Academic journal article Journal of STEM Education : Innovations and Research

Facilitating Teaching and Learning across STEM Fields

Academic journal article Journal of STEM Education : Innovations and Research

Facilitating Teaching and Learning across STEM Fields

Article excerpt

Abstract

The reformation of the instruction of subjects across STEM fields has changed the role of STEM educators from being "dictators" in the classroom/ laboratory to being facilitators of students' activities. This new paradigm shift means STEM educators are no longer limited to delivering instruction intuitively, but rather with effective facilitation of students' activities. Thus, the STEM educator is now to assume the role of the creator of effective educational environments for learning while teaching. This is enhanced by instructional strategies and delivery that synergize diverse students, strategies, technologies, societies, and subjects. This article addresses a paradigm shift for STEM educators as facilitators, their roles as students' activities enablers, and factors influencing effective facilitation in STEM programs.

Introduction

Many schools have implemented a new Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education program that will introduce students to a number of STEM concepts in the school curriculum. Institutions of learning through educators' active participation must strive to create programs that will encourage students to get excited about STEM disciplines through various activities, including hands-on activities (Aleman, 1992; Darling-Hammond, 1994). The practical applications of the concepts students learn in the classroom and laboratory will help enhance the quality of STEM education (Darling-Hammond, 1994; Fajemidagba, Salman & Olawoye, 2010). More important is partnership between schools and professionals in the industry to help prepare lectures, as well as the participation of schools in hands-on activities in the classroom that introduce the students to careers across STEM fields and fundamental skills. STEM educators, with a new paradigm shift as "facilitators" and laboratories well-equipped with modules where students will spend most of their time learning, will help students to take what they learn in the classroom and laboratory and apply it to future jobs in the real world.

Employers are looking for employees who possess the skills that are taught in STEM programs, including creative problem solving, product building, collaborative team work, design, and critical thinking (Aleman, 1992; Darling- Hammond, 1994). It is mandatory for these STEM programs to build those skill sets. There are so many ways to build these skill sets. One approach is to offer courses in career paths, as evidenced by the case of the ASK Academy. In an effort to boost the number of graduates who pursue careers in STEM, the school offers courses in two career paths: engineering and design, and biomedical sciences. In this curriculum, there is a focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics and electives that will help students get a job in those fields. This approach is implemented by creating partnerships with the business community and finding mentors for students.

Another feasible approach is to provide hands-on training for the young engineers needed by the industries of tomorrow. This is an opportunity for engineering students to take practical action for the future, as demonstrated in the case of the UK's JCB academy. At the JCB academy, students are taught practical subjects such as engineering, product design, and health sciences, which require specialized equipment, as well as English, mathematics, science, humanities, foreign languages, and IT. More importantly, each problem has a business element to it and the rest of the curriculum is built through engineering.

In the two examples stated, students are going to understand what STEM area careers are by employing the machines used in the laboratories that are similar to the ones they would use on the job. More importantly, students will use technology in the way one might when working in a STEM profession. This reformation has made learning student centered and has changed the role of STEM educators "from providing information to providing structure, support, and connections to the resources" (Glasgow, 1997, p. …

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