Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Why STEM?



Currently in the United States public school system there is increasing pressure placed on classroom teachers and administrators to reach higher academic standards. The implementation of the Common Core State Standards, new school legislation reforms, and the expectation to increase standardized testing scores all came at a time when the economy was entering a recession. Schools across the nation were forced to reduce their budgets, yet they were still expected to perform at heightened standards. I felt the effect of these changes when I first entered my teaching career. I was one of the lucky graduates that got a job when our economy was hitting rock bottom.  Throughout my seven years of teaching, I've experienced pay freezes, reduced funding for student programs, and dwindling student supplies. And yes, I have also felt the pressure to increase rigor and testing scores, despite less time and support. This is a frustrating reality for many teachers and I'm sure that many of you can relate to similar difficulties.


This has led many educators to question the rigors of their instruction and has stimulated a disproportionate focus on core subjects for both students and teachers (Erwin, Beighle, Morgan, & Noland, 2011). Undoubtedly, rigor in academics is important if our nation wants to improve student learning, but the methods employed to reach our goals is an area that needs to be revaluated. Which brings me to my topic of the day: STEM education reform.


I believe that STEM education reform is one possible pathway to increase test scores, student engagement, and rigor of learning.  In fact, the integration of STEM can increase student achievement in a way that values the students’ creativity, abilities, and interests.  According to DeAngelis (2015), STEM “prepares students for life, regardless of the profession they choose to follow” because it teaches students how to “think critically and how to solve problems” (p. 1).  Critical thinking skills provide our students with the ability to adapt and problem solve not only in the classroom, but in the real world.  This ability is an invaluable tool for a student to gain.  In addition, McClure et al. (2017) argues that “high-quality early STEM experiences can support growth across areas as diverse as executive function and literacy development” (p. 44). 

These reasons alone make me believe that the most compelling argument for STEM education reform is the impact that is has on student learning.  Research provides evidence that STEM increases student learning, at all ages.  As a primary teacher, I want my students to gain the confidence and skills that put them in control of their learning.  With the integration of STEM, students can learn new skills that they “can use to solve problems, meet challenges, and in turn, acquire new skills” (McClure et al., 2017, p. 51). 


Stay tuned for my next post on STEM called, "Is it STEM?"  I will be posting more often now that I'm exploring this topic through graduate courses, professional texts, and personal experiences.  I'd love to hear about your experiences or questions that you have about STEM.  I am no where near an expert on STEM.  In fact, I am just starting my journey in STEM education.  I am discovering that my experiences are very different than my good friend, Tara, who is a STEAM teacher at my district's high school.  She has been mentoring me as I try to integrate STEM into my 2nd grade classroom, which has been super exciting, yet challenging!  Thanks for stopping by!

References

Ameriqus. (2014, May 5). Are our school children individual little snowflakes or McDonald's hamburgers? Retrieved March 7, 2018, from https://www.opednews.com/populum/page.php?f=CONFLICTED-A-Look-at-MSNB-by-Gustav-Wynn-Accountability_Al-Sharpton_Alec_Charter-Schools-140505-22.html

Erwin, H. E., Beighle, A., Morgan, C. F., & Noland, M. (2011). Effect of a low-cost, teacher-directed classroom intervention on elementary students' physical activity. Journal of  School Health, 81(8), 455-461. Retrieved May 04, 2016.

DeAngelis, S. F. (2015, August 06). Why STEM? Success Starts With Critical Thinking, Problem-Solving Skills. Retrieved January 16, 2018, from https://www.wired.com/insights/2014/06/stem-success-starts-critical-thinking-problem-solving-skills/

McClure, E. R., Clements, D. H., Nall Bales, S., Nichols, J., Kendall-Taylor, N., & Levine, M.H. (2017). STEM Starts Early - Grounding science, technology, engineering, and math education in early childhood. Ed Digest, 43-51. Retrieved January 17, 2018, from https://erid.ed.gov/?id=ED574402



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