Strategic Plan to Develop Student Interest in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Related Careers
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Success in K-12 math and science classes has a direct effect on student’s decision to pursue careers in engineering and technology. In a recent International assessment conducted by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) there were some unacceptable statistics released about the United States schools. The results of this latest research place the United States 25th out of 30 OECD countries in math achievement among 15-year-olds and 21st in science achievement (Nagel, 2007). Without adequate preparation American students will not develop the skills or interest necessary to fill existing and developing technical jobs. In a world constantly being changed by technological advancements it is imperative that American students develop interest in STEM related careers. In an effort to peak student interest in these fields this literature review addresses the following questions:
1. What factors in our public schools have contributed to students lack of interest in STEM fields?
2. What MI Strategies can be created to create interest in STEM disciplines?
What Factors in our Public Schools Have Contributed to Students Lack of Interest in STEM Related Fields?
In the United States there has been a tremendous decline in interest in the fields of engineering and technology. This decline is a result of lack of student interest in math and science. The current lack of interest can be contributed to two key factors: 1) The United States has a poor math and science curriculum and 2) Lack of qualified math and science teachers. America’s competitive edge in the global economy, the strength and versatility of its labor force, its capacity to nourish research and innovation – all are increasingly dependent on an education system capable of producing a steady supply of young people well prepared in science and mathematics (USELDC, 2005).
Poor curriculum design is probably the principal reason why American students do not show interest in the areas of math and science. Current curriculums try to cover a wide variety of topics in a short period of time. How can students develop the confidence necessary to further develop the intelligences associated with these subjects, when they are constantly switching topics? General mathematics textbooks in the U.S. contain an average of 36 different topics; texts in Japan cover 8 topics, in Germany, 4-5 (NSB, 1999). American math and science curriculums need to focus more on quality than quantity
In the United States there is also a serious lack of qualified math and science teachers in our schools. In February 2001 The United States Commission on National Security/ 21st Century identified the condition of pre-college education as a critical national security problem: “we do not now have, and will not have with current trends, nearly enough qualified teachers in our K-12 classrooms, particularly in science and mathematics (USCNS, 2001). In order for students to become interested in math and science, students need to see teachers they can identify with who possess a high logical-mathematical intelligence, a high naturalistic intelligence, or both. These teachers can give the students the specific skills and training necessary to excel in these areas of study because they are able to relate to these students and they understand some of the factors that may impede on their success in math and science. Teachers cannot teach what they do not know and they cannot teach what they know if they do not have the skills to do so (NSB, 2004).
What MI Strategies Can be Created to Create Interest in STEM Disciplines?
In order for students to succeed in math and science courses students need to engage in higher order thinking and develop effective problem-solving skills. In the book Theory of Multiple Intelligences Campbell, Campbell, and Dickinson (2004) argued that when students use deductive and inductive logic, study patterns, and use technology their interest in math and science can increase. To further elaborate on the theory of Campbell et al. educators should also seek ways of incorporating these concepts in informal educational settings and incorporate more hands on activities that encourage student participation.
By bringing STEM concepts to informal settings students are able to further develop their logical-mathematical intelligence while incorporating other intelligences at the same time. An example of this could be taking students on a field trip to a television studio and allowing them to develop a science or math related television show. Although students would do a lot of preparation in a formal educational environment they will work very hard and diligently at their desired project because they realize that they will have an opportunity to be on television.
Incorporating technology and engineering related activities in math and science classes is also a great opportunity to develop students’ problem solving skills. There should be more collaboration between technology teachers, science teachers, and math teachers in our public schools. Currently, technology courses are not considered core courses in our public schools. Many bright students are unable to experience these courses or see how they relate to topics that are covered in math and science classrooms because they have such rigorous academic classes. These students are the main students that need to pursue careers in STEM fields.
Our schools need to create more summer engineering and technology academies. By targeting youth at a young age educators will have the opportunity to give students the logical-mathematical training that is necessary to peak interest in these fields. The activities in these proposed academies should be fun and challenging. Presently, organizations like the National Science Foundation and Project Lead the Way are very supportive of summer initiatives designed to broaden students’ logical-mathematical abilities.
Campbell, L, Campbell, B, & Dickinson, D (2004). Teaching and Learning Through Multiple Intelligences, Third Edition. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Nagel , Dave (December 2007). U.S. Students Below Average in Science and Math. The Journal, Retrieved December 5, 2007, from http://www.thejournal.com/articles/21679
National Science Board (2004). Science and Engineering Indicators 2004.
Washington, DC: National Science Foundation. Retrieved November 21, from http://www.nsf.gov/sbe/srs/seind04/start.html
National Science Board Commission on Precollege Education in Mathematics, Science, and Technology. Educating Americans for the 21st Century. September 1999.
The United States Commission on National Security/21st Century. "Education as a National Security Imperative," Road Map for National Security: Imperative for Change. February 15, 2001: 38-46.
U.S. Education Leaders Delegation to China (2005). Education in China: Lessons for U.S.Educators. China: Asia Society. Retreived November 21, from http://www.internationaled.org/publications/ChinaDelegationReport120105b.pdf