There’s a growing need for scientific and technical talent in STEM-related jobs. The only way this demand can be met is by developing skilled candidates who are ready for the job as soon as they graduate.
However, it seems that not many students are keen on pursuing STEM courses post their school level. Recent data from a test commonly taken by college-bound high school students found that only 20% of students are ready for courses typically required for a STEM major. A common reason given by students was that they found the STEM courses difficult. Now you can’t blame students for disliking a subject they find difficult. But since these subjects are important for them to have a promising career in the future, educators must find a way to make the STEM subjects less difficult and more engaging.
In order to familiarize students with STEM concepts, it must be introduced at an early age, preferably from the elementary level. This will help the teachers and parents to nurture the child’s talent and help them prepare for STEM major in college. Today, when technology is accelerating at a rapid pace, everyone requires some level of STEM skills to function in the world around them. So, students must be made aware of the technology that helps them live an easy life and encourage them to make innovations that can help people in the future. In this blog, we will look at how educators and publishers can create STEM courses that will achieve the best outcomes for students.
Here are some tips to create STEM courses for K-12 students:
1.Design Age-Appropriate Lessons
Although STEM comprises of high-end courses like advanced science and engineering, you must design them according to the students’ learning capacity, just like you would create a regular K-12 curriculum. It is advised to start with STEM at a young age as it will give the children exposure to various practical learning skills, empowering them to think and resolve problems in their own rational way. Many schools have implemented STEM programs from the elementary level. To begin with, educators can try to augment the existing curriculum with STEM, instead of creating a fully STEM-based curriculum.
Related: Will eBooks Change K-12 Education
2. Integrate Lessons to Allow Greater Exploration
While designing the course module, publishers can create lessons where concepts of two or more subjects are clubbed together. You can have an assignment where students have to apply their knowledge of different concepts of different subjects. For example, include a project where students have to build a functional prototype of a boat. This will allow them to use their science and engineering skills and put it to test. The instructor can team up students in groups and encourage them to come up with their own designs and ideas.
3. Create Reality-Based Problems
STEM courses must be based on reality. Giving unrealistic scenarios won’t help in finding realistic solutions. While designing STEM courses, the strategy should be to inform students about real-world problems and finding solutions to tackle those problems. Although these solutions may or may not be implemented, they at least give an understanding of what is required to resolve the issue and students can work on achieving practical results. Who knows, in a few years, the student might pursue a STEM-based career and fix the issue for real.
4. Follow the Engineering Design Process (EDP)
EDP is the process that engineers follow while creating products and processes. It is a methodical series of steps which basically involves defining the problem, brainstorming possible solutions, developing a solution, testing and evaluation. Using this approach will help students to systematically approach a problem, find solutions that are feasible and viable, and execute the idea. Students can repeat the cycle until they come up with a satisfying solution. When designing a STEM course, create modules that will allow students to use the EDP approach.
5. Focus on Active Learning Through Interactive Modules
Active learning is where students partake in the learning process rather than being passive listeners. It is important for the instructor to develop a connection with the students so that students can approach them anytime in case of doubts. Besides the usual classroom experiments, students also have to study from their textbooks. Creating online STEM courses will help students to engage with the content. Publishers can design interactive videos, self-assessment quizzes, group exercises etc., for students to actively participate in the learning process. All the technical information can be also represented through interactive graphics, making the learning process more immersive and enjoyable.
6. Gamify the Course and Promote Competition
Introducing STEM-based competitions empowers students to compete with their peers, which in turn will motivate them to think out of the box and come up with innovative designs and solutions. Take the boat prototype, for example, have the students compete outdoors by letting the boats float on water.
For each time a team or an individual student wins, assign extra points or badges. Gamifying the learning process encourages better performance. STEM education requires the instructor to motivate and encourage students to try and experiment. A failed experiment results in a new lesson learned, thus helping them learn from their mistakes and try again.
7. Allow Real Time Application of Knowledge
You can provide the students with simulation-based scenarios for practice on their eBooks. And it sure seems like a viable choice, as it will give them an idea of what they are about to practice in class. But nothing beats a realistic challenge. A hands-on experience will allow students to actually work with tools and try out different possibilities. Students must be encouraged to bring out their creativity and develop tools that are functional, reusable and sustainable. Educators can conduct fairs and exhibitions where students build innovative solutions for real-world problems.
8. Incorporate Fun Ways to Teach Math and Science
Math has traditionally been one of the most hated subjects in schools. To make it more interesting you can incorporate some fun activities which will help students understand the topic better. For example, you can give them fake money to buy and sell products or set up a task where students have to invest in shares, helping them understand about the stock market. Teachers can come up with more innovative ways to make these seemingly tough subjects more fun and engaging to learn.
9. Have The Right Resources And Equipment
STEM courses are expensive. Educational institutes must consider the cost factor before jumping on the STEM bandwagon. Analyze the feasibility of the curriculum and then implement the courses. STEM curriculum, unlike regular courses, require in-depth information, plus tools and equipment for conducting various experiments. The equipment, however small, needs to be purchased by the institute. Sometimes, students are encouraged to build projects out of sustainable waste, but that’s not always the case. Students need to be provided with the necessary resources and tools to perform tasks, so educational institutes must ensure they have enough resources to incorporate a STEM curriculum.
Every major discovery or breakthrough has been made with the help of Science, Mathematics, Engineering or Technology, or a combination of all four. So, we can safely say that achieving proficiency in STEM fields will help students to become future-ready. STEM promotes innovative thinking, problem-solving, and teamwork skills. Therefore, it is recommended to implement STEM courses in schools so that students can be made aware of technological advances as well as the developments in the field of engineering, science and math at an early age. But, in order for students to gain interest in the subject, educators and publishers must make a combined effort to create STEM courses that are engaging, generates curiosity, and promotes creative thinking.