Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Innovative Communities: Embedding Special Education Faculty in Science Methods Courses

Academic journal article Teacher Education Quarterly

Innovative Communities: Embedding Special Education Faculty in Science Methods Courses

Article excerpt

Introduction

The emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education dates back to Sputnik and the sense of urgency this Russian satellite gave the United States to win the space race. The concern that the United States was falling behind Russia placed a spotlight on our education system, and a much-needed revolution began. The perception that the United States continues to underperform compared to other countries is still relevant today. Jobs in new fields like nanotechnology, bioinformatics, and evolutionary genomics continue to remain vacant because we are not preparing students with the mathematical and scientific knowledge and skills required for such jobs. According to the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS; Provasnik et al., 2016), the United States has shown no change in advanced math or science since 1995. If the United States wants to continue to compete in the global economy, we need to ensure that our students are well educated in the STEM areas.

Our country's economic well-being is dependent on how well teachers prepare students for occupations pertaining to STEM. The National Science Board (2015) details three insights resulting from its analysis of its 2014 science and engineering indicators report: (a) the "STEM workforce" is extensive and critical to innovation and competitiveness; (b) STEM knowledge and skills enable multiple, dynamic pathways to STEM and non-STEM occupations alike; and (c) assessing, enabling, and strengthening workforce pathways is essential to the mutually reinforcing goals of individual and national prosperity and competitiveness. The view that a STEM workforce is essential to economic development, innovation, and global competitiveness is driving much of the agenda in higher education as we strive to prepare large numbers of individuals to work in these fields. Furthermore, the knowledge and skills developed through STEM-focused education provide individuals with a variety of skills (e.g., complex problem solving, analytical thinking, mathematical reasoning, inquiry stance) transferable to other occupations. These skills are crucial to ensure students are prepared to compete in the global economy. Thus there is a need for all students, including students with disabilities (SWDs), to develop a strong foundational understanding in STEM. The shift from textbook-based instruction to inquiry-based STEM instruction promotes students' problem solving, analytical thinking, meaningful engagement, and deeper thinking (Buchanan, Harlan, Bruce, & Edwards, 2016; Watt, Therrien, Kaldenberg, & Taylor, 2013). STEM education may provide a platform for students to move beyond lower level thinking (e.g., recall) and gain critical content knowledge to engage in higher order thinking (e.g., evaluate; Basham & Marino, 2013). These skills are crucial to ensure all students, including SWDs, are prepared to compete in the global economy and meet the demands of the 21st century.

Entire populations of students are being denied high-quality education in STEM. The National Research Council (2012) reports underrepresentation of culturally and linguistically diverse groups and patterns of low academic performance among diverse learners and SWDs in STEM areas. Complicating matters, the data have shown an increased reluctance to participate in STEM education by youth throughout the world (Boe, Henrikson, Lyons, & Schreiner, 2011). To increase student achievement in these areas and prepare for global competitiveness, President Barak Obama made STEM one of his priorities in his education efforts. Holdren, Marrett, and Suresh (2013) of the National Science and Technology Council Committee on STEM Education emphasized the need to invest in preparing and recruiting high-quality K-12 STEM teachers and broadening participation in STEM fields by underrepresented groups. These concerns are exacerbated given the new administration's views on education and proposed budget cuts to education that threaten programs designed to support children and families and develop teachers (Office of Management and Budget, 2017). …

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