Education

STEM Teaching

STEM teaching and education.

What is STEM?

STEM is a well-known acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, and may also be used to refer to other subjects which fall within these academic branches.

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There are numerous disciplines which fall into the broad category of STEM and these include:
  • Robotics
  • Aerospace engineering
  • Physics
  • Nanotechnology
  • Biomechanics
  • Astrophysics
  • Chemical engineering
  • Neurobiology
  • Civil engineering
  • Computer science
  • Nuclear physics
  • Environmental science
  • Biotechnology
  • Industrial engineering
  • Marine engineering

With STEM-related roles required in almost every industry, the career opportunities for students who specialize in STEM subjects are limitless. Among them are some of the fastest growing sectors, with the highest paid salaries and remuneration packages. Whilst the US has already produced some of the most well-known and successful STEM innovators in the world, there is continued demand for excellence in this area. In order to maintain its position on a global stage, America must continue to include STEM subjects in school curriculum and encourage students to examine the role of STEM subjects across a variety of fields.

STEM teaching tools

In order to enable students to achieve in STEM subjects, however, schools must put considerable emphasis on the importance of STEM-related subjects and the opportunities which can arise from studying these disciplines. Although it is important for schools to have teachers who are focused on STEM subjects, all teachers should be familiar with how STEM principles can be recognized and identified in everyday classroom situations.

Whilst students may not specialize in a particular STEM subject until later in their academic careers, exposing younger students to STEM can encourage them to explore the possibilities. Often, individuals who progress into STEM-related roles recall having an interest in these areas at a young age. By incorporating STEM subjects into the curriculum, teachers can ensure students have the opportunity to learn how science, technology, engineering, and math affect the way we live and give them the chance to develop an interest in particular areas.

There are numerous continuing development courses designed to enhance STEM teaching skills, so educators can increase their knowledge and learn to incorporate STEM in their standard curriculum, as well as honing their skills when it comes to teaching STEM subjects directly.

For individuals who are beginning their teaching qualification or who are considering qualifying as a teacher, there are also a number of opportunities to specialize in STEM teaching and STEM education. Many teaching certifications now include dedicated STEM Education components, for example, and these can be an asset to schools and students alike.

In addition to this, individuals who have previously worked in a STEM-related industry or role are actively encouraged to consider teaching as an alternative career. Individuals with direct work experience in a STEM-related role can bring their practical experience into the classroom and enable their students to benefit from their expertise, as well as their knowledge of the theory and rationale behind STEM subjects.

By increasing STEM funding in schools and incorporating STEM subjects into everyday classroom activities, students will understand how STEM-related disciplines impact upon our day-to-day lives and the potential which can arise from new innovation and development. As a result, students will be exposed to these life-changing and life-enhancing subjects throughout their school life, thus giving them the opportunity to flourish in any industry they choose to work in.

Biology

Concerned with the study of living organisms, biology is a vast subject which covers many different areas. When students are first introduced to biology, they are usually taught about the subject in terms of metabolic processes, bodily functions, and anatomy, although some teachers may also choose to incorporate the environment and ecology into the study of biology at this stage.

Throughout their academic career, students will continue to be taught biology but the research and analysis undertaken is far greater.

For particularly talented students, the opportunity to study Advanced Placement Biology gives them an insight into particular areas, such as:
  • Organisms and populations
  • Heredity and evolution
  • Cells and molecules

During these studies, students will have the opportunity to complete a range of tasks, such as lab experiments, lectures, examinations, and research assignments. These varying study methods expose students to different working formats and give them a practical understanding of which type of role they might be most suited to.

Physics

Concerned with motion, matter, and energy, physics offers students the chance to learn about how the universe operates and behaves in terms of how matter moves through time and space.

Within the branch of physics, students may focus on specific areas, such as:
  • Heat
  • Light
  • Mechanics
  • Electrics
  • Magnetism
  • Theories of motion

Whilst elements of physics are taught in elementary, middle and high school, schools do not usually require students to study physics as a standalone subject. Physics is a relatively advanced subject and students may be required to take introductory classes in other areas, such as chemistry or biology, before they are able to enroll in physics classes at high school.

Math

Used in every area of life, math is one of the most important subjects on the school curriculum and students begin math classes very early on in elementary school.

