Academic journal article Issues in Teacher Education

STEM Education: Educating Teachers for a New World

Academic journal article Issues in Teacher Education

STEM Education: Educating Teachers for a New World

Article excerpt

Our national curriculum is in the midst of reform-it calls for attention to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education and subsequently STEM teacher preparation and professional development. In 2005, the congressionally requested report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Future (National Academies Press, 2007), made educators aware of and began to address a deep concern about not having enough scientists, engineers, and mathematicians to keep the United States in the forefront of research, innovation, and technology. It argued that a comprehensive and coordinated federal effort is urgently required to bolster the competitiveness and pre-eminence of the United States in these STEM areas. Nationally, it is predicted that 80% of new jobs will require at least some mathematics, science, and engineering, and 50% of the technical workforce will retire soon, making it more important than ever to inspire students in these fields (Wolfram Institute, 2012).

Although the majority of students will not likely pursue STEMspecific careers, they will benefit from STEM literacy in other facets of their lives. As an NRC report on STEM education outlined, individuals require some understanding of the STEM disciplines in order to manage many daily tasks and technology-supported activities (National Research Council, 2011). In the 2010 Report to the President titled Prepare and Inspire: K-12 Education in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) for America's Future, the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology further advanced the demand for transforming K-12 education. They echoed the need for students to have a strong foundation in STEM subjects, with knowledge that they can readily use in both their personal and professional lives. The Report identified the critical role that teachers play in preparing and inspiring students, thereby necessitating the recruitment and education of STEM teachers, as well as a transformation of teacher preparation.

This reform is further fueled by the imminent implementation of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (Common Core Standards Initiative, 2010) and the Next Generation of Science Standards (Achieve, 2013). These new standards require that teachers possess deep and flexible understandings of STEM content and how STEM disciplines are connected and integrated across the curriculum, as well as specific pedagogies and tools that support STEM education, particularly for low-achieving learners. For example, the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning, CFTL (Guha, Shields, Tiffany-Morales, Bland, & Campbell, 2008), urges the need for teacher training and notes that students in schools with lower pass rates on the California high school exit exam are nearly twice as likely to have been taught by underprepared or novice teachers.

Nationally, time devoted to science instruction in the K-6 classroom has declined by at least a third since 2001, with only 50% of teachers spending at least an hour a week, and 16% spending no time at all on science (CCST, 2010). For example, a recent study conducted by the CFTL at WestEd titled High Hopes, Few Opportunities: The Status of Elementary Science Education, summarizes research findings on science education in California's elementary schools. They found that children rarely have the opportunity to engage in high-quality science because "the conditions that would support such learning are rarely in place and because very little support infrastructure for science education exists in the state's schools and school districts" (Dorph, Shields, Tiffany-Morales, Hartry, & McCaffrey, 2011, p. 1). Therefore, it is not surprising that students' performance in science suffers. This year's release of the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results for 8th grade science showed that the overall average score for the nation was only at the Basic Achievement Level (partial mastery of fundamental skills). …

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