Revamping the way STEM is taught through project-based learning
- Officials at Lockheed Martin are projecting they'll need to hire more than 100,000 people from STEM fields over the next 15 years. The company is among the growing number of corporations investing in growing the pipeline of students, from elementary school through college, to make sure they'll have the talent they need down the road. At Lockheed Martin, like in other firms, the commitment is not just about extending dollars, but about taking a hands-on approach to helping to shape the future graduates who could one day be employees.
- Lockheed Martin spokesperson William Phelps said the company is committed to not just increasing the pipeline, but diversifying it. Some fo the effort is about showing off a diverse workforce, but some is about messaging, he said. For girls, in particular, messaging around how STEM fields can "change the world" is particularly effective, he said.
- Phelp's said the there's an emphasis on project-based learning, rather than lectures, which helps to make subjects more engaging for students at all levels. Despite the fact that this emphasis has been repeated as a best practice in the industry for years, data show a majority of STEM courses at the higher ed level are still being taught as lectures, and only 27% incorporate any level of interactivity.
The Council of Independent Colleges is launching the Seminar on Science Pedagogy, which the organization hopes will impact the way STEM courses are taught at small colleges across the country. Realizing that STEM courses, particularly the introductory gateway courses that virtually all students must take as a core curricular requirement, are still largely taught as lectures, and noting the impact this could have on student engagement and major selection, the group is seeking to introduce higher levels of engagement early on to attract more students to these fields.
CIC President Richard Ekman said it made sense seize an opportunity to work with Nobel laureate and Stanford physics professor Carl E. Wieman to "develop a seminar for our colleges that would strengthen the teaching of science and attract more people into science."
The group is focusing on getting faculty members teaching introductory courses to set up specific exercises designed to have students think through problems in a way that the scientist would think about them. This forces students to engage more, not only with each other and the professor, but with the material as they "deal with not only conceptually important ideas, but also deal with problems that people actually have," said CIC Senior Vice President Kathy Whatley, who is overseeing the new initiative.
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