Supporting Active Learning with IQ, EXP, and V5 STEM Labs

Research1 is clear that active learning is an effective way to narrow the achievement gap in schools. It is also clear that implementing active learning can be challenging2, and teachers and schools need to be provided with support. VEX Robotics has created STEM Labs so teachers, no matter their experience level, can successfully implement active learning through high-quality STEM materials and lessons.

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STEM Labs function as “plugin” lessons that can fit into your existing curriculum. You can also utilize multiple labs in sequential order to create a unique, extended learning experience for your students. The labs are designed to promote collaboration and exploratory learning. Students enjoy hands-on-learning activities that allow them to apply technology, science, math, and engineering skills as they enjoy a 21st-century learning experience. Our commitment to providing teachers and schools with the support they need to implement STEM education is one of the reasons why our educational materials are used by millions of students around the world and are found in well over 17,500 educational institutions.

STEM Labs

As STEM and Computer Science teaching increasingly use educational robotics, teachers need an integrated solution to blend curriculum, programming software, and hardware. VEX's STEM Labs provide user-friendly instructions for quick setup, with multiple problem-solving approaches to spark student creativity. The Labs offer structured lessons, activities with real-world links, stress-free implementation materials for teachers, and align with core skill standards, based on a solid foundation of educational research.

  • Real-World Connections3: Allow students to understand the scope and nature of the problem by relating activities to real-world scenarios.
  • Foregrounded4: Content and exercises are targeted, precise, and narrow.
  • Differentiated5: Students can progress at their own instructional pace.
  • Scaffolded6: Carefully designed materials that scaffold difficult tasks.
  • Student Self Assessment7: Supports students’ ownership and agency in their learning

Real-World Connections

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Each STEM Lab connects lessons to real-world scenarios, offering insights into careers and robotic applications that align with the taught concepts. This context allows students to relate what they're learning to real-world examples.

Foregrounded

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Every STEM Lab is designed with a targeted approach to lesson content.

  • Learn section introduces key ideas
  • A video is included to show how the Learn ideas apply to the Practice activities. 

This not only grounds the Lab's activities but also emphasizes the direct relevance of the skills students are learning.

Differentiated 

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The Labs provide differentiated learning, allowing students to progress at their own pace. Video instructions ensure teachers don't need to be subject experts and offer flexibility for students to rewatch as needed. This approach allows each student to grasp the concepts at their pace, catering to different learning styles.

Scaffolded 

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The Labs are scaffolded, introducing a few skills at a time and challenging students to apply them once learned. The lessons culminate in a competition where students can showcase their developed skills.

Student Self Assessment

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Each Lesson prompts students to reflect on their learning and self-assess their understanding. This fosters a sense of ownership and engagement in the learning process. To learn more about why student self assessment is incorporated into STEM Labs, see this article.

STEM Labs Teacher Portal

The greatest impact on learning is the daily lived experiences of students in classrooms, and that is determined much more by how teachers teach than by what they teach.8 Dylan Wiliam

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Because STEM is not just a discipline but also a pedagogy9, giving teachers the necessary support materials is just as important as providing them with the lessons. The STEM Labs Teacher Portal equips teachers with essential support materials, mirroring traditional subject support systems. The Portal includes planning, teaching, and assessment tools. Integrated teacher notes offer guidance on student organization during robot building, ensuring each student is engaged. These notes also help structure open-ended challenges within each Lab.

Teacher Notes

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One potential challenge of teaching robotics is how to organize students while they are building their robot. Here, teacher notes are provided to help provide structure for how the students are to be organized. Unfortunately, group work in school can become one person working while the rest watch. These teacher notes help the teacher to prevent this from happening.

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Teachers are being asked to do more every single day. Most teachers feel that a major part of their job is cultivating a strong, personal relationship with their students. Kids often don’t learn10 from teachers they don’t like. But for a moment, think about how difficult that really is. While important, this is only the first step. Teachers also have to consider hundreds of decisions made daily about how best to tailor their instruction to the individual needs of each student. When considering all of this, it is important to also consider whether it is fair to also ask teachers to create their own instructional materials. Teachers should be spending the majority of their time on high-value activities. These include developing those relationships with their students, communicating all of the great things going on in their classroom with parents and the community, collaborating with peers, and just taking some time for yourself, so that you can end the school year with the same enthusiasm that you started the year with.

Great teaching is not the same thing as great instructional designing. This belief drives VEX to provide such resources. Visit VEX Professional Development Plus (PD+) to learn more about the design of  STEM Labs and connect with VEX Experts. 


1  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Mar 2020, 117 (12) 6476-6483; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1916903117

2  Matthew DeLong PhD & Dale Winter (1998) ADDRESSING DIFFICULTIES WITH STUDENT-CENTERED INSTRUCTION, PRIMUS, 8:4, 340-364, DOI: 10.1080/10511979808965909

3 Michael Simkins & Karen Cole Increasing Student Learning Through Multimedia  Sept. 2002 Projects

4  EBEN B. WITHERSPOON, ROSS M. HIGASHI, CHRISTIAN D. SCHUNN, and EMILY C. BAEHR Developing Computational Thinking through a Virtual Robotics Programming Curriculum

5 Excerpted from: Tomlinson, C. A. (August, 2000). Differentiation of Instruction in the Elementary Grades. ERIC Digest. ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education.

6 Puntambekar, Sadhana & Hubscher, Roland. (2010). Tools for Scaffolding Students in a Complex Learning Environment: What Have We Gained and What Have We Missed?. Educational Psychologist. 40. 1-12. 10.1207/s15326985ep4001_1. 

7 Dueck, Myron. Giving Students a Say: Smarter Assessment Practices to Empower and Engage. ASCD, 2021.

8 Dylan Wiliam, Embedded Formative Assessment - practical strategies and tools for K-12 teachers 25 May 2011

9  NSTA - National Science Teachers Association STEM Education Teaching and Learning

10 Pierson, R. (n.d.). Every kid needs a champion. Retrieved January 26, 2021, from https://www.ted.com/talks/rita_pierson_every_kid_needs_a_championutm_campaign=tedspread&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=tedcomshare

For more information, help, and tips, check out the many resources at VEX Professional Development Plus

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