Outstanding STEM Learning For All: New EDC Report Shares NSF Forum Findings

Outstanding STEM Learning For All: New EDC Report Shares NSF Forum Findings

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

This is a reposting of a blog originally published on Education Development Center, Inc.'s Learning and Teaching website.

Sarita Pillai leads initiatives to improve the quality and equity of STEM education, including managing national research and technical assistance centers, building and sustaining communities of practice, and engaging youth in developing STEM-focused, technology-based resources for their peers. She is the PI of the National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded STEM Learning and Research (STELAR) Center at EDC and co-PI of the NSF-funded Center for Innovative Research in Cyberlearning (CIRCL). In 2015, Sarita, STELAR co-PI Caroline ParkerCatherine McCulloch (co-PI of Community for Advancing Discovery Research in Education—CADRE at EDC), and colleagues from SRI Education worked with the NSF and White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to coordinate a daylong invitational forum on "next generation" STEM education. In this post, Sarita shares a few key points from EDC’s May 2016 report on the Forum, Next Generation STEM for All: Envisioning Advances Based on NSF Supported Research.

Every day at EDC, I draw upon collaboration as a potent strategy to ensure all students have challenging, meaningful STEM learning experiences that give them the tools they need to succeed in college and careers. Through the NSF-funded STELAR and CIRCL national centers, my co-PIs and I facilitate collaboration among program developers, researchers, and practitioners who are leading cutting-edge R&D to improve STEM learning and cyberlearning. In other initiatives, I engage young people—especially girls, students from low-income communities, students of color, and students with disabilities who have been traditionally underrepresented in STEM careers—in designing STEM-focused learning resources that are relevant, rigorous, and relatable for their peers. In both cases, collaboration with change-focused stakeholders who are deeply committed to exchanging ideas, identifying obstacles, and sharing expertise and divergent viewpoints is key to success.

“Collaboration with change-focused stakeholders” is an excellent way to describe a November 9, 2015 Invitational Forum—Next Generation STEM Learning for All (STEM Forum)—co-led by EDC, SRI Education, the NSF, and the White House Office of Science and Technology. Held right before the first-ever White House Summit on Next Generation High Schools, the STEM Forum brought together thought leaders from multiple sectors including K–12, higher education, informal learning, research, workforce development, policy, business, and industry to examine challenges and successes in STEM education. It was a stimulating day that featured 80 speakers (view the STEM Forum’s agenda and explore videos and materials), and engaged 250 participants in examining and discussing national goals for STEM in schools, as well as reviewing promising NSF R&D that suggests some potential routes to take to reach those goals. 

I invite you to learn more about the STEM Forum in the May 2016 EDC report Next Generation STEM Learning for All: Envisioning Advances Based on NSF Supported Research authored by Caroline Parker, myself, and Jeremy Roschelle of SRI. In addition to providing summaries of the 13 STEM Forum sessions, the report presents important takeaways that emerged across the Forum’s following four thematic areas:

      1. Research-based advances in STEM education, including existing research that investigators are building upon, concepts and approaches for improving STEM learning, and high-priority emerging issues for researchers to address
      2. Engagement of multiple stakeholders, including “building sustainable, synergistic relationships across communities, especially individuals and organizations not often at the table” to infuse new perspectives and comprehensively tackle systemic change
      3. The symbiotic connection between social justice, equity, and excellence, including how equity is being addressed in STEM education and six challenges specific to different youth experiences and aspects of STEM that must be addressed  
      4. Progress and promising approaches to scaling and sustaining research-based advances in STEM education, including collective impact, as well as very difficult challenges stakeholders face in efforts to scale and sustain advances

Despite highly innovative and effective work underway to improve STEM education—the Forum highlighted some truly amazing programs—many complex, deeply rooted weaknesses in our educational system continue to limit the quality and equity of STEM learning opportunities for far too many students. By initiating a candid conversation at the national level about obstacles and barriers to high-quality STEM learning and teaching, the November Forum laid the groundwork for future, even more inclusive and intensive action to ensure that all students benefit from outstanding, “next generation” STEM learning experiences in schools and out-of-school programs.