“It’s suicidal to create a society that depends on science and technology … in which no one knows anything about science and technology.” – Carl Sagan

Supercharge your 2015 STEM classroom with these five practices:

1. Cultivate Partnerships (National Research Council, 2011)

Teaching STEM is ultimately about connecting the classroom to the “real world.”  The most effective way of doing this is to create partnership with the real world.  This, of course, requires a lot of organization, coddling and communication to pull it off – which is why many teachers simply opt for simpler solutions like online videos and content.

With travel and curriculum budget shrinking, the ability to deliver solid real world experiences for students is becoming a greater challenge.  Bringing the real world to the classroom is certainly nothing new, but with new technologies, the possibilities for Skype interviews or video-based tours introduces a whole new venue for establishing partnerships.

For years, local businesses have sponsored sports teams and theater performances … it is long past time for them to engage in supporting classroom learning.

2. Project Based Learning (Yazzie-Mintz, 2010)

Study after study points to project based learning as the gold-standard for STEM.  The challenge STEM teachers often face is balancing the teaching of core STEM skills and knowledge with these all-engulfing projects.  And it can be a big risk when it comes to standardized test scores and results.  Yet, study after study shows the value and effectiveness of utilizing projects to teach even these core skills.  If you haven’t tried a project, or need some ideas or resources, connect to our digital issue to get your hands on some great project-based learning activities.

3. Multiple Paths to Mastery (Hattie, 2009)

Different students learn in different ways … it’s a truth that you’ve experienced first hand on countless occasions.  But delivering comparative grades for a class makes it very difficult to address the second half of this equation that different students test in different ways.  Project-based learning is one of the few routes that give students a way to demonstrate mastery in a way that aligns with their strengths.

4. Embrace Extra Curricular Learning

Every coach in your school is encouraging their athletes to compete in extra-curricular and community-based teams.  They know something that many teachers don’t … that game skills are only gained with time playing the game.  To assume that piling on homework is the best option to deliver learning is akin to the coach relying on his athletes to all go home and perform specific calisthenics on their own after practice …. a few will … a very few.  This is where community and extra-curricular activities come in to play.  If there is one remaining disconnect that could deliver solid educational outcomes with the potential to transform student lives after graduation … it is the need to create connections between after-hours activities and summer programs and the classroom.

The more we connect … the greater our affect.

5. Utilize Dual Enrollment / Post Secondary collaboration (CUNY, 2010)

As you likely know, dual enrollment programs have expanded significantly over the past decade, both through the increase in available AP options as well as more traditional matriculation and dual-enrollment agreements between high schools and colleges.  Dual enrollment courses give high school students an opportunity to earn college credits, and unlike AP courses, can be utilized with a broader range of students, and focused on more technical skills and training.

Studies support (though data is not as thorough in this area as it should be) the claims that dual enrollment options improve graduation rates, post-secondary matriculation and student satisfaction/engagement in STEM subjects.


For more, click below for our bibliography:

Bell, R. L., Blair, L. M., Crawford, B. A., and Lederman, N. G. (2003). Just Do It? Impact of a Science Apprenticeship on High School Students’ Understandings of the Nature of Science and Scientific Inquiry.  Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 40(5), 487-509.

Braund,M., Reiss, M. (2006) Towards a More Authentic Science Curriculum: The contribution of out-of-school learning

Hattie, J. A. C. (2009). Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement. New York: Routledge.

National Research Council – Committee on Highly Successful Science Programs for K-12 Science Education, Board on Science Education and Board on Testing and Assessment, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. (2011). Successful K-12 STEM Education: Identifying Effective Approaches in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.  Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Yazzie-Mintz, E. (2010). Charting the Path from Engagement to Achievement: A Report on the 2009 High School Survey of Student Engagement.  

CUNY Collaborative Programs Research & Evaluation, (2010) Dual Enrollment Literature Review