“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”William Arthur Ward
Education is always topical & in the news as nations drive to empower their young minds with knowledge and bring forth advancements across all subjects.
The ‘STEM’ subjects of science, technology, engineering and math are all currently on the radar as there is a serious lack of interest in these as a course choice. For those that do embark on any STEM course, they have a high chance of failure or of dropping out of the subjects altogether. What’s the reason for this?
Studies and research suggest that traditional, lecture based teaching methods are less effective than using more engaging ways to teach and be taught. It is now considered that students have 1.5 times more chance of failure using just traditional teaching methods.
To this effect, educators are developing new curricula in attempts to break down the walls of traditional learning for a more holistic approach.
Using Art to Teach STEM subjects
Art and Design is poised to transform the 21st century economy in the way that science and technology did in the last one. Art is now becoming a useful tool to be able to teach other subjects, particularly helping students who are not natural “rote” workers. Art is engaging and students can relate it to their cultural identity before applying the knowledge elsewhere.
For example, a high school in Massachusetts, involved in testing new teaching methods, teaches geometry through art. Similarly, a 4th grade biology class at an Oregon school teaches the relationship between earthworms, soil, erosion and clay by making pottery.
From STEM to STEAM
There has been great traction in the transition from STEM to STEAM and pioneers believe this is going to help evolve 21st century teaching.
“It prepares kids for whatever college or career is ahead.” states a teacher at Andover High School, Massachusetts.
Active learning methods are more effective
In recent years there has also been a movement towards changing teaching styles in schools and universities across the US, particularly in the subjects of science and maths.
A representative from The Association of American Universities states “We have not done a good job in teaching the gateway courses in science and math”.
Multiple studies now show better results for experimental classes that are more engaging and with an active approach to learning transforming the traditional, lecture based way in which science is taught.
A few years ago, a University in Colorado, a national leader in teaching science methods , tested thousands of students for introductory physics classes and results using active teaching methods showed improved scores by around 50%.
A University in North Carolina showed similar results for introductory biology classes.
It Takes Time To Change Old Ways of Thinking
Results have been so positive from the various research carried out yet many educational institutions are not following suit. Grade schools and high schools have been more receptive yet Universities are dragging their heels.
One reason for this is that old beliefs take a while to shift and many professors feel science and math are subjects for the elite few.
Another reason communicated by Marc T. Facciotti, an Associate Professor is “Universities are interested in publishing research and winning grants” suggesting that teaching is actually not the priority, sadly.
Essential to Raise Numbers of Science Graduates
There are far too few people with degrees in math and science and other STEM subjects. In new classes, 28% start with a major in science, math or engineering but have only 16% finishing. These statistics show a high attrition, largely from women.
Lecturing has always been the predominant teaching method but scaling up active learning approaches could enable the success for tens of thousands of students who fail or drop out of STEM subjects.
What Are Active Learning Methods?
Whilst there is yet no clear definition, active learning methods could include:
- Students working in groups to clarify concepts and reach a conclusion together
- Exercises in class that involve more than listening to the teacher
- Use of clickers for Q&A sessions – especially effective in large courses
- Calling on individuals or groups at random
- More coursework based tasks
Of course, lectures will still be needed at times, but by continuing to introduce new, more updated 21st century teaching methods is expected to entice more students into these subjects.
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