Introducing any new curriculum into an existing educational system always has pros and cons. There’s often a learning curve with inserting new instruction techniques and sometimes additional costs in training and materials. However, the positives of said curriculum change often outweigh the negatives, which usually fade significantly as the program continues.
Looking directly at STEM education, pros and cons can really help solidify why it’s important to consider updating your curriculum to include this method for teaching science, technology, engineering, and math.
While traditional education covers these disciplines to a certain degree, the unique way STEM learning approaches them really builds an invaluable set of skills.
Which side of your STEM education pros and cons list will be longer? Here are some points to consider.
STEM education vs traditional education
Although much of the basic information stays the same between STEM education and a more traditional curriculum, what’s important to take note of is how that information is conveyed and what the results are.
To compare the two:
- Traditional education teaches each subject separately, while STEM education integrates subjects to connect disciplines to each other.
- Traditional education often focuses on memorization; STEM education emphasizes the application of knowledge and illustrates how it fits into the real world.
- Traditional education is primarily lecture-based (especially in college), while STEM education infuses learning with hands-on activities and more student-centered learning.
Another significant difference between STEM education vs. traditional education is coverage. Traditional education covers all the subjects, primarily giving overviews of each one rather than taking a deeper dive into any.
STEM education, with its focus on science, technology, engineering, and math, offers that deeper dive. STEM doesn’t ignore the other disciplines and often uses them as a vessel to promote more detailed learning of STEM subjects.
This deeper dive can help spark student interest in STEM-related professions and help make them more aware of potential career opportunities in their future.
Although, it all starts with integrating STEM learning into the classroom.
The pros of teaching STEM
The positives of teaching STEM in school, throughout a student’s entire academic career, all lean toward students developing critical skills they can use throughout their whole life. While teaching students the facts associated with these disciplines, students also hone more general abilities that will serve them well professionally.
Develop skills students can’t do without
Memorizing and knowing all the ‘facts’ can only get a student so far in school and life. They must be able to understand how to use that knowledge as well. STEM education helps make that possible through its very structure. With a focus on higher-order thinking activities that incorporate real-world problems and the need to work as a group, students are gaining skills they may not even be aware they need, including:
- Independent innovation
- Creative thinking
- Critical thinking
- Collaboration and teamwork
One of the most essential skills STEM education inadvertently teaches is GRIT. This is the ability for a student to try, fail, and get up and try again. The determination to solve a problem no matter how many tries it takes; that’s a skill of a successful person.
Provide for future professional opportunities
Even with industry trends and different jobs coming in and out of vogue, a person can always market themselves with the skills honed through a STEM-based education. That is because the skills mentioned above are becoming more and more common for employers to want in new employees, regardless of industry.
There’s a better understanding of the value these skills possess, and when combined with a background in the actual STEM disciplines, they can often lead to a career with a higher-than-average salary.
Having a STEM education can really make a person stand out as a potential candidate for a large variety of jobs.
Promote gender equality and equity
The integrated curriculum STEM education helps put various disciplines in front of students in an accessible way. Not only that but the earlier students are exposed to STEM education, the higher the chance they’ll opt into a STEM-related field for their career.
This may work to reduce the sizable gender gap in many STEM jobs.
Additionally, the design of STEM learning is very inclusive. Equal opportunities and equal coaching are given to both genders, creating a more level playing field as early as kindergarten but, most importantly, as students progress in their education.
The cons of teaching STEM
While no teaching method is perfect, many of the cons associated with STEM education are often temporary and occur primarily at the beginning of the integration of the program. They also result from STEM being a newer ideology that needs more uniformity of a longer-standing curriculum that has had plenty of time to develop. You may just need a little GRIT of your own to get a program off the ground, which is why it’s so important to fully understand what the curriculum is all about before diving in.
- STEM learning is not about pushing other disciplines to the back burner. It’s about an integrated, well-rounded curriculum.
- STEM is not a program that can wait until the last minute. If you want to see results, the earlier you start it in school, the better.
- STEM is not about only helping certain students succeed. While naturally motivated students may jump ahead at first, the coaching aspect of the curriculum is there to help every student.
Other speed bumps to a successful STEM program include the cost of materials, the need for training, and the simple concern for those unfamiliar with it or the subjects they’ll now have to teach. These are all valid points and can be real issues, but resources are emerging that can make the transition possible, and more tools exist now that help incorporate STEM learning without teachers having to start from scratch.
Many of the cons associated with STEM learning can be addressed and mitigated, if not removed completely, making it possible to create a well-rounded STEM curriculum that will really change the game for your students.
Will the pros outweigh the cons?
It’s projected that almost 11 million jobs will exist in STEM occupations by 2030, and while that’s still a small percentage of the total, it’s a vast area of potential if you’re qualified and prepared. This is especially appealing given that the median annual wage for STEM jobs is 48 percent higher than the median for all occupations.
Giving students the opportunity to grasp this potential and have all the skills necessary to find STEM-related professional success is an amazing gift. Are you ready to go for it?