Academic journal article The Technology Teacher

Stem Initiatives: Stimulating Students to Improve Science and Mathematics Achievement

Academic journal article The Technology Teacher

Stem Initiatives: Stimulating Students to Improve Science and Mathematics Achievement

Article excerpt

Teachers and subject matter specialists are concerned with improving students' performance during standards testing. Initiatives have been undertaken at the local, state, and national levels in attempts to better enable learners to master new knowledge and perform complex tasks. Curriculum developers and researchers are interested in contextualizing learning situations to associate students with the utility of what one is learning. Transfer learning is being explored within the realm of problem solving and engineering applications. This makes a strong case for the integration of science, technology, and mathematics, so students can improve their understanding and application of complex but usable knowledge.

Learning theorists believe that, through designed learning environments (contexts) and learning with hands-on projects, new knowledge can not only be learned, but learned in such a way that the knowledge can be transferred for other applications (Singley & Anderson, 1989). Student interest and motivation can also be piqued through hands-on learning.

Scholars in the applied sciences (school science, technology, and mathematics) believe that these subjects have transfer among themselves and that engineering activities can establish the contexts to learn these subjects, plus aid in the transfer of knowledge. This collaborative movement is referred to as STEM--integrating instruction in science, technology education, engineering, and mathematics. It has been a focus of National Science Foundation research on learning and student career choices in the sciences and engineering.

According to American Society for Mechanical Engineering:

   There appears to be a logical
   educational continuum within
   which the knowledge of science,
   technology, engineering, and
   mathematics is cumulative. This
   implies that, without a strong and
   vibrant K-12 education system, the
   potential educational and economic
   impact is severely diminished.
   Yet ... the cumulative benefits of
   science, technology, engineering,
   and mathematics are less than
   they could be (ASME Position
   Statement--2002, ID #2-32,
   www.asme/org/gric/ps/2002/02-32.html,
   March 24, 2004).

Through academic collaborations of mathematics, science, and technology education in a contextual engineering environment, programs should:

1. Build cumulative STEM competencies in students by building on the foundation of knowledge established at each level in education, from elementary grades where students have innate curiosity about their world and how it works through middle school, high school, and beyond.

2. Provide students with hands-on, open-ended, real-world problem-solving experiences that are linked to the curriculum, using science, engineering, and technology modules, and grouping such experiences and modules by discipline and level of difficulty.

3. Promote hands-on activities for students, including research-oriented classes ... appealing to students through authentic [contextual] research projects that emphasize the use of mathematics in reporting results, and promoting engineering and technology ... in high school (ASME Position Statement--2002, ID #2-32, www.asme.org/gric/ps/2002/0232.html, March 24, 2004).

STEM is recognized in the science, education, and engineering professions and their associated research societies. It is a unique way to map curriculum and attempt to build and strengthen student skills in those subjects that can lead to scientific and technological career pursuits. This is the authors' intent with this writing. We wish to show how the school subjects of science, technology education, and mathematics can be taught in collaboration and use engineering concepts and activities to motivate students to succeed.

Science, technology education, and mathematics have had standards developed by their professions and endorsed by such prestigious organizations as the National Academies of Science and Engineering. …

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