The National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council just published its latest report that examined current efforts to connect the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines in K-12 education. The report compares both formal classroom settings and informal learning environments, and it suggests conditions most likely to lead to positive outcomes such as:
- Greater student retention and achievement
- Improved college-readiness skills
- Increased interest in pursuing a STEM-related career.
The report also released an informative video illustrating today's STEM education landscape and the potential benefits and challenges of integrated approaches.
According to the Next Generation Science Standards, integrating science concepts and engineering practices in the classroom provides an impetus for considering integration.
Margaret A. Honey, chair of the committee publishing the report and president and CEO of the New York Hall of Science said that STEM disciplines are vital for a thriving economy. They provide a foundation for successful employment, however in K-12 education, most STEM teaching and learning focuses on science or mathematics, while comparatively little attention has been paid to technology and engineering.
"K-12 STEM standards and assessments have tended to focus on the individual subjects, which, for the most part, have been taught in isolation. So, the potential for fostering the natural connections among the four STEM subjects for the benefit of students is exciting," said Honey.
The report concludes that there are advantages to some forms of integration, yet knowledge in individual STEM disciplines must be supported. That is why having trained educators and preparing classroom and after-/out-of-school educators is necessary. Right now, what's most challenging is making the connection across disciplines when students have little or no understanding of the individual disciplines.