I agree with SLATE about the misconceptions and the responses. Two things that stand out are that, on the whole, American students need to work harder/take education more seriously and that creative, dedicated teachers are more important than curriculum revisions. One thing I would add to the list is that harder standardized assessments improve education. The assessments per se are not bad; how they are used is. Because the outcomes of the tests have enormous consequences, I think they stifle creativity and add undue stress to administrators, teachers, and students.
As far as the toughest parts of teaching STEM:
1) time -- so much of STEM is process and project oriented, yet there are many daily interruptions, interventions, and transitions
2) resources - there are some things I just cannot do with my students because I don't have the funds to get the necessary equipment; however, creativity goes a long way, and there is still plenty we can do just fine
2) an emphasis on passing standardized tests -- the S-T-and E often get the short shrift in STEM, at least in my grade, because we are expected to concentrate on the math part (which is tested by STAAR, the new and "improved" standardized test in Texas, that has many of us stressed out).
Eric brings up many excellent points. In my opinion, there are a couple of major areas of concern for teaching Math and Science.
- Students rarely willingly do homework to review or prepare for coming lessons. Most parents assist this behavior when they mention how "busy" their child is after school. Compared to other nations, it seems that many in the USA view education as a time filler - not something that requires the greatest student attention.
- In general, Eric it the nail on the head. There is little funding for science - especially in allowing students to learn by experimentation. Lab equipment and materials cost money - it should not come at the expense of food for the teacher's family.
- Engineering in my state is a distinct different core. This state core receives additional funding for teacher pay and student equipment. These materials may not be used by any other subject at the building. It is disappointing that these teachers lack math or science backgrounds. Students do experiments are unable to discuss learning from these experiments.
- Teachers should be recognized, valued, and rewarded for what they do. Too often, these teachers are vilified as politicians try to get the attention of voters.
Thanks for the thoughts. What have either of you (or anyone else in the community that wants to jump in) seen of the emerging online assessments, either enacted currently at the state level or as being developed by the two consortia, that can help us assess STEM better? Do you think if we start assessing more authentically, other circumstances may improve?
Glen - the article you just sent fits nicely in this discussion, but I want to give it its own post so I'm not going to drop it in here .
Thanks for asking about state testing. Since I wander the room, proctoring the test, I did not even think about simulations in this aspect of instruction. Utah introduced "technology enhanced questions" a few years ago. The demo shared with teachers (and students during practice testing) involves a roller coaster. The prompt begins showing a roller coaster model. The prompt continues with video from the front car on a roller coaster train. Finally, the question asks where on the roller coaster the train has the most kinetic energy. Answering the question involves clicking on ANY location of the roller coaster track. My students informed me they had at least one of this kind of question on their state test this year. Students told me it was like "doing a lab" for a test question, only easier since we did labs all year long.
Do other states have technology enhanced questions on their science, or other subject area state tests?