Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Bill Evers on White House STEM thinking - YIKES !!

From: Bill Evers
Date: Thu, Sep 16, 2010 at 6:38 PM
Subject: new White House STEM Education Report -- inquiry-based methods

To read the report:

[Inquiry-based Teaching Methods]

Inspiration..involves giving students the opportunity to be motivated by teachers and mentors, by collaborations in discovery and invention, and by what they learn in school and out of school. (p.17)

Students need exciting experiences that speak to their interests - in school among teachers, peers, and mentors, beyond the curriculum, and beyond the classroom. These experiences should reveal to them the satisfaction of solving a problem, discovering a pattern or phenomenon on one's own, becoming insatiably curious about a puzzling question, or designing and creating an invention.... (p.17)

We need learning opportunities both inside and outside the classroom for students to explore, invent, and discover. (p.17)

Evidence strongly points to the kind of pedagogy that is most effective in STEM education: cooperative, collaborative, active, and inquiry-based methods increase learning and retention of information and higher order thinking skills. It is important that STEM teachers both prepare and inspire their students, engaging them in STEM as much as they instruct them. Reports on STEM learning undertaken by the National Research Council have noted the importance of teachers acquiring a command of the strategies needed to illuminate STEM for learners, and of teachers knowing the variety of ways in which learners develop STEM knowledge and skills. (p. 60)


[Federal Support for Inquiry-based Methods & National Standards]

The Department of Education can help provide the financial support needed for professional development that helps teachers and school leaders adapt their curriculum and teaching methods to implement shared science and mathematics standards. (p. 54)


[Central Coordination at National Level]

For this Federal funding to constitute an investment in the Nation's future worth more than the dollars disbursed, it must reflect a coherent strategy for STEM education. Coherence in turn requires widely shared goals as well as structures that ensure leadership, coordination, and oversight. (p. 21)

What is needed is a more strategic, coherent, and coordinated set of programs across the agencies, as well as greater overall investment of dedicated funds. To achieve this coherence, new structures need to be created to ensure strong leadership, partnership, coordination, evaluation, and integration. (p. 33)

The Federal Government should create, within the National Science and Technology Council, a standing Committee on STEM Education co-chaired by the Department of Education, the National Science Foundation, and the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

The Committee should create a Federal STEM education strategy, should update it annually, and should work with OMB to ensure that STEM education programs within the Federal Government are aligned. (p. 35)

[National Tests to Emphasize Critical Thinking]

Assessments...need to foster high-quality teaching rather than discourage it. Such assessments should measure higher levels of thinking and reasoning as well as students' content knowledge and skills....[W]hen teachers aim to increase student scores on these assessments, they should foster all the types of learning that the standards emphasize - not merely the factual recall aspects of learning that are by far the easiest and least expensive to test. A good assessment encourages quality teaching and learning. This is no small feat given that excellence in STEM education means cultivating in students not simply the ability to answer predictable questions, but the capacity to pose probing questions and to figure out methods of answering those questions.

Most current assessments fail to meet these goals. Observers and educators note that they tend to over-represent low-level skills and factual recall, which may lead teachers to drill students on specific skills and facts they need for the test. Current tests often do a mediocre job of measuring the understanding and application of core concepts and principles, and they typically neglect the higher-order reasoning, problem-solving skills, and mathematical and scientific creativity that students need for college and for their careers. (p. 49)

[National Math Curriculum Standards That Emphasize Critical Thinking]

Many of the state-level standards emphasized low-level skills and large bodies of factual content rather than the high-level abilities and central concepts emphasized in the national standards. (p. 42)

In 2001 an NRC panel identified the key strands for effective mathematics education. Those strands balance the need for skills to carry out mathematical procedures with the need for conceptual understanding and complex reasoning (see Box 4-1). The idea is to expose students to elegant concepts and patterns in mathematics so they can understand its beauty while also teaching them skills they need to apply those concepts, enabling them to see the utility and relevance of mathematics. In 2007 an NRC panel published a parallel set of strands for science education (see Box 4-2). These strands transcend the emphasis on low-level factual recall found in many science classes today to include the skills needed to solve complex problems, work in teams, and interpret and communicate scientific information. (p. 43)

[Support for New NRC-led National Science Curriculum Standards to Emphasize Critical Thinking]

A complementary effort is under way in science. A committee of the National Research Council is producing a framework that will be used to develop the new science standards. The framework is scheduled to be completed by early 2011, with the development of full K-12 science standards by the organization Achieve, Inc., through an iterative process involving states and stakeholders and in consultation with professional groups, to be completed by the end of 2011. It will be very important for state-level groups such as the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers to promote the standards as soon as they are completed, so that states can adopt them and begin the work of helping students reach these levels of achievement. (p. 45)

Thanks to "Bill" Williamson M. Evers, NYC HOLD and NYC Math Forum for the above.

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