As a second-grade teacher at Krisle Elementary in Robertson County, Tenn., Trevecca graduate student Shelby Johnson saw a need. Her students needed more training in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
“I have a passion for STEM and feel that type of teaching and learning promotes critical thinking and problem-solving,” Johnson said. She is one of 43 educators across the state who participated in the Tennessee STEM Innovation Network (TSIN) Rural STEM Collaborative Program for 2018-2019, which promotes inquiry learning, problem-solving and challenges students to think critically.
Johnson was recently able to combine her love for STEM learning with the skills she’d honed as a student in Trevecca’s Master of Science in instructional design and technology program. Johnson, who graduated in May, created a project-based learning unit for her students, focusing on habitats and animal adaptations.
The learning experience for students included two zookeepers from the Nashville Zoo, bringing five animals to show students. A vet tech from the Robertson County Animal Clinic visited and explained how animals have specific adaptations and needs.
The class also Skyped with animal biologist, Dr. Travis Hagey from Mississippi.
Johnson’s work has been highlighted by both the Tennessee STEM Innovation Network and the Robertson County School System.
Instructional design is the process of creating educational materials, modules or lessons for an endless variety of learning settings. Trevecca’s program helps graduate students master the principles of instructional design, something Johnson says played an instrumental role in developing a learning system that worked for her students.
“A key take-away from this graduate program was learning the instructional design process,” Johnson said. “When designing instruction, it is imperative that the target audience’s needs are analyzed, learning objectives are designed, prototypes are developed, the training is implemented, and there are clear methods to evaluate the success of the instruction.”
LaMetrius Daniels, program director, says that’s exactly what the program is designed to do.
“This program allows students to [get] real-life experiences,” Daniels, said. “The bigger perspective is we are teaching our students to communicate in a global space.”
The demand for instructional designers is rising, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which projects employment in the field to grow 11 percent in the next seven years, faster than the average for all occupations. That growth stems in part from the fact that instructional designers are employed across industries and educational settings—from classrooms to corporate trainings. As states and school districts put greater emphasis on student achievement data, schools may turn to instructional designers to develop stronger curriculum and improve teachers’ effectiveness.
Overall, Johnson says the unit helped engage her students while also improving their vocabulary and critical thinking skills.
“Their academic vocabulary, scientific knowledge, and STEM career awareness were all deepened and enlarged,” Johnson said. “They were challenged to think in the abstract, support that thinking with scientific facts and work as a collaborative team.”
With the flexibility of Trevecca’s online program and innovative curriculum, Johnson was able to do all of this while completing her degree, something she values about Trevecca.
"When considering different graduate programs, Trevecca's online class options were certainly convenient for me as a working professional,” said Johnson. “The instructional design and technology program allowed me to learn innovative strategies that I could apply to my workplace."
Learn more about Trevecca’s fully online master’s program in instructional design and technology.