There are many factors that determine if STEM curricula and lesson plans are successful or not. Essential considerations for effective STEM content delivery include an integrative approach that combines active learning, collaboration, reading, writing, and finding solutions to real-world problems. But that list doesn’t even cover other important pedagogical aspects such as adherence to national standards (i.e., NGSS), formative methods of assessment, and cross-subject teacher collaboration. In order to be successful and effective, and ultimately prepare students to thrive in STEM-related careers, many aspects of STEM lessons need to be meticulously planned and carefully implemented.
Increasing students’ interest and engagement in STEM can come from relating activities to their own lives and what they are excited to learn about, “not just practic[ing] rote learning to pass exams” (Soules, et al.). Integrating critical thinking and problem solving into curricula through active teamwork and participation is one of the most effective ways to achieve this sort of engagement, and by connecting these methods to real-world situations and applications, students can be more prepared for meaningful careers in manufacturing or other jobs within industry. Building these skills can come though implementing real-world and local community issues into lessons that incorporate scientific testing or developing engineering-design problems (McConnell and Dickerson). These frameworks will require students to participate in interdisciplinary roles and will allow them to assess the quality of their solutions and answers.
Assessments are especially important in measuring and gauging student learning. In STEM education, the learning goals are often “grounded in an authentic context” and “based on a larger theme” that involves “multiple content areas” (Brown et al.). These goals prioritize a student’s demonstration of understanding and application of their learning into practical situations; therefore, it makes sense that “traditional cognitive assessments are rarely robust enough” to effectively measure a student’s understanding of STEM content (Brown et al.). That’s why it is essential to have performance-based Assessments especially when students are completing science-based or engineering-design STEM projects. The analysis and critical thinking applied by students on STEM projects should then be assessed in a manner that aligns with the student’s work. Instructors must then be able to complete formative evaluations that focus on student performance.
Quality STEM curricula and lesson plans designed to promote critical thinking and the application of practical skills to real-world situations can set students up for success as they move through their education and on to pursue careers in manufacturing and other STEM-related fields. While STEM may differ from traditional approaches to development and assessment, effectively applying the strengths of STEM programs can help students develop skills that are vital in the professional world.
Brown, Ryan, et. al, editors. “STEM Curricula.” technology and engineering teacher, September 2017, pp. 26-29.
McConnell, William and Daniel Dickerson. “a real-world integrated STEM lesson provides opportunity for cross-subject teacher collaboration.” technology and engineering teacher, May/June 2014, pp. 24-29.
Soules, Aline, et al. “Embedding Multiple Literacies into STEM Curricula.” COLLEGE TEACHING, vol. 62, 2014, pp. 121-128.