Last year, I earned my STEM Certificate and Master’s Degree in STEM Leadership. The program made me rethink some common practices in STEM education. The NGSS are designed to bring a STEM focus into the science classroom. Here are some of the common mistakes I see teachers making in STEM.
1. Focusing too heavily on Engineering
I can’t tell you how many STEM activities that I have seen that only focus on engineering. STEM activities should include science, technology, and math, too. And while it is often difficult to incorporate all of the STEM disciplines, you should be including more than one.
The NGSS makes this super easy. The Common Core Math Standards are written at the bottom of the standards to help you make a math connection.
If you are having trouble making technology connections, I have started to build a series of posts that focus on incorporating technology in your science classroom. Click here to see those posts.
And science can be used to provide students with a context for their STEM activities. Which brings me to my next point.
2. Engineering activities that are out of context.
Raise your hand if you have ever had your students build a RANDOM bridge because you wanted to incorporate engineering. My hand is definitely up.
A common mistake teachers make in STEM is having engineering projects that are out of context. While it is fun to use short engineering challenges for a team-building activity or a brain-break, engineering doesn’t have to be a separate component.
Use the Disciplinary Core Idea to provide your students with a science-based context. Have your students create a solar oven to help them learn about energy transfer. Ask students to lead a campaign to minimize air pollution at your school. Design an activity that requires that students use their understanding of Newton’s laws to minimize the impact of a collision between vehicles.
3. Equating Engineering with Building
Engineerings isn’t just making or building something. According to the NGSS, engineering is defined as the study of defining and solving problems.
One of my grandfathers was an industrial engineer. I can assure you, that my grandpa wasn’t building anything at work. He was in charge of assessing systems in order to improve productivity. He identified problems and potential solutions.
When students use the Science and Engineering Practices of Defining Problems and Designing Solutions, they are taking part in Engineering.
4. Overcomplicating the Engineering Design Process
According to the Framework for K-12 Science Education, the Engineering Design Process (EDP) has three major steps:
- Defining a Problem
- Developing a Solution
- Optimizing a Solution
These three steps encompass the more complicated models of the EDP. However, this simplified model is far more accessible to students. Check out Appendix I of the NGSS in order to learn more about the simplified engineering design process and avoid this common STEM mistake.
5. Avoiding STEM altogether.
Many science teachers avoid STEM activities. Few science teachers identify as STEM educators. But Engineering is one of the four disciplines covered in NGSS. The NGSS also connects closely to Common Core Math Standards.
The NGSS are written so that integrated Engineering into your activities is less intimidating than ever. Remember, you don’t have to take on a full building challenge to add engineering to your classroom repertoire.
Next week I will be posting some activities to help you bring STEM to your classroom.