tools that can support meaningful STEM teaching and learning. These tools provide an engaging way to make content relevant, culturally responsive, and conducive to inquiry-based theory. Although research has shown technology’s positive effect towards supporting the learning of academic content in STEM disciplines, professional development (PD) experiences in these instructional tools and practices in not widespread (Lee et al., 2010; Baker et al., 2015).

Citation: Rodriguez Amaya, L., & Martinez Ortiz, A. (2017). Geospatial Technologies and Geovisualization: Powerful Instructional Tools for Meaningful STEM Teaching (STEM Research White Paper Series, Vol. 1, No. 4). Texas State University: LBJ Institute for STEM Education and Research.


NASA MUREP Educator Institutes Provide a  Strong “Multiplier Effect” in STEM Education  LBJ Institute WhitePaper - NASA MUREP Educator Institutes Provide a Strong “Multiplier Effect” in STEM Education

Leslie Huling, Michelle Berry, John Beck and Virginia Resta
Contact Author: Leslie Huling at la03@txstate.edu
Vol. 1, No. 3 - November, 2017

If NASA is to have the future scientists and engineers needed to operationalize its’ space missions, all educators in the K-20 pipeline, from elementary schools through graduate schools, must do their part to ignite students’ interest in science and help students develop the strong academic skills needed to pursue a future in STEM. Further, it will be necessary for educators to be successful with student populations who have traditionally been under-represented in STEM fields. A first step toward achieving this ambitious goal is for K-12 preservice teachers, and the educators who prepare them, to receive high-quality STEM professional development and resources to better equip these prospective teachers with the background skills and materials needed to propel students toward a future in STEM.

Citation: Huling, L., Berry, M., Beck, J., & Resta, V. (2017). NASA MUREP Educator Institutes Provide a Strong “Multiplier Effect” in STEM Education (STEM Research White Paper Series, Vol. 1, No. 3). Texas State University: LBJ Institute for STEM Education and Research.


Teachers Report on the Positive Impact of NASA Professional Development after Puerto Rico Workshops  LBJ Institute WhitePaper - Teachers Report on the Positive Impact of NASA Professional Development after Puerto Rico Workshops

Araceli Martinez Ortiz and Laura Rodriguez Amaya
Contact Author: Araceli Martinez Ortiz at amo56@txstate.edu
Vol. 1, No. 2 - October, 2017

In the spring of 2017, more than 350 teachers representing 300 schools from across the island of Puerto Rico (see Figure 1) participated in a day-long intensive NASA-based professional development (PD) workshop for STEM teachers- the NASA STEM Forums supported by NASA STEM Educator Professional Development Collaborative (EPDC).

NASA STEM Forums 2017 event drew, by far, the most comprehensive representation of teachers who have ever participated in a NASA PD event in Puerto Rico.

Citation: Martinez Ortiz, A., & Rodriguez Amaya, L. (2017). Teachers Report on the Positive Impact of NASA Professional Development after Puerto Rico Workshops (STEM Research White Paper Series, Vol. 1, No. 2). Texas State University: LBJ Institute for STEM Education and Research.


A Successful Model for Professional Development and STEM Student Engagement: The 2017 NASA Eclipse PD Phenomenon  LBJ Institute WhitePaper - A Successful Model for Professional Development and STEM Student Engagement: The 2017 NASA Eclipse PD Phenomenon

Araceli Martinez Ortiz and Barbie Buckner
Contact Author: Araceli Martinez Ortiz at amo56@txstate.edu
Vol. 1, No. 1 - September, 2017

On Monday, August 21, 2017, millions of people in North America looked up to the sky to see an amazing sight - a total solar eclipse. While many exclaimed and wondered at this phenomenon, many others felt the excitement and motivation that comes with understanding and education.

NASA EPDC made use of the numerous high-quality classroom resources developed by NASA. The EPDC Specialists, experienced and highly-trained STEM educators, then organized and delivered a multitude of rich, focused learning events aligned to scientific and mathematical concepts and instructional approaches to assist teachers to, in turn, reach their students.

Citation: Martinez Ortiz, A., & Buckner, B. (2017). A Successful Model for Professional Development and STEM Student Engagement: The 2017 NASA Eclipse PD Phenomenon (STEM Research White Paper Series, Vol. 1, No. 1). Texas State University: LBJ Institute for STEM Education and Research.