Markham explains, "The term (STEM) was first coined in the 1890's by the Committee of Ten at Harvard, as a response to the gaps in the agrarian school system of the 1800's. STEM described the attributes of a good industrial school system that would raise the standards of excellence for modern students." This term has been around a while.
He continues, "To realize the potential of STEM education in the modern era, I think we'll need deeper thinking than has been evident so far. Here's the primary problem from my perspective: Succeeding with STEM education in the 21st century requires systemic change at a scale far larger than the Harvard professors had to envision 110 years ago. Without adopting inquiry-based, student-centered, skill-driven approaches to teaching and learning -- all nested in a system that values innovation -- STEM education will become just another term for additional math and engineering courses." (my highlighting) This is a great advertisement for Leading E.D.G.E. as we have been doing just that since 1999. I'm slightly prejudiced but I think we do a great job of nesting these attributes "in a system that values innovation".
He cites four things teachers should do: (My comments in red)
"Teach knowing and doing. Simply adding Advanced Calculus or a Design Media course isn't enough. Engineers build and design things, using applied math. Scientists work through repeated failures in the process of successfully discovering a new drug. At the heart of any STEM program should be courses in which students create products, not just take tests. Those products should be exhibited to their peers, teachers, parents, and adult experts. This step requires smart scheduling, presentation space, invitations, practice time for public speaking, and -- more than anything -- attention to the design process. For example, every STEM program I've worked with gets better results by using the cycle of inquiry to stress continual reflection and refinement of the product. This requires an intentional assessment tool like a design rubric or reflection form that is graded. (This is the problem-based and experiential part of SPEC. It is about creating authenticity. The more authentic the experience the richer it has the potential to be.)
Allow for creativity. STEM education is equated with innovation. But solid STEM education bumps up against other staples of the school system, such as AP requirements or pacing guides, that do not reward or support innovation. Success here might require rewriting the names of courses, working closely with curriculum coordinators to assure them that academic rigor is maintained, or adding courses to the STEM sequence that are not tied to end of course exams or standardized tests. But what really works? Think STEAM, not STEM. Incorporate a creativity rubric into your project. Use a rubric that has a 'breakthrough' category. This category is open-ended and encourages students to think outside the box. (Targeting a critical skill like creativity raises student awareness and allows them to understand what the skill looks and sounds like.)
Make teamwork central. Scientists and engineers work in teams, so emphasizing teams -- and training teachers and students in how to make teams successful in the classroom -- is essential to great STEM education. To move from old notions of group work or cooperative learning into real teams, use a team collaboration and work ethic to help students identify the exact tasks associated with 21st century teamwork. (The collaborative part of SPEC)
Start with questions. Any important endeavor in science, engineering, or technology starts with a question. How do we create this product? What are the best design specs? What does the consumer want? An engaging, rigorous STEM curriculum emphasizes questions, not rote learning, lectures, or regurgitating known information. A STEM program can teach facts and information -- these are essential to young people. But make sure that students are constantly challenged by interesting, meaningful questions -- with potential answers that matter to the world." (The essential question is an integral part of every SPEC lesson)
We have to get our efforts focused more on these elements and less on "the test".
I want to recognize the role Antioch New England University and the Antioch Center for School Renewal for the role they have played in the development of our thinking.