5 Lessons from STEM experts

Source: Lisa Nielsen blog, Feb 2013

1) Less common requirements/more specialty paths. As the common core standards come to schools there is a danger of requiring students to demonstrate competency in the same bloated, one-size-fits-all curriculum rather than giving students a choice of areas on which to concentrate.

2) Less school/more real-world opportunities. … If we want to foster success in those pursuing STEM careers, we can support students in leaving the day-to-day of school and learning through authentic apprenticeship, lab or work opportunities.

3) Less memorization/more exploration. We often confuse the memorization of facts with learning so it’s no wonder that after years of memorizing facts about science, math and other subjects, high school students often have little knowledge of any of these topics. Memorizing algorithms or the periodic chart does not help most learners acquire the foundation necessary for success in STEM-related fields. Exploration does.

4) Less medicating/more options. It’s not unusual for those passionate about STEM-related pursuits to be considered school misfits. To address this, rather than providing youth with additional options, more and more young people are being medicated. If we want to foster creativity and invention, before turning to medication, we must consider alternate options for children who want, need and demand a non-traditional setting where they can have access to technology (rather than be banned) and pursue extended independent studies rather than those driven by bells and birth dates.

5) Less testing and textbooks/more making and learning from real experts. Along with common core comes the multibillion-dollar common testing and textbook industry. More tests and textbooks that are more rigorous do not lead to more scientists and engineers who are more prepared. Instead, testing and textbooks suck the fun and passion out of learning. Instead give students more opportunities to do and make with real-world experiences or programs like Maker Faire.
Expert advice: Physicist Michio Kaku explains that exams are crushing curiosity out of the next generation through the memorization of facts. He cautions us that our test obsession is resulting in kids who aren’t interest in science. Feyman explains that textbooks, the testing companion, are equally at fault. Most are not written, edited or evaluated by those who use mathematics scientifically and the result is lousy books that are false and hurried. He explained they would try to be rigorous, but there was always something wrong; they weren’t smart enough to understand what was meant by “rigor.” They were faking it. They were teaching something they didn’t understand, and which was, in fact, useless, at that time, for the child.
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