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ISEP Ecosystem Spotlight: Transforming Middle School Science and Engineering Teaching



The Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Partnership (ISEP) aims to transform how science is taught in the Buffalo Public Schools. Led by the University at Buffalo (UB), the focus of ISEP is the critical middle school experiences of students in science and engineering as they transition to high school.

Teachers in high-needs schools have the opportunity to participate in hands-on labs at local universities to gain experience and ideas for classroom learning. Grad students come to the classrooms to assist with and instruct different types of labs than the teachers could otherwise do.

Watch a video interview produced by the National Science Teachers Association, and see what participants from the Director to students and teachers say about the program.

One student says that, through the program and a project to build a bridge out of pasta, he learned not only what he was good at but what he loved to do. He is now a college student studying Architectural Engineering.

ISEP is working to engage students, teachers, and parents as well as community and corporate partners in STEM education. The program works with parents in professional learning communities, where parents are able to voice their concerns and map out expectations for their children. Recently, ISEP coordinated a citywide parent engagement summit, which brought families across the city together for STEM activities.

ISEP volunteers are making a measurable impact in the classrooms. In six years, in earth science, one school went from a 17% passing rate to over a 65% passing rate!

Dr. Daniel MacIsaac said, “One important part of colleges participating with ISEP is their ability to collaborate with the museums, the school districts, and private industry; that was not traditionally a part of their mission.”

For more information on ISEP, read about the basics of the research used to develop the program here.

An interview with ISEP leader Dr. Joseph Gardella is available here.

*Note: the following published papers contain the in-depth research that ISEP is founded on:

Yang Yang, Xiufeng Liu and Joseph A. Gardella Jr., “Impact of Professional Development on Teacher Knowledge, Practice and Student Understanding of Science in an Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Partnership”, Journal of Science Teacher Education  submitted, 2017.

Shaohui Chi, Xiufeng Liu and Joseph A. Gardella, “Measuring University Students’ Perceived Self-efficacy In Science Communication in Middle and High Schools”, Universal Journal of Educational Research, 2016, 4(5): 1089-1102,  DOI: 10.13189/ujer.2016.040519.

Brooke L. Grant, Xiufeng Liu & Joseph A. Gardella, “Supporting the Development of Science Communication Skills in STEM University Students: Understanding their learning experiences as they work in middle and high school classrooms” International Journal of Science Education, Part B: Communication and Public Engagement, 2015, 5(2), 139-160, published online 1/2/2014, DOI: 10.1080/21548455.2013.872313.

Chowdhary, B., Liu, X., Yerrick, R., Smith, E., & Grant, B. (2014). Examining science teachers’ development of interdisciplinary science inquiry pedagogical knowledge and practices.  Journal of Science Teacher Education, 25(8), 865-884.