Why is STEM important for all?


The 15 Minute Forum returned this week and was led by Phoebe Bence (Science Teacher and STEM lead). Phoebe began by talking about the many and varied roles of a teacher. It is relatively easy to identify that teachers have pastoral roles, prepare students for achieving in exams, teaching life skills and raising aspirations. However, a vital role of a teacher is to prepare students for their future and the world of work.

The challenge for us, as teachers, is that the future world of work will look very different to the current one. Phoebe discussed the changing fortunes of Kodak (which was used by Matthew Syed in this article) as an example of how tomorrow’s economy will not be the same as today’s. From 1900, when it patented the Box Brownie, Kodak was a revolutionary company, innovating and developing photographs on film, to the point where they were globally successful and a multi-billion dollar company. However by 2012, and following many years of stagnation, Kodak went bankrupt.

What this shows us is, if an organisation or individuals stop adapting to the changing conditions around them, then they will very quickly become obsolete in those conditions. As a result, teachers have to prepare students for a world of work which does not yet exist. Jobs exist today, that were never thought of when we (the teachers) were students. Equally, jobs will exist in the future which cannot be conceived of at present. There are many examples in the modern world of how science and technology have developed at a rapid pace and generated new inventions over a very short time-scale. These ‘new’ inventions are now part of everyday life and within such fields as automobiles, healthcare and manufacturing the next ‘new’ invention is already being conceived.

So the key question is ‘How do teachers prepare students for an unknown future?:

  • Be honest with students about skills:
    • skills are important and should be cherished by students;
    • teachers should encourage students to engage with harder skills;
    • teachers should encourage students to think more deeply about concepts/topics and to challenge the current way of thinking;
    • teachers should not allow students to ‘opt out’ of hard subjects or skill sets.
  • Broaden their perspective of STEM subjects:
    • STEM is not just science, technology, engineering and maths;
    • STEM infiltrates every subject area from a language app which translates foreign words, to 3D printers changing art subjects;
    • teachers should show students where technology links to their subject and how valuable it can be.
  • Teach them to be problem solvers:
    • many of the skills that are taught to students in their current education, may look very different (and many will be obsolete) in their future careers;
    • the important aspect is that teachers teach students how to ‘wrestle’ with a problem and find a solution to that problem.
  • Encourage students to see themselves as STEM learners:
    • there is no set profile for a STEM learner – as teachers we should be engendering a passion for our subject for all students;
    • teachers can create the right environment which allows all students to be encouraged by STEM based learning;
    • the current national drive focussed on encouraging more girls into STEM careers can be encouraged within schools.

The aim of all of these things is to make students valuable to future employers.

How can this be achieved in the classroom?

As teachers we can:

  • make links within our subjects to show how technology has and will change each subject area;
  • show that there does not have to be a dichotomy between the Sciences and the Arts; scientists can be creative and there is a role for STEM in all aspects of education.
  • show that STEM subjects can be and are inter-disciplinary;
  • encourage students to persevere with tasks and to challenge their way of thinking about the world in which they live.

The future economy and world of work will look very different to the current one. We, as teachers, have a duty to prepare our students for that world so that they can be successful in it.

Next week (March 13th), Durrington will be hosting a STEM week with a range of activities taking place across the school and subject areas teaching lessons with a STEM theme. It should be an exciting week.

Posted by Martyn Simmonds

This entry was posted in 15 Minute Forums, General Teaching and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Why is STEM important for all?

  1. Reblogged this on Design Technology & Engineering Teaching Resources and commented:
    Why is STEM important for all?

  2. Pingback: Bright Spots: STEM Week | Class Teaching

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