Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM)
This fantastic combination of courses is suppose to be the penultimate combination for student knowledge and success. This is supposed to make students ready for future careers and achievement in life. This sounds so promising and I mean who doesn't want all of their students to succeed. Yet STEM in education lacks some critical components.
I was at METC 2016 and listened to a speaker who nailed the problem with STEM right on the head. To paraphrase what he said, Trust me there is no lack of jobs in the STEM field, their is a lack of competency and understanding.
Students exposed to STEM in school, be it elementary or high school, are lacking a serious foundation in this content. They spend all of school doing cool, interesting, and engaging "cookie-cutter" projects and experiments. Then they go to college expecting their field to be the same thing they learned in high school. They inevitably take extra time in college and drop out of their original field to pursue something easier.
This isn't to say we need to abandon STEM in elementary and high school, but to properly teach the reality of being a scientist or engineer. That these fields are not easy, they are not fun al the time. There is work, puzzling, confusing work. Problems that may not have easy or googleable solutions.
So what might this new STEM look like?
Elementary schools should focus on problem finding and solving. Teaching how to look at an issue and find more than 5 solutions to it. STEM should focus at engaging the students using tools that fit their cognitive abilities. High school STEM should focus on the grueling nature of studying. Memorizing computer languages, science vocabulary, reinforcing algebra concepts, and most importantly providing issues that affect the surrounding community. As George Couros says, " Kids don't want to be leaders of tomorrow, they want to be leaders of today!"
STEM allows for authentic learning and creates authentic moments for students to engage with their knowledge. To provide real solutions for today, and to take ownership in what they do. All things missing in current Generation Y and Z college students.