We need to improve our global
economic standing in STEM areas. You'll get no argument from me on that. Our
laser focus on providing more STEM courses, however, might be blinding us to the
fact that many students lack the crucial ability to put their STEM skills to use
because they are not psychologically or socially prepared to participate in a
global, collaborative economy.
see students preparing to graduate who possess poor interpersonal communication
skills, have no leadership ability and demonstrate no sensitivity to gender
issues or ethnic diversity. These are vital skills for success in the digital
age workplace. Unfortunately, an increased focus on STEM in our schools is not
giving students the skills they need to effectively navigate their way through a
job interview, lead a self-directed work team or accept and collaborate with
people who are not just like them.
communication and leadership skills are critical in today's global village. We
have the technological ability to reach people in almost all regions of the
world. But we can't count on that technology to ensure students will be able to
effectively communicate with those who have disparate cultural norms and
is important, but we must teach those subjects alongside, not in place
of, the behavioral sciences, arts and humanities, and interpersonal and
leadership skills. A well-rounded human being is better suited to today's world
than a person who knows one thing very well but cannot communicate effectively
with others, appreciate the arts or lead others to success. A graduate has to get the job (through effective interview skills) in which he or she will lead a diverse team (using interpersonal and leadership skills coupled
with intercultural sensitivity) to produce results for an employer.
means that neither STEM nor the humanities alone can be the answer. We need to
share funding across these crucial disciplines to create a teaching mélange in
which STEM skills are supplemented by citizenship, effective communication and
practical life skills.
In other words, as always, one
basket does not fit all the eggs. Today's students certainly need STEM courses
to understand the physical and theoretical world, but they also need courses
that will help them to better understand the people they will meet along the
road of life. We must create funding schemata that will allow our students to
succeed in the world, not just in the laboratory or the class room.
Larry Edmonds is a full-time lecturer and doctoral student at Arizona
State University. He is also a member of ISTE, the World Communication
Association and the International Leadership Association.
We cannot accurately predict what jobs will be available
in the future for the students currently in our K-12 schools. What we do know is
that today's students will need to be problem solvers and lifelong learners. A
strong focus on STEM
is a critical
ingredient for meeting this need.
is not a curriculum or a set of resources. STEM is a culture of teaching and
learning that gives students the opportunity to engage in solving real-world
problems while addressing the Common Core literacy and mathematical practice
standards. Our challenge in K-12 education is to maintain, encourage and empower
natural human curiosity and creativity while helping students develop the skills
they'll need in the workplaces of the future. Students in classes using STEM
strategies are more engaged, have higher test scores and are able to build the
types of skills they will need for long-term success.
I was the director of STEM at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in North
Carolina, we employed a number of strategies to create an effective STEM
program. We used engaging real-world problems, digital content and professional
development/coaching to empower our teachers. We connected with local businesses
to use regional scenarios in our classrooms and create a vision that would
contribute to economic development. Perhaps most important, we changed our
district's culture to focus on STEM education.
results of these efforts speak for themselves. Our fifth and eighth grade
science scores rose 44 points in three years, while state achievement scores
increased only 7 points. Our third through eighth grade math achievement scores
skyrocketed 33 points, compared to the state-score increase of 5 points.
the greatest accomplishment we attribute to STEM education is instilling in our
students a strong spirit of lifelong learning. We are preparing them to change,
adapt and problem solve, which will ready them to face a future whose
opportunities are not yet clear.
Our national approach to STEM
education should not be based on fears that we are doomed to be overtaken
technologically by other nations. Rather, our choices as educators should be
driven by what we know is right for our children. Students today need authentic
learning environments that mirror what's going on outside the classroom. In our
increasingly global society, a STEM education and the skills it develops will
propel today's students to succeed in college, careers and citizenship. That is
why we should spend more time on STEM.
Cindy Moss, director of global STEM initiatives for Discovery Education,
is charged with supporting school districts in their work to develop and deploy
student initiatives to drive science, technology, engineering and math
Want to learn more ways to incorporate STEM skills into your lessons? Check out
ISTE's STEM webinars.