What is STEM Education and Why is It So Important? - Understanding the Basics of STEM Education

STEM is an interdisciplinary approach to learning and is a curriculum based on the idea of teaching students to improve the outcomes of the four specific disciplines — science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. 
Students apply these academic disciplines in contexts that connect the classroom to the world around them.
STEM education increases literacy, creates critical thinkers and empowers the next generation of innovators. 
STEM Education strives to prepare an enlightened generation in these areas to contribute to the application of knowledge and practices acquired to meet the challenges facing them in their daily lives and the labor market. 

Understanding the Basics of STEM Education

What is STEM Education and Why is It So Important? - Understanding the Basics of STEM Education

What is STEM Education?

STEM Education is an integrated, multidisciplinary approach based on the idea of educating students that can help improve the outcomes of the four disciplines — science, technology, engineering and mathematics. 
STEAM / STEM is of interest to international organizations that seek to develop their human resources in specialized areas that support innovation and competitiveness. 
The STEM Education Initiative is one of the most most important issues of educational reform in the current era of education, and the integration of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The teacher is one of the important pillars in STEM education, he plays an essential role in counseling, mentoring and evaluating students. This role is not fundamentally different in various education models, but it is a flexible role according to the model required for the teacher's contributions. These contributions are formed according to the basics of learning that will be taken into account by the teacher when playing his role in this model of education. 
This campaign also indicates the insufficient number of skilled teachers to educate in these subjects. Therefore, the National Governors Association (NGA) advocates the need to increase the efficiency of teachers in STEM fields of study and the number of students pursuing advanced studies related to this trend.

History and Evolution of STEM Education

The Education Reform Movements before the advent of the STEM concept
Many reform movements aimed to achieve the unity and integration of knowledge, by improving the discipline in an integrative way that helps the learner to understand the subjects in a comprehensive and in-depth manner and enables him to understand the real world around him.

Several international projects were presented, such as Project 2061 implemented by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the Science Curriculum Reform Project in the light of the interaction between science, technology and society (STS), Introduction to Science, Technology, Society and the Environment (STSE), the National Science Education Standards (NSES), Local Systemic Change (LSC) project, Statewide Systemic Initiatives (SSI) for improving science and mathematics education, etc. 
In addition to a number of laws imposed by the federal government in order to improve the quality of education, such as the No Child Left Behind law, and the Every Student Succeeds Act -ESSA.

One of the main reasons for the failure of these projects was the lack of strict application of science and mathematics standards in general education and inadequate motivation of students towards mathematics and science and the lack of integration between the subjects that students learn and the real world. 
So the students often fail to see the connections between their teaching and career options for science, engineering and math education.

The STEM acronym was introduced in 2001 by Judith A. Ramaley when she was Assistant Director, Directorate for Education and Human Resources (EHR) at the National Science Foundation (NSF) from 2001 to 2004. 
The organization previously used the abbreviated name SMET (science, mathematics, engineering, and technology) when referring to curricula that incorporate knowledge and skills from these areas or career fields in these disciplines. 
Now, the term "STEM" is used nationwide far beyond the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Why is STEM Education So Important?

The STEM education model is important because it spreads to every part of our lives. The traditional education system focuses on repeating and replicating the correct hypotheses while building innovation and creativity is one of the most important pillars of the STEM education module. 
STEM education focuses on stimulating the brain and giving it a free right to create, rather than repeating what is already known to the world. 
STEM seeks to prepare an informed generation in these scientific areas to contribute to the application of knowledge and practices acquired to meet the challenges facing them in their daily lives and the labor market. 
STEM also offers opportunities to explore concepts related to STEM, so that the students can develop a passion and hope to pursue a career in the STEM field.

Project-based learning is one of the cornerstones of delivering STEM education and its practical application through learner-driven projects that simulate the practices of scientists and develop their skills for the 21st century.

Understanding the Basics of STEM Education

There are a number of fundamentals that a teacher must take into account when playing their role in the STEM education model so that they can make an effective contribution to the success of the model.

1. STEM education is offered to all students.
2. Knowledge of students in terms of their needs, preferences, and interests.
3. Work to communicate concepts and opinions on the subject, and mapping in a suitable framework through joint design with students.
4. In the STEM project, it is important to assess the student and to know the level of learning occurrence.
5. Assessing the student's joint planning task, this gives a picture of the quality standards and the success of the lists.
6. Planning and sequencing teaching and learning strategies and focusing on teaching specific skills needed for the model.

In STEM education the teacher must consider the following points:
  • Teaching science, mathematics, engineering and technology realistically.
  • Accompany research findings in the fields of psychological sciences, cognitive learning and educational technology in designing the reference framework for STEM education.
  • Attention to the periodic review of the curriculum so as to keep pace with development.
  • Choosing educational strategies based on realism, integration and practical application.
  • Keeping up with the new and advanced in the teaching aids and teaching methods associated with the model or project.
  • Deep understanding of the language of mathematics, science, engineering and technology.

STEM Education Models
The educational model is a simple mental concept to describe the procedures and processes for the design and development of education, and the interactions between them. 
This is simple in the form of a line drawing accompanied by a verbal description, which provides us with a practical guiding framework for these processes and relationships, understanding, organizing, interpreting and modifying them, discovering new relationships and information and predicting their construction.

The design of the educational model depends on the instructional materials and teaching methods that must be consistent with the quality of the material. 
There are a number of curricula for the preparation of the instructional material such as: the pattern of separate subjects or the pivotal and integrative approach.

Here are some of the learning models for STEM:

First: Problem-solving
This model is used in some forms of knowledge, such as scientific facts or concepts, for example: to clarify the work of a particular department or device, and is a means of collecting information about a scientific problem, and is also used in the review, evaluation and application.

Steps to resolve the problem
  • Put students in front of a problem and students must feel the problem.
  • Present the problem as a real problem.
  • Students identify problem-solving procedures and the information they need.
  • Students apply the solution procedures through their work in cooperative groups by collecting information.
  • The choice of the problem should take into account the interest of students and challenge their abilities, and be realistic to meet their needs and the needs of society.
  • Calendar to solve the problem formative calendar.
The Role of the Teacher in Problem-Based Learning Classroom
The teacher takes a number of procedures and steps that help his students to implement this model well:
  • Ensure the desire of his students and know their skills and inclinations.
  • Provide educational attitudes that provide suitable practical training opportunities.
  • Form a pattern or strategy to address the problem.
  • Instruct students to work together.
  • Present the problem as a question.
It is worth mentioning that the problem-solving method is a method that develops the creative ability of thinking, helps to build the student's self-reliance and leads to increase his self-confidence.

Second: Project-Based STEM Education
Project-based STEM education is a practical activity that takes place in a social environment, and a diverse activity undertaken by the individual alone or with members of the group with the aim of achieving certain objectives.

Project-based learning is one of the effective pillars for delivering and implementing STEM education through learner-driven projects that mimic the practices of scientists and develop their skills for the 21st century.
A number of steps in this model are: project selection, project planning, and project implementation.

Note that the special project is concerned with solving a particular problem, whether this problem is visible to the community or students.

Stages of project selection
1. Selecting the project and taking into account its suitability to the level of the student, and to have a real benefit.
2. Project design.
3. Presenting the project.
4. Writing reports on the project.
5. Implementation of planning.

In selecting the subject of the project to be chosen in depth, and draw attention to the fact that the projects are used in long educational decisions in which there is sufficient time for learners to implement their projects

STEM Education Requirements
STEM education requires providing and creating a learning environment in a way that helps learners to enjoy and engage in integration workshops between STEM fields, and enables them to develop their knowledge and skills in a way that allows them to understand and realize science in a soft and easy way and in a fun learning style, and through classrooms and extra-curricular classes.

Theoretically, STEM education is based on the constructivist theory and its findings from three decades of cognitive science.
The structural pillars that resonate with STEM education are:
  1. Learning is constructive and open process.
  2. Motivation and beliefs are an integral part of cognition.
  3. Social interaction is essential for cognitive development.
  4. Learning stems from contextual knowledge, strategies, and experiences
Therefore, curricula, activities and teaching strategies based on STEM education should be designed in an innovative scientific way that helps students to understand and realize the keys of different sciences in a soft and easy way and in an interactive and an integrated manner that is open to all, in the context of the learner's current knowledge and skills so that the learner has specific skills that extend their impact in his daily life.

Those interested in STEM education believe that it will help improve the outcomes of the four disciplinary outputs: science, technology, engineering and mathematics using a multidisciplinary approach, because modern innovations and inventions are intertwined with these disciplines.

The STEM approach is structured around the following main content:

Science: It includes knowledge, skills, scientific and creative thinking, and decision-making.

Technology: Includes scientific, engineering, and computer science applications.

Engineering: It includes engineering design and includes two components: providing a basic base of technical culture at the secondary level, and preparing the student to study engineering design in the post-secondary stage.

Mathematics: It includes a broad base of mathematics and mathematical problem-solving.

The requirements of the STEM education application refer to the three main axes of change from the traditional curriculum to the integrated curriculum, including:

First: changing the vision of science education and mathematics to match what is taught in the classroom with what is happening in reality.

The scientific education system faces the danger of school education that does not offer science in the form of expertise, does not promote inquiry and discovery, does not enable students to understand scientific materials, and does not promote an in-depth understanding of human experience. 
It is still characterized by rigidity, boredom and the difficulty, and alienates most students, especially at the secondary level. This is due to the following reasons:

  • The vast amount of information and educational situation in which the teacher acts as a carrier of information without providing opportunities for questions, dialogue, and discovery to the student.
  • Loss of pleasure, suspense, and lack of desire to search, and adventure in scientific experimentation and verification.
  • Focusing on conservation, and recalling previously answered information.
  • The isolation of science from other branches of science, and the lack of presentation of integrated and interrelated concepts.
  • The tendency to avoid linking science education to students' social content and their daily lives.
The curricula of integrated experiences seek to fulfill the needs of teaching science and mathematics, as follows:
  • Focusing on exploration and discovery skills.
  • Relying on analysis and reflection.
  • Formation of hypotheses and scientific experimentation.
  • Provision of evidence-based judgment.
  • Indulging in exclamation and question.
  • Indulging in meaning, not knowledge.
  • Indulging in research and discovery, not achievement.
  • Indulging in cooperation, not competition.
  • Achieving dependence on one another, not independence.
  • Achieving confidence, not fear.

Second: Changing the method of teaching science and mathematics in school so that students turn to indulge in scientific knowledge, skills, and mental habits, so that they practice science, research, investigation, creative problem solving, and scientific thinking.

STEM curriculum design requires the following experiences to be included:
  • An integrated curriculum based on concepts
  • The survey focused on problem-solving and employing technology.
  • Self-directed practical application, exploration and investigation, and research activities.
  • Performance-based, realistic, continuous, and multidimensional calendar.

Third: Changing the vision and objectives of education so that it seeks to achieve the understanding of science, mathematics and their technological applications by all members of the people, not only for a class of scientific elite.

STEM education involves not only teaching these majors and subjects in isolation, but also a multidisciplinary approach. 
It also recognizes the strong link between STEM education and the arts that foster design, creativity and innovation.
This requires providing and creating a learning environment in a way that helps learners to enjoy and engage in workshops integrating between those sciences and enabling them to develop their knowledge and skills in a way that allows them to understand and realize the sciences in an accessible and easy way and in a fun learning style. 
The impact of those skills should extend to all learner's educational activities in life and throughout all stages of education, and through the classroom and extra-curricular learning classes.

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