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How to Prepare Students for a STEM Career : Fizzics Education

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How to Prepare Students for a STEM Career

How to Prepare Students for a STEM Career

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There’s never been a better time for children to get into STEM. The Australian government has recently recognized the value of careers in STEM, which offer a wide array of opportunities in multiple industries and provide tech-driven solutions to modern challenges.

STEM careers are also lucrative. Careers in life sciences and digital technology saw a significant increase in salaries this year, and even entry-level positions like IT systems architecture had an average salary increase of 8% in the past year.

But, many students struggle to connect with STEM content when it’s presented in a classroom environment. This has created entire generations of students who claim to dislike subjects like math, when, in reality, they just weren’t presented with the material in a way that made sense to them at the time.

As a teacher, you’re in a great position to break the notion that STEM is boring or significantly more difficult than other subjects in the humanities or arts. Here’s how you can help engage students in STEM and set them up for career success.

Finding Inspiration

Plenty of students struggle in STEM classrooms. Oftentimes, these students state that they struggle to understand the practical purpose of the content being taught. It’s easy to throw your hands up and believe that these students are “naturally” less capable than their peers who come more easily to STEM content, but, in reality, these students are probably lacking inspiration and are therefore disinterested, rather than incapable.

Connecting students to STEM content can seem tricky at first, but another best way to get students inspired about STEM is to talk about careers. Students love talking about the prospective careers they might have in the future, and many lucrative and exciting career paths start with a solid STEM foundation.

For example, if you’re teaching a course on algebra, students might struggle to understand the practical applications of algebraic formulations. But, many students today have grown up with tech and find the idea of programming interesting. As a teacher, you can show students how understanding algebra can lead them to an exciting career in cybersecurity, which relies heavily on programming algorithms that require a solid understanding of algebra.

Of course, every child is different and has a different vision for their future career. The key is to give students plenty of exciting examples of career paths in STEM, then work backward so they see the value of the content they are currently learning.

Teaching New Skills Online

