nCASE trains Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) teachers in an augmented Inquiry and Design (I&D) method of instruction. This approach emulates the scientific method in the classroom. A student-centered approach, it emphasizes inquiry (science and mathematics) and design (engineering) elements. Teachers learn to become classroom facilitators and co-researchers in a communal process (with their students) of learning through inquiry and experimentation. This process is showing considerable promise as a method for captivating and engaging students' inquiring minds.
Although nCASE focuses on I&D, it advocates a balanced instructional program that is adaptive and inclusive in tone and substance. Subject content matter is covered in order to retain the integrity of the curriculum and to prepare teachers/students for advancement to higher grade levels. I&D is an instructional method; it does not dictate subject matter or curriculum. It can be deployed selectively in the manner that local teachers and school systems deem most beneficial for their students. The overall objective is to create student enthusiasm for STEM subjects with an ultimate goal of motivating some of them to become members of the diverse STEM workforce.
On-site I&D orientation and training is delivered via three, four, and five-day in-service workshops across the nation. It also provides intensive, week-long training sessions each summer. Training and follow-up programs incorporate the following:
- Customized approach developed with the input and expertise of the school district or agency sponsoring the training;
- instruction for pre-K through grade 12 teachers (and students), including those from underrepresented populations;
- Department of Defense scientists and engineers (S&Es) or industry partners visiting the classroom setting, giving teachers and students direct access to experts in the practice of the scientific method;
- project-based instruction, presenting students with real-life problems to examine and solve;
- introduction to the most current and best materials available for supporting I&D instruction;
- curriculum that is integrative, showing how to use and incorporate various current technologies and electronic media (including educational gaming and 3D printing) to engage students with tools they understand and value; and
- culminating classroom demonstration projects in which teachers, S&Es, and students deploy the scientific method to: solve real-life problems, engineer experimental designs and products, and report findings as actual scientists and engineers.
Inquiry entails investigation in one or more areas of science, and design relies on engineering principles and practices to devise solutions to real-life problems. In turn, science and engineering depend on mathematics and technology. Viewed from this perspective, the various STEM areas are integral to a coherent problem-solving process. Witnessing how the several areas interrelate, students are better able to develop an appreciation of the role and contribution of each. Their education becomes relevant to their daily lives and future careers.
From its inception, nCASE has been dedicated to using the best instructional materials as they are developed. It examines and field tests new products as a third party objective reviewer before adopting materials for its purposes. nCASE's programs and associated learning modules are aligned to the standards of the states in which they train. Thus, training supports and facilitates state expectations in the STEM areas of instruction. Training modules include Materials World Modules (MWM), DimensionU (formerly Tabula Digita), and a wide variety of nCASE-NDEP STEM learning modules. For specific information about each, utilize the icons below:
STEM LEARNING MODULES
All programs share the common feature that they embed and support the use of I&D in the classroom. When possible, they incorporate the support of STEM experts from the DoD, private industry and academia. The purpose of nCASE's ongoing search for high-quality materials with demonstrated success or promise is to keep its trainees current regarding the best products available in the marketplace. To this end, it forges working relationships with creators, both public and private.
Role of Technology: Another effective and indispensable tool of STEM teaching is technology, which nCASE uses extensively in its training programs. nCASE's lead instructors demonstrate how to integrate digital technology into the STEM disciplines. Social media, 3D printers, education "games," iPads/tablets, digital cameras, cell phones, smart boards, and Vernier probes are examples of a few of the tools woven into the training program. In general, today's youth are comfortable with all aspects of technology. These “millennials” are technically literate like no generation before them. STEM teachers who continue to conduct their classes in the same way as they had in the past are foregoing powerful tools for keeping their students excited about learning.
Support System: nCASE's support system includes a variety of services designed to insure that the teacher trainees are effectively using the new products and tools they have learned and, in consequence, acquiring the literacy they need to keep pace.