Development of Student Communication in STEM using Virtual PBL-Based Global Collaboration Projects

Date

2017-11-09

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Abstract

In the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) workplace, employers are seeking graduates proficient in critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication, or 21st century skills, to be competitive in emergent global markets. The latter skill of communication is of particular interest; often cited as lacking by many educators and the STEM workplace alike as the workplace becomes more connected and diverse. This demand has left educators searching for the strategies to improve students’ communication in the K-12 classroom. Considering tenets of connectivism, global collaboration provides unique opportunities for students to practice communication skills in an experiential manner due to the geographical distance that exists between classrooms. The purpose of this study was to investigate the impact of a virtual Project-Based Learning (PBL) approach using global collaboration in fifth grade, exploring the development of student communication competencies from the perception of both teachers and students. Using a mixed method case study design, multi-week collaborative PBL projects in three fifth grade STEM classrooms in Texas were conducted, two of which had global partners while the third acted as a control. Data sources included virtual classroom observations, a pre and post student survey, and teacher interviews. Using international frameworks, communication skills in STEM were broken into four competencies to code and analyze the data: understanding others’ key ideas, valuing others’ perspectives, developing active assertions, and developing shared understanding. There was no statistical significance pre to post in the self-perception of the students on their communication competencies in STEM. Results of teacher perception and observation suggest virtual PBL-based global collaboration projects developed students ability to share and understand ideas, use multiple representations to present those ideas, and be open to perspectives different than their own, when compared to the control classroom. This research suggests this pedagogical approach is a meaningful strategy for K-12 classroom teachers to develop students’ communication competencies in STEM. Further research is needed to clearly determine students’ perceptions, and how this intervention may impact communication competencies in STEM with prolonged engagement.

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Keywords

Global collaboration, Student communication, Communication in STEM, Virtual collaboration

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