We live in a science and technology driven world where useable knowledge of science, engineering, technology and mathematics (STEM) is critical for a person’s well-being and for the economy and prosperity of all nations. On a personal level, an individual needs useable-knowledge of STEM to make daily decisions to participate in daily life from maintaining and improving their personnel health to maintaining and supporting the health of the environment. STEM also provides an individual with a wealth of fulfilling career opportunities and hobbies. Although society needs to have individuals in the arts and humanities, STEM careers provide a range of fulfilling opportunities essential to the growth and prosperity of the nation. At the societal level, STEM drives the economic well-being and security of a nation. Without a skilled, well-prepared and knowledgeable workforce that can accomplish technical jobs, innovate, think creatively, and develop new solutions, a society cannot flourish. STEM is also vital to a sustainable world. Each nation needs to work together to find solutions to global problems including various health issues, globe warming, and maintaining clean water.
The series of chapters presented in STEM Education 2.0 – Myths and Truths: What has K-12 STEM Education Research Taught Us? provides a range of research and examples on the very topics our society, especially K-12 education, should be addressed in STEM Education. These topics span from exploring the impact of policy to how to design learning environments that foster development of STEM knowledge; from creating high quality STEM assessments to utilizing a variety of instructional techniques in STEM; from encouraging and supporting women and minorities in STEM to what does high quality STEM learning look like. STEM Education 2.0 takes stock of where the field has come and where we are headed.
More importantly, STEM Education 2.0 explores STEM topics from an integrated perspective. Many problems that face society require a more interdisciplinary approach to STEM teaching and learning where individuals need to integrate knowledge of science disciplines, engineering, mathematics and technology in order to solve them. This richer, more productive vision of STEM education (Krajcik & Delen, 2017) provides students with the knowledge-in-use (Pellegrino & Hilton, 2012) needed to solve pressing individual and societal problems. This vision of integrated STEM education places STEM on a continuum from students learning each of the fields separately to learning about the disciplines in an integrated manner. Integration provides a more productive and powerful vision but can be harder to accomplish.
To develop usable knowledge of STEM is essential for K-12 education, as it lays the foundation for individuals to solve personal problems and make decisions, go deeper into the study STEM, and provides the foundation for solving complex problems and thinking critically and creatively. STEM Education 2.0’s sections two and three, addressing rigorous STEM school models and innovative curriculum, center on the need for K-12 students to experience STEM learning around big ideas of the various fields. These big ideas, as presented in the book, are integrated with the practice of the field to allow learners to develop useable knowledge of STEM. Students need to apply their STEM knowledge in new contexts to solve problems, think critical and creatively, and to collaborate and communicate ideas and solutions.
STEM Education 2.0 provides research and examples on how to support K-12 students in building deep, integrated and useable knowledge of STEM so that learners have the knowledge and problem solving skills necessary to live in and improve the world. For example, project-based learning, Maker Spaces, and engineering design solutions provide three viable contexts for such integrated STEM learning. Each of these learning environments place the learner in meaningful contexts where they solve problems and construct products or artifacts to represent what they have accomplished. Project-based learning (PBL) and engineering design are an approach to teaching STEM that focus learners on investigating questions or problems that they find meaningful and engaging and that spark wonderment and curiosity. Maker Spaces take an interdisciplinary approach to promote creativity and collaborative engagement for learners in STEM. Makers spaces help to integrate both informal (e.g., science and art museums) and formal (e.g., school-based Maker Spaces) contexts. Maker Spaces have the potential to appeal to a great diversity of learners – a theme expressed throughout the book. However, as designers and teachers of Maker Spaces, project-based environments and design spaces, it is essential that we ensure important learning goals are at the forefront in the design of the environment and not left aside. Engineers, computers scientists and scientists have deep knowledge of science, technology, engineering and mathematics and we need to prepare all of our students to have useable knowledge. Students need to leave our schools armed with a tool set of knowledge and science and engineering practices that will serve them as they continue in their schooling or in their personal lives.
STEM Education 2.0 stresses that all students should have access to high-quality learning opportunities in STEM. Project-based learning environments, design environments and Maker Space that focus students on critical learning goals are essential to fostering and developing learners from diverse background. Such environments will also allow learners to experience the joy of discovery and innovation that will provide the intrinsic motivation to continue to learn STEM when it becomes challenging.
STEM EDUCATION 2.0 provides a broad perspective on STEM and STEM education and shows how to promote all students in developing useable knowledge of STEM. Engaging learners in STEM education, away from rote memorization to doing STEM, will require shifts in teaching practices and new ways of thinking about how to support students in learning, but the benefits of meeting these challenges will allow us as a nation to develop a population of learners who have knowledge-in-use, curiosity, creativity and critical thinking abilities necessary to invent the solutions of tomorrow, to live a fruitful life and to help develop a sustainable world. STEM education can promote women, people of color and English Language Learners remaining markedly underrepresented in many areas of STEM.
FortusD.DershimerC. R.KrajcikJ. S. & MarxR. W. (2004). Design-based science and student learning. Journal of Research in Science Teaching41(10) 1081–1110.
KrajcikJ. & DelenI. (2017). How to support learners in developing usable and lasting knowledge of STEM. International Journal of Education in Mathematics Science and Technology5(1) 21–28.
PellegrinoJ. W. & HiltonM. L. (Eds.). (2017). Education for life and work: Developing transferable knowledge and skills in the 21st century. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.