Engaging learners across all content areas with STEM-related instructional practices.

by Bethany Bernasconi

Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12

Introduction

I’ve learned that the nature of what we do as educators has changed. Where once our job was to provide information to students, now it’s to empower students to become curators of information and knowledge in connected and personalized ways.

I’m excited about the new conversations about STEM. There are two aspects to it: the instructional piece and content piece. But STEM isn’t just about STEM subjects – it’s about habits of mind. We want all students to be able to:

-Ask purposeful questions that are supported with evidence;

-Critically evaluate the world around them and make connections from many and disparate pieces of information;

-Approach any problem with discipline and rigorous analysis.

Of course it’s important to start with the standards and student learning objectives. What do you want  your students to be able to do at the end of the process? What skills are you evaluating? When you start with learning objectives, you can work backwards to design what you want the learning experience to look like.

Giving students these design and problem solving skills enables them to think creatively and independently in order to better manage and put form to the complex knowledge and information they face everyday.

 

Reflections

What I did well… 

As educators our plate is overflowing, and when a new idea or piece of learning comes along, we must evaluate if it belongs on our plate.  Does it benefit students?  How can it enhance our instructional practice?  How will it be implemented? Whenever I share a practice with others, I always begin with the “why.”  Why is this worth your time and how will it benefit students?  After all, everything we do as educators should be centered on what is best for the child in front of us.  In reflecting on my work with teachers in this video, I feel that I built a strong foundation and buy-in for the practice of using STEM to engage learners across all disciplines.  As the participants were able to see the value in this approach, it provided energy and enthusiasm for our conversations and practice with practical examples.  The learning was ripe with examples and ideas from diverse content areas.  This allowed everyone to walk away with an idea for their classroom which they could implement immediately.

What I would do more of, better, or differently… 

While the conversations were rich and dynamic, I wish that I had challenged participants to develop their questions more fully.  We generated a lot of ideas and only truly scratched the surface of their development.  In the future, I would love to have teachers take one idea, question, or resource and build out a lesson or activity to take back to their students.  Sharing ideas with colleagues is incredibly powerful and this forum would have been an excellent think tank for teachers to develop their ideas.  Another idea would be to separate participants by grade band so that their discussions would have a greater degree of personalization to their classroom environment.  In trying to target such a broad range of educators, I question whether everyone was able to fill their bucket with ideas to help their students or if in presenting differently I could have better supported their own learning.

I still want to grow in this practice by…

Making STEM meaningful as an instructional choice to engage all learners has tremendous potential for student learning and reshaping the learning environment.  I am passionate about using the Science and Engineering practices with students in authentic ways and I still have so much to learn.  I want to continue to grow in this practice by developing additional activities and examples for all grade levels.  Additionally, I’m really excited to continue refining my thinking around how a teacher can balance student choice and personalization with the learning objectives of a curriculum and all of the responsibilities placed on educators.  How can we support students and guide them in personalized learning experiences within the classroom?

About Bethany Bernasconi

Bethany Bernasconi is the 2012 New Hampshire Teacher of the Year, a 2013 ASCD Emerging Leader, and a 2014 Milken Fellow. After earning a BA in Biol...

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