Monday, July 11, 2016

Reforming STEM Education

In his 2011 book on reforming Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math education in America, STEM the Tide, David Drew outlines the current research of eight changes needed in order to improve STEM education: (a) leadership; (b) evaluation; (c) better teachers; (d) high expectations; (e) committed mentors and role models; (f) value of a college education; (g) closing the achievement gap; and (h) revitalizing university research. Each of these elements are supported by research on effective leverage points in public education. However, the focus on the achievement gap dominates his discussion of reforming STEM education. For example, because students of color are denied opportunities to master STEM, their underrepresentation in STEM fields puts the field at a disadvantage.

Diversity leads to better decision outcomes, enhanced task performance, and greater innovation and creativity. The pervasiveness of unconscious bias and stereotyping having to do with gender and ethnic composition of our technical talent limits the possibility of technological innovation around the world (Klawe, Whitney, & Simard, 2009, p. 69).

Drew (2011) does describe various examples of how mentor teachers with high expectations have closed the achievement gap at a variety of institutions. For example, the calculus workshop programs at California State Polytechnic Institute, which was inspired and patterned after Uri Treisman’s 1985 doctoral dissertation research on the “efficacy of individualized tutoring, self-paced instruction, and short course aimed at the development of study skills” (Drew, 2011, p. 113) with students at the University of California, Berkeley. This case study, as well as other examples from The Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) in Louisiana and Texas, illustrate his point on the importance of mentoring students of color and creating a supportive peer culture in closing the STEM achievement gap. In order to ensure more equitable access to STEM curriculum, it is important to note current research on STEM perspectives and frameworks.