STEM education

10 major insights on teaching, learning, and STEM

STEM education group spotlights trends, predictions for the coming year

STEM education and social-emotional learning will take precedence in 2019, according to teaching and learning predictions from 100Kin10.

100Kin10 is a national network focusing on improving STEM education by adding 100,000 highly-qualified STEM teachers to U.S. classrooms by 2021.

The report compiles information from 100Kin10’s partner organizations, teachers, researchers, and other STEM leaders, and the 10 reflections serve to direct the group’s work and focus areas for 2019. It offers a look at five trends that impacted STEM teaching and learning in 2018, along with five predictions for 2019.

Here are five 2018 trends that shaped 100Kin10’s focus:

1. Teacher shortages continue to grow, alongside stop-gaps and even some innovative solutions

Leaders at 100Kin10 say they’ve continued to see an increase in states using emergency credentials to fill teacher shortages, but these stop-gap solutions raise concerns about the sharp rise in under-qualified teachers. There are some innovative solutions to this challenge, however, including teacher residencies and strategic solutions to help teacher prep programs and school districts identify their areas of need.

2. Teachers crave more NGSS resources

Nearly 20 states have adopted the Next Generation Science Standards–standards that are meant to transform science education. But teachers tell 100Kin10 that progress is slow, because teachers and districts have the massive task of finding high-quality materials to support the standards. 100Kin10 partners are working to find innovative tools and resources to help educators find access to high-quality NGSS instructional materials.

3. Bringing the M back to STEM

100Kin10 Teacher Forum members note that math is frequently omitted from STEM conversations and opportunities, sometimes due to a focus on tech. 2019 will highlight efforts to shed light on math as an integral part of STEM learning, including active learning, complex problem-solving, and creative approaches to helping students and teachers understand math’s importance in and relevant to daily life.

4. Earlier STEM to advance equity

Evidence consistently demonstrates that early exposure to STEM education contributes to student success in high school, in college, and throughout life. What’s more, early science and math education in particular have been shown to predict socioeconomic status well into adulthood. In 2018, 100Kin10 observed more educators and experts responding to that evidence with a wide range of initiatives supporting early STEM, many of which focused on equity. These initiatives come in the form of science and museum partnerships, elementary teacher prep, and more.

5. STEM is engineering the future workforce

STEM jobs are linked to higher income, both among college graduates and for those with a high school diploma. With the cost of college continuing to skyrocket, and uncertainty around the future of work increasing, STEM jobs are increasingly seen as the most sensible careers for students to pursue. As a result, PK–12 learning is becoming more intertwined with the practical side of STEM, including an alliance between schools and the workforce.

Predictions for 2019:

6. PK-12 STEM is rediscovering joy, curiosity, and experimentation

Recently 100Kin10 partners and educators have observed the early signs of a movement to refocus the classroom around joy and experimentation. Teacher Forum members say the most exciting STEM learning is happening outdoors because it taps into kids’ natural curiosity. Partners such as zoos and botanical gardens are developing STEM tools and curricula to engage students in a wide variety of topics. 100Kin10 predicts a move from accountability systems that encourage rote memorization to those that promote teacher creativity.

7. STEM as social-emotional learning

Educators and employers agree that students need soft skills and social-emotional competencies to be effective leaders and team members. In many districts, educators see a bigger push to understand and integrate social-emotional learning and brain science to better help students develop social skills that complement academics.

8. STEM leading the way toward student agency and personal relevance

Over the past decade, 100Kin10 has seen a growing trend toward personalized learning, pushed forward by ed-tech companies’ digital tools and platforms. However, there has been criticism that these tech-based solutions not only fail to reach all students, but also limit teachers from connecting personally with students, especially those from underrepresented and low-income communities. Building on research about the importance of relevance and agency for student learning and motivation, 100Kin10 partners are helping to pioneer an approach called personally-relevant pedagogy that the group predicts is a harbinger of things to come.

9. Teacher activism is up, interest in teaching is down, but change is coming

With teacher activism and political engagement on the rise, and solid data showing that teachers are happier than other STEM professionals, as well as a wave of teacher retirements that are going to put a fine point on the need to recruit more teachers, 100Kin10 predicts more teacher-focused activism that will improve the overall experience of teachers and the perception of the teaching profession in the coming year.

10. Designing schools where teachers and students thrive

100Kin10 partners have made great progress improving teacher work environments, and the group predicts this work will have a ripple effect across the system, prompting broader attention, energy, and activity focused on creating schools where teachers can thrive so students can thrive.

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