Basic mathematical operations are taught to elementary level pupils, whilst middle school students will be taught basic algebra and concepts, such as:
  • Polynomials
  • Integers
  • Variables

Many middle schools offer different math classes so that children can study at a level which is appropriate for them. This approach continues throughout high school, with a range of math classes available to suit the needs of the student body. Whilst some students will take pre-algebra or algebra 1 while still at middle school, it is not uncommon for students to begin these studies when they enroll in high school.

Following this, high school students will undertake algebra 2, leading to geometry and trigonometry in grades nine through eleven. In senior year, some students may take either a pre-calculus or calculus class if they have shown a particular aptitude for math although this is not usually a required subject.

Science

Students are taught science throughout their academic career, although the level of detail does vary quite considerably. Beginning with a broad overview in elementary school, students are expected to undertake a deeper level of study in middle school and high school. Generally, elementary-level teaching involves observational work with students and may focus on them recording or collecting scientific data from their environment.

Whilst students are expected to carry out more analytic work in middle school, it is at high school that students get the opportunity to delve deeper into scientific areas. A more in-depth study of scientific fields is usually taken at this time, with students studying chemistry and biology, as well as physics, astronomy, meteorology, geology or another related subject. Although science is a compulsory subject in most schools in the US, the subject is often taught in stages, with students needing to successfully complete certain classes before they are able to study more advanced scientific subjects.

Chemistry

Defined as the study of matter, chemistry also involves the study of matter composition and is a foundation for many areas of advanced STEM-related study. Based on the periodic table, students will be taught about how the elements were discovered as well as what each element is composed of and what its uses are. Once students are familiar with the atomic structure of atoms, they will explore how these are fused or joined together to create compounds.

Although students often assume chemistry will be a challenging subject, their interest is often piqued when they are introduced to chemical theory in real-life situations. Learning how atoms and molecules collect to create matter and what states this matter can form in, as well as how it is conserved, can provide students with an understanding of why chemistry is so important and how it is used across a range of disciplines.

Most high schools in the US require students to take classes in Introductory Chemistry but students can also choose to specialize in chemistry later in their academic career. As part of the high school curriculum, students are typically taught about the mathematical reasoning chemistry principles and the mathematical analysis of chemical reactions, as well as how chemical bonds and compounds work. In addition to this, students learn how to calculate chemistry equations and become familiar with the elements of the periodic table, preparing them for further study in Advanced Placement Chemistry classes if they choose to take this route.

Algebra

Focusing on the rules which govern operations and relations, as well as the concepts and constructions arising from them, algebra is an essential math class in the US.

Taught in both middle schools and high schools, students typically learn the principles of algebra in various stages, such as:
  • Pre-algebra
  • Algebra 1
  • Algebra 2
  • Trigonometry or pre-calculus

When first introduced to students in pre-algebra, only the basic principles of the discipline are taught.

Once students are familiar with variables and polynomials, the study of algebra moves on to various different areas, including:
  • Roots
  • Powers
  • Coordinate geometry
  • Quadratic functions
  • Logarithmic and exponential functions
  • Matrices
  • Probability

Due to the difficulty some students experience when studying a complex subject, such as algebra, there are usually a variety of classes available in schools. Whilst some students may progress through the various stages fairly quickly, others may take longer to master the basic principles of algebra and can benefit from additional emphasis being placed on these issues.

Geometry

Defined as the study of size and shape, as well as the properties of space and the relative positions of figures, geometry is an advanced form of math. Typically including the study of measurements, students will learn how to calculate volume, area, angles, proofs, diameter, and circumference when taking geometry, and further study will also include the basic principles of trigonometry, such as the mathematical equations used to assess triangular shapes.

Although geometry is sometimes taught in middle schools, it is usually reserved until high school. However, students will need to have a good understanding of the mathematical principles taught in elementary and middle school in order to grasp the fundamental elements of geometry.

Trigonometry

Concerned with the study of triangles and triangular shapes, trigonometry teaches students how to calculate certain formulae, such as the area of a triangle, specific angles, the motion of waves and trigonometric functions.

As trigonometry is an advanced area of mathematics, students do not usually study this discipline until the latter part of high school. Sometimes known as pre-calculus or algebra 3, students may be introduced to trigonometry in grades eleven and twelve, providing they have successfully passed classes in other math disciplines.

Calculus

When studying calculus, students will draw on concepts from trigonometry, pre-calculus, and algebra, as well as general mathematical principles taught throughout elementary, middle and high school. Functions, derivatives, limits, integrals and infinite series are key concepts of calculus, although students will require an advanced level of understanding in order to apply them effectively.

Calculus is a complex subject and, as an advanced form of mathematics, is only taught in high schools. Generally, students must have successfully undertaken trigonometry and algebra classes before they are allowed to enroll in calculus programs. Pre-calculus is the most common form of calculus study in mainstream US high schools, with most students taking this class in either the tenth, eleven or twelfth grade.

Although calculus is taught in some high schools, it is not a required class and most schools which offer the subject limit their intake to honors students only. Whilst some schools do not currently offer calculus classes, the increasing emphasis on STEM education may result in more high schools offering advanced STEM classes, such as calculus, to students.

The American Competitiveness Initiative

Introduced by President George W. Bush, The American Competitiveness Initiative has been in operation since 2006. Replaced in essence by the America COMPETES Re-authorization Act in 2010, the initiative is concerned with the limited funding available for STEM education and lobbies for increased funding to be made available to students who wish to study STEM subjects or STEM-related disciplines.

Aiming to produce greater numbers of STEM college graduates, it is hoped that the initiative will have a direct impact on the number of graduates entering the workplace in STEM roles.

100Kin10

Launched as a joint initiative between the NewSchools Venture Fund and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the 100Kin10 strategy is to recruit 100,000 STEM teachers over the next 10 years. However, the initiative is not simply concerned with recruiting STEM teachers. It also seeks to prepare STEM teachers and retain them, as well as support them during their teaching careers.

In doing so, the 100Kin10 initiative will ensure students will have access to qualified and specialist teachers, who have an in-depth knowledge of STEM-related fields and the important place they hold in today’s educational objectives. With numerous partner organizations already in place, 100Kin10 has increased the supply of STEM teachers and will ensure that students are well-versed in STEM subjects and the principles which govern them.

STEM Initiatives

Due to the increasingly high demand for qualified STEM specialists, schools are placing additional emphasis on STEM-related subjects. In addition to this, various initiatives have been introduced in order to encourage and facilitate the study of science, technology, engineering, math, and related disciplines.

These initiatives include:

The STEM Education Coalition

Comprised of over 500 professional, educational and business organizations, The STEM Education Coalition is committed to supporting agencies which provide STEM-related learning programs.

Often lobbying central organizations, The Coalition seeks to promote STEM subjects and works to highlight the importance of STEM education in terms of the country’s position in the global technological and economic marketplace.

USC, Rossier School of Education

Under the leadership of Dean Karen Symms Gallagher, the Rossier School of Education at USC has led the way when it comes to promoting STEM education. As the first school to join forces with the 100Kin10 initiative, Dean Gallagher was recognized along with 100Kin10 for her commitment to educating successful STEM teachers. Taking part in the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) America, Rossier School of Education works in conjunction with non-profit organizations, businesses, and industry leaders to develop strategies to increase economic growth within the US and is committed to increasing the number of STEM educators in order to facilitate such economic objectives.

With a significant number of initiatives designed to enhance STEM teaching, both educators and students have more opportunities in STEM-related fields than ever before. As companies, academic institutions and governments recognize the need for a larger STEM-based workforce, STEM education has become increasingly important and is expected to expand even more in upcoming years.

Corporations and Institutions Promoting STEM Education

With numerous research opportunities and job roles in STEM-related industries, many institutions and corporations are keen to promote STEM education. As companies continue to need STEM specialists to join the workforce, they have a keen interest in ensuring STEM subjects are well-taught in schools across the US and that all students have the opportunity to specialize in STEM disciplines.

Institutions and corporations which are promoting STEM education include:

Northeastern University

With a dedicated Center for STEM Education, Northeastern University has cemented its commitment to STEM teachers and students.

Offering a range of resources for STEM scholarships, initiatives, and education programs, teachers can access various types of assistance from the Center of STEM Education and students from all backgrounds can continue their studies in STEM-related fields via the support available from the Center of STEM Education.

Intel

One of the biggest and most well-known technology firms, Intel has led the way when it comes to innovation and research. Like the computer industry as a whole, Intel is centered around STEM subjects and requires talented personnel to enter the industry.

Committed to providing students with a thorough STEM education, Intel has created various resources to assist STEM teachers in and out of the classroom. Interactive resources, curriculum plans, and lesson guides are all available from the technology company and help teachers to deliver exciting and original STEM lessons.

STEM teaching education video