Missing the Mark with STEM!
What changes have actually occurred in the K-12 classrooms in this country since 2005? Have we seen far reaching innovations in curriculum and program design and in the structure of schools that would add to this STEM movement? Unfortunately, the answer is a resounding “No.”
American high schools still remain highly departmentalized, stratified, and continue to teach subjects in isolation, with little to no attempts to draw connections among the STEM disciplines.
Having worked in and visited numerous school districts within the past three years the author has observed many well-meaning curriculum developers and classroom teachers who indicate they are implementing a STEM program. This implementation usually resembles actions in which science, mathematics, and technology teachers plan and teach cooperatively. This may be a start;
however, it misses the mark! If this is the extent of STEM program and curriculum development, then there really is no program or curriculum, as the program and curriculum will disappear (if there ever was one) when the teachers change teaching assignments, transfer, retire, or leave the profession. This represents personalization and not institutionalization. Many educators have not yet come to the realization that STEM education is more than simply a new name for the traditional approach to teaching science and mathematics. Nor do they understand that it is more than just the grafting of “technology” and “engineering” layers onto standard science and mathematics curricula. As a result, there is little to no thoughtfully planned and implemented STEM curriculum in secondary schools. While many would argue this is a start to realizing STEM education within secondary schools, it is a far cry from actually planning, writing, and implementing an innovative, trans-disciplinary STEM program.
What is happening now at the elementary and middle school levels?
Teachers at these levels are ill prepared to teach the STEM disciplines of science and mathematics, as revealed by the low
numbers of highly qualified teachers. For now there are no national STEM standards or STEM teacher certification. If this is the case, are we really serious about STEM education and do we
have it as a national priority? The vision of STEM education, as advocated by the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine, is far from becoming a reality in the United States and will not be realized until the goals of STEM education are better delineated, the meta-discipline of STEM education is better defined, innovative STEM education programs and curricula are developed, and teachers are professionally educated to deliver new STEM programs and curricula. In other words, the form,
which includes program and curriculum design, and function, which are the desired results of STEM education are still largely undeveloped.