Here’s an exclusive sneak peek into the STEM education trends that my organization, Beyond100K, compiles annually. The trends in this synthesis, drawing from hundreds of conversations, surveys, and more, will define STEM and education this year.
Trend 1: Belonging Matters in STEM
It is clear that, to help spark the brilliance of millions more young minds and to keep students from disengaging from STEM, teachers and schools need to prioritize a focus on equity, representation, and especially belonging in STEM education. Ed Tech and tool creators, take heed: There’s a growing demand for frameworks, tools, and metrics that can help teachers implement and assess efforts to expand belonging in their STEM classrooms. Luckily, we’re far from starting from scratch, with strong tools to adopt and adapt. A University of Michigan researcher developed a framework to help teachers foster student belonging in math, and a University of Texas chemistry professor developed a simple and intuitive way to foster belonging among students. LabXchange is developing evidence-based curricula to support educators to foster students’ sense of belonging, identity, self-efficacy, and confidence in science, to support its 15,000+ science resources. The Education Trust developed a state-by-state dashboard focused on teacher diversity, and the National Academies will be publishing a consensus study on equity in K-12 STEM education in the spring. In December, the US Department of Education launched YOU Belong in STEM, the first national STEM initiative in over 10 years. Its name tells us everything we need to know: Creating the conditions for STEM excellence starts with students and teachers feeling a sense of belonging in their STEM classrooms.
Despite all this progress, we’d be remiss not to acknowledge the uphill nature of this work. There is a longstanding, deeply-rooted belief that STEM fields are only for the elite few who have what it takes to succeed — and in which rigor and excellence are measured by how many students fail. It will take a shift not only in K-12 but in higher ed and in the workforce to truly create the conditions where all students can know that they belong and can succeed in STEM.
Trend 2: STEM Teachers of Color Are Key
Trend 3: The Earlier the Better for Teacher Recruitment
So we’re heartened by an emerging trend to go upstream of the shortage to focus on attracting potential STEM teachers earlier, in part by recruiting potential teachers with nontraditional backgrounds.
Schools and districts around the country are reinvesting in time-tested recruitment tools like signing bonuses and tuition reimbursements. At the same time, there are more programs that aim to reach potential teachers earlier, including by creating opportunities for high school students to gain experience and training. Young People’s Project is growing its teacher cadet program to certify over 500 high school and college students as math literacy workers, en route to a STEM teaching career. Breakthrough Collaborative introduces college students to careers in teaching, partnering with local community colleges, state colleges, HBCUs and Minority Serving Institutions. At the other end of the spectrum, EnCorps, which focuses on older adults, is expanding teacher recruitment; maybe the tech layoffs will have a silver lining for STEM teaching?