The U.S. is facing a deficit of STEM-trained workers. In 2007, the National Science Foundation (NSF) released an action plan indicating that the United States "possesses the most innovative, technologically capable economy in the world, and yet its science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education system is failing to ensure that all American students receive the skills and knowledge required for success in the 21st century workforce."
Although more than a decade has passed since the NSF released the national action plan, efforts are ongoing to boost STEM education in order to meet STEM job growth in the United States.
Historically clustered around four overlapping disciplines — science, technology, engineering, and mathematics — STEM education has shifted toward a more cohesive knowledge base and skill set that emphasizes the importance of problem solving and creativity. Modern STEM education promotes skills such as critical and higher-order thinking, design, and inference.
The NSF reports that scientific and technological innovation has become increasingly important to the global economy, and students today need intensive STEM education more than ever before. In fact, STEM occupations were projected to grow by almost 9% between 2014 and 2024, and the need exists for prepared innovative thinkers to fill these roles.
One of the most important determinants of successful STEM education is the expertise and pedagogy of teachers. Good STEM instruction requires a blend of deep content knowledge and expertise in teaching practices. Therefore, the importance of teacher preparation for STEM education cannot be understated.
The question is, do teachers want to offer impactful STEM education? The answer is, "Yes." Unfortunately, although findings indicate that teachers value STEM education, they report pedagogical challenges as barriers to effectively engaging in STEM education. Teachers would like to be more prepared for STEM education and receive the appropriate support during their own teacher training experiences. In response, a growing number of states are redesigning teacher preparation programs to require more science and mathematics instruction and offer training in STEM skill sets across curricula. More and more programs are also working with public school systems to offer teachers in training earlier hands-on experiences.
In addition, teachers need to receive mentoring both before and after graduation. Bart Gordon, chair of the Science and Technology Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives suggests that this type of early and intensive hands-on preparation might also prove helpful in alleviating the rising attrition rates of early career teachers. When teachers feel more prepared to provide instruction not only for mathematics and science, they are more likely to achieve their classroom goals, collaborate with other teachers, and find fulfillment in their teaching careers.
Teachers with a passion for the subject matter and a deep understanding of pedagogical practices naturally encourage students to develop their own interest in school subjects. When teachers apply STEM educational principles to all kinds of subjects, they can inspire students to put their knowledge into practice and connect course materials to real-world problems. These dedicated educators provide opportunities for creating, communicating, collaborating, and thinking critically — and foster safe spaces for exploration and transference of skills. Teachers who are trained and experienced in STEM education principles can turn beginning learners into experts who love to apply their knowledge to the world around them.
If you would like to boost your students' interest in STEM subjects, consider earning a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math online from Louisiana State University Shreveport. The STEM-focused M.Ed. curriculum includes a course on Educational Technology Applied to the Classroom and one on Grant Writing for STEM Programs.
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