“After this program, Norwin School District has decided to begin the journey of affecting major change. Given our mission to grow lifelong thinkers through the teaching of 21st Century Skills, we recognize how a model of 3-D Learning will help us to achieve our goal. 3-D Learning as a professional development initiative is a framework for teaching exactly as we know to do, yet failed to understand how to do. Now, we have a way to put into practice the kind of teaching we knew all along is right and good for students. Our journey begins.”
- Academy for Three-dimensional Learning educator team, Norwin School District
Since 1994, ASSET STEM Education has helped educators apply and deepen their understanding of core knowledge and concepts, understand and prepare learners for 21st century workforce challenges, and tackle emergent issues in STEM.
Under a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant awarded to ASSET (1995-2001), University of Pittsburgh researchers Raghavan, Cohen-Regev and Strobel (2001) conducted a quasi-experimental study comparing 5th grade students in two cohorts of schools participating in ASSET during their National Science Foundation funded Local Systemic Change through Teacher Enhancement (LSC) grant. The first cohort had been participating in ASSET for five years, and teachers had attended an average of 70 hours of professional learning. The second cohort had been participating in the program for two years, with teachers attending an average of 30 hours of professional learning. The study used fourth- and seventh-grade science questions from the 1995 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) test to assess 1,500 ASSET fifth-grade students. They found that compared with the official TIMSS scores from the United States and high-performing countries, on questions addressing topics covered in ASSET-provided modules, ASSET fifth-grade students’ mean scores were:
- significantly higher than United States students’ scores; and
- competitive with seventh-grade student scores from high-performing countries, such as Japan, Singapore, Korea, England, Hungary and Czech Republic.
Independent evaluations conducted by Banilower and Weis (2009) of Horizon Research, Inc. investigated the impact of the ASSET program on student achievement. The study showed 4th-grade students in ASSET member schools scored statistically significantly higher in science on the 2008 and 2009 Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) than students in demographically similar comparison schools. ASSET students also scored higher on mathematics and reading. This quasi-experimental study utilized data from the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA), which had begun administering a science assessment in 4th grade in 2008. A propensity-score matching (Rosenbaum & Rubin, 1983; Rubin, 2001) was used to identify a set of comparison schools based on student and school demographic characteristics. In addition to examining the overall science scale score, the study examined student performance on two sub-scales, one comprised of nature of science items and the other of disciplinary content items (e.g., biology, physics). The study also examined student performance on the PSSA reading and mathematics scale scores as ASSET emphasizes connecting science to both literacy and mathematics, and believes that teaching practices that are effective for science translate into improved instruction in other content areas.
Horizon Research additionally conducted evaluations of Science: It’s Elementary, a five-year statewide program (2006-2011) designed and implemented by ASSET in partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Education. These evaluations showed the following outcomes:
- students achieved greater learning gains in classes where teachers based more of their instruction on hands-on science modules;
- the more professional learning teachers participated in, the greater the improvement in their students’ scores from the pre- to post-tests; and
- instructional time devoted to science increased and teachers reported a high level of interest in science.
In September 2015, ASSET completed a five-year U.S. Department of Education Investing in Innovation (i3): Validation Grant (2010-15). ASSET's advanced professional development program served 565 educators across 24 Pennsylvania elementary schools, impacting more than 38,000 students. Independent evaluator Dr. Shula Nedley found that treatment educators developed:
- increased understanding of inquiry-based science;
- improved pedagogical practices;
- increased content knowledge across science, technology, engineering and math; and
- strengthened educator collaboration; leading to
- increased student achievement in 4th grade science and 3rd-4th grade math