Updated: Oct 4, 2020
How can research-based findings and advances help society to re-envision STEM learning and education?
Prominent scientists in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) learning research came together with school, community, and policy leaders at the National Science Foundation (NSF)-supported STEM Forum, held on November 9, 2015, in Washington, DC, to address this and other questions related to STEM learning. Attendees discussed both a specific opportunity, framed by President Obama’s call for Next Generation STEM High Schools (The White House, 2015), and strategies to improve STEM learning in all types of schools and communities, whether or not the communities are part of the Next Generation STEM High Schools movement. What made the Forum unique was the comprehensiveness and quality of the research as well as the breadth of stakeholders from education, policy, innovation, and research contexts who participated in intensive discussions to connect this research to next generation STEM learning models.
The STEM Forum exemplified how diverse stakeholders can work togetherto envision, create, and implement successful STEM schools and STEM learning experiences. Building on the diversity of the participants, issues of social justice and equity rose to the fore, and strategies for addressing equity were featured. Challenges of scale and sustainability were also raised, and participants articulated the promise of new and emerging strategies. Important takeaways emerged across four thematic areas—research-based advances, multiple stakeholder communities, social justice and equity, and scale and sustainability, each of which are discussed below. Research-Based Advances for STEM Learning A strong body of research-based knowledge is available and ready for incorporation into the design of successful STEM programs and Next Generation STEM Schools. For example, participants shared mature research on concepts such as project-based learning, authentic learning experiences, learner-centered tools for engaging in modeling activities, and technology-enhanced representations. Forum participants noted the need for new assessments of student learning that could more faithfully measure the intended knowledge and skill outcomes—such as computational thinking at a middle school level or capturing communicative, creative, or practical use of STEM knowledge.
Participants also noted that implementing effective and engaging teacher professional development remains a pervasive challenge, requiring advances in how to better prepare and support teachers to engage in innovative STEM approaches.