ABOUT Equity in STEAM (STEM)
What is STEM education?
The acronym STEM refers to the disciplines science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Although the interdisciplinary lens to science and math are the more commonly used methods to this precollege educational push, there is a greater need for students to be involved in the engineering aspect, how things work, while improving with the use of technology. Engineering focuses on problem solving and innovation which has been at the forefront of the agenda for not only our country, but all others as well, mainly for economic purposes. With this in mind, STEM education is on the educational reform forefront (Bybee, 2010).
The skills associated with this type of education are not limited to, but include "adaptability, complex communication, social skills, nonroutine problem solving, self-management, and systems thinking to compete in the modern economy" (Bybee, 2010). STEM curricula includes instructional methods such as "group activities, laboratory investigations, and projects, they afford the opportunity for students to develop these essential 21st-century skills and prepare them to become citizens who are better able to make decisions about personal health, energy efficiency, environmental quality, resource use, and national security" (Bybee, 2010). Alongside these agendas come politics and cultural values embedded within the decision making (Bybee, 2010).
Many efforts have and are currently being made to improve STEM education. One successful example is The University of Texas at Austins's UTEACH program (https://uteach.utexas.edu/). UTeach is a collaborative effort between the university, supporters, and the local school district to prepare secondary math and science educators with a research based teacher preparation program focused on content, pedagogy, and technology skills that offers flexible entry points, free tuition, and numerous resources. UTEACH's theoretical framework comes from Shulman's pedagogical content knowledge (1987) focusing on integrating content, pedagogy, and learner needs applied to different contexts and technological pedagogical content knowledge. Koehler, 2013 states that it is a "....a complex interaction among three bodies of knowledge: content, pedagogy, and technology. The interaction of these bodies of knowledge, both theoretically and in practice, produces the types of flexible knowledge needed to successfully integrate technology use into teaching."
As part of incorporating both pedagogical content knowledges, students in the UTEACH program have developed some STEM project based instruction (PBI) units. (You can click here to view them https://sites.google.com/site/pbiuteachaustin/home .) The UTEACH Google site defines PBI as, " (engaging) learners in exploring authentic, important, and meaningful questions of real concern to students. Through a dynamic process of investigation and collaboration and using the same processes and technologies that real scientists, applied mathematicians and engineers use, students work in teams to formulate questions, make predictions, design investigations, collect and analyze data, make products and share ideas. Students learn fundamental science and mathematical concepts and principles that they apply to their daily lives. Project-based instruction helps all students regardless of culture, race, socioeconomic status or gender engage in learning."
Research has shown that PBI instructional methods is beneficial to all students, but utilizing PBI through STEAM has been found to be successful especially for students from marginalized groups. (To read about an action research project I conducted in my classroom, see the link at the bottom of the page.) By incorporating PBI and STEM education in your classroom, you create opportunities for equity in education through these disciplines (See Literature Review Link at the bottom of the page for more information on the need for equity in STEM education.)
Bybee, R. W. (2010). What is STEM education? Science, 329(5995), 996-996. doi:10.1126/science.1194998
Gudmundsdottir, S., & Shulman, L. (1987). Pedagogical content knowledge in social studies. Scandinavian Journal of Educationl Research,
31(2), 59-70. Koehler, M. J., Mishra, P., & Cain, W. (2013). What is technological pedagogical content knowledge ? Journal of Education,
Petrosino, A. J., & Dickinson, G. (2003). Integrating technology with meaningful content and faculty research: The UTeach natural sciences
program. Contemporary issues in technology and teacher education, 3(1), 99-119.
Then, What Is STEAM Education?
The "A" in STEAM refers to the arts discipline. Many teachers have recently been incorporating art into the showcasing of student work, designs for prototypes, and other PBI components.