A Systems Approach to Improving K-12 STEM Education

CRA Bulletin (07/31/09) Gandomi, Nathan

The improvement of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education via collaboration between public and private stakeholders in an urban K-12 system was the focus of a recent U.S. House Subcommittee on Research and Science Education hearing.  A systems approach to STEM education was assessed by the hearing using the urban school district of Chicago.  Wanda Ward with the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Directorate for Education and Human Resources pointed out that NSF has played an essential role in aligning STEM priorities in the America COMPETES Act and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, with four areas of focus: innovation; broad participation to enhance workforce development; enrichment of teacher education; and the cultivation of cyberlearning to augment STEM education.  The importance of creating learning experiences in informal environments was emphasized by After School Matters chair Maggie Daly, who observed that her program facilitated successful interaction between hundreds of paid instructors and thousands of students in Block 37 initiatives where professionals address workforce trends with students and students confront workplace problems.  The University of Illinois at Chicago's Learning Sciences Research Institute's Donald Wink discussed the relationships, leadership, and research required for the interaction between K-12 students and higher education to fortify STEM education.  His recommendation was to concentrate work with existing products and on existing research and to embed K-12 data on student performance in universities.  Among the insights gained from the Chicago effort was the need to team with universities for course support and classroom instruction, extend learning experiences outside the classroom, develop math and science focused schools, and nurture partnerships among schools, universities, and federal grants.

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