Learning about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) can empower students and build their confidence.
As advances in STEM fields continue to accelerate, educators are putting greater emphasis on developing students’ scientific and mathematical skills to prepare them for future career opportunities. But, the benefits of STEM subjects go beyond preparing students for future jobs. Research shows that when teachers use an interdisciplinary learning method, called STEM Education, students’ academic performance and cognitive abilities improve, which sets them up for success in college and beyond.
STEM Education consolidates science, technology, engineering, and mathematics so children see how they work together to solve everyday problems. According to The National Science Teaching Association, this instructional approach, “makes learning ‘real’ and gives students opportunities to see the connection between the content they are studying and the application of that content in authentic and relevant ways.”
Honing Scientific Processing Skills
Students do better in science when they develop the skills scientists need to do their work, such as communicating, classifying, measuring, inferring, and predicting.
A study done in the Journal of Turkish Science Education in 2020 found that STEM education can enhance students’ scientific processing skills. Researchers had 39 students who were enrolled in a science teaching undergraduate program complete four activities during a 10 week period. Each lesson started with a real-life engineering problem that the students had to solve using a five-stage inquiry cycle.
After the study, the students reported that the STEM approach not only helped them develop scientific processing skills but also “increased their attitude and motivation toward the course.” The students also said the activities gave them opportunities to design and develop engineering products and experiments, which would give them advantages over other students in the future.
Increasing Critical Thinking
To see how STEM education impacts critical thinking skills, researchers Yasemin Hacioglu and Filiz Gulhan examined 30 middle school students as they did five engineering design-based activities. They first measured the students’ truth-seeking, open-mindedness, analyticity, systematicity, self-confidence, and inquisitiveness, which are sub-scales of critical thinking. After the middle schoolers finished these activities, the researchers found that the students’ open-mindedness and truth-seeking had increased. The students “constantly sought truth to find the best solution” and “considered their group members’ opinions” during the study, according to Hacioglu and Gulhan.
Critical thinking not only helps students do better in math and science, but it also improves their ability to analyze text, have deep discussions, and write essays. By encouraging your teachers to use the STEM approach, you can elevate student performance in every subject.
Researchers looked at how a project-based STEM learning approach affected students’ ability to solve problems. The researchers divided students into two groups and had each group do two projects on electromagnetic induction.
One group got to invent solutions to real-world problems while the other simply followed instructions. The first group also had to evaluate whether the projects achieved their goals while the second group simply collected and reported data. At the end of the study, as reported in the Journal of Physics in 2020, the students who followed the project-based STEM learning method showed greater problem-solving skills than the ones who didn’t.
When educators teach children how to find solutions, they gain confidence and go on to achieve academic success in high school and college. Your teachers can boost students’ self-esteem by increasing their problem-solving skills through STEM education.
A 2021 Journal for STEM Education Research study discovered that teaching STEM increases teachers’ self-efficacy — a personal judgment of how well or poorly they can perform a task based on past experience and skill set. As teachers became more confident in their teaching abilities, they expected greater results from their students. These higher expectations increased students’ self-efficacy, motivation, and STEM knowledge.
Thus, having your teachers integrate STEM into math and science can improve instructional quality and student performance.
Open to New Possibilities
STEM Education can inspire students to pursue a career in science, engineering, math, or technology, according to researchers Hicran Özkul and Muhammet Özden. After completing several engineering-oriented activities, a group of middle school students told researchers that they were now considering going into STEM-related jobs in the future.
Students from marginalized groups sometimes don’t see themselves going into science, engineering, or technology. STEM Education can empower them by giving them the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in those types of positions.
Other students may get discouraged, thinking math and science are too hard for them. However, a 2017 Journal of Science Education study found that STEM activities give students a positive attitude toward STEM subjects. As you integrate STEM education into your school’s math and science instruction, you can change the way students see these “hard” subjects and motivate them to do their best.
How Studies Weekly Science Incorporates STEM Education
Our curriculum fully aligns with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), which integrates engineering design with science education to prepare students to face real-world challenges. Using our print and online resources, K-5 students learn about the fascinating world around them through the lens of science and engineering. Hands-on lessons, such as Engineering Design: Protection Against High Winds (2nd grade, week 27), and Building Dams (5th grade, week 19), will make it easier for your teachers to increase students’ critical thinking, problem-solving, and scientific processing skills.
See how you can prepare the next generation of innovative thinkers with our K-5 Science curriculum by visiting our website.