STEM should be more than another passing trend. Clearly define goals and maximize student growth by adopting these seven principles of STEM education.
Many schools and programs are identifying themselves as STEM, but how can we separate true, quality STEM education efforts from those simply hoping to profit from a buzzword in education? Through identifying the needs of students and barriers faced by teachers, STEM Jobs presents seven principles of STEM education. Applying these principles will give educators more direction without negatively impacting their ability to meet standards and expectations.
1. Use Instructional Strategies that Engage Students
To teach STEM effectively, it’s not enough to simply read lecture notes and ask students to memorize information to repeat later on an exam. To reach all students, teachers must engage children with tactile, problem-solving projects that require them to apply the knowledge acquired in class. Through methods such as project-based learning, experiential learning, and station-based learning, teachers will see greater progress in their students.
2. Tackle the Question of “When am I Ever Going to Use This?”
This common question is heard countless times throughout a teacher’s career and while this question might always be present, an educator’s response can shift not only the conversation, but also a student’s outlook. When students are able to picture themselves in a scenario during which they will use a concept, they will become more interested in it. Use personalized learning and STEM Jobs‘ “Hot Jobs” listings, which are published in each print and digital edition of the magazine, and available as posters that can be displayed in the classroom to inform students about the cutting-edge new jobs in STEM.
3. Connect Abstract STEM Concepts to Things that are Readily Understandable
As students progress in their school careers and advance to higher grades, their interest in STEM subjects is more likely to dwindle. To maintain student interest in STEM, teachers will be most successful by using a grounding approach in which students approach unfamiliar lessons with information they’ve learned earlier in their school careers. Through using PhET Simulations, students can recognize how previously known concepts are connected to those new ideas they are trying to learn.
4. Model Positive Attitudes Toward Learning STEM and Encourage and Help Parents to Do the Same
This can be one of the more difficult principles of STEM education to apply because it involves influencing parents. While most teachers model positive attitudes toward STEM subjects every day, knowing what is being said at home—let alone changing what is said at home—about your subject is tough. First, focus on the things you can control. Watch for seemingly innocuous statements like “I love math, but I hate proofs” in your classroom. Instead, share stories of when you struggled in a STEM subject and how you got through it or discuss times you’ve used STEM skills in real life. Next, talk about the differences between a growth mindset and fixed mindset, and explore Amazon’s “With Math I Can” initiative with your students. Then continue this conversation with parents through emails, newsletters, or social media channels while stressing the importance of modeling positive attitudes toward education. Teachers who don’t have sufficient support from parents will have to work much harder to inspire their students, so it’s worth putting in the time and effort to make sure you’re on the same page.
5. Stay Current with STEM Curriculum and Technology
Using these principles of STEM education will not be effective if teachers don’t stay current regarding trends in education approaches, curriculum, policies, and technology. While educators are responsible for teaching lessons, they must also never stop learning about new advances in STEM and proven, research-based pedagogy. Through attending teacher conferences, applying for externships, and serving as a leader in school, educators will be able to talk the talk and walk the walk when promoting the value of STEM education among students.
6. Integrate Across Disciplines
As mentioned in the third of these principles of STEM education, connecting new concepts to previously learned knowledge is crucial to students grasping ideas in the classroom. These connections are not limited to other areas of STEM, but are also important by tying together ideas across disciplines and academic subjects. STEM can be found everywhere, therefore teachers can easily incorporate these subjects into discussions regarding social studies, the arts, or English.
7. Model Being a Lifelong Learner
To promote the importance of education among students, teachers must value it themselves by furthering their academic pursuits and applying principles of STEM education to their own lives. By enrolling in free classes, implementing a class reading time — during which students read and see their teacher with a good book, and listening to STEM podcasts, teachers will not only show students that lifelong learning is important, but continuing education is an excellent method of self-care for overworked teachers.
Incorporating these principles of STEM education brings more organization to a classroom for both students and teachers. Applying these guidelines will enhance the school experience and provide personal standards that students will take with them through their academic careers.
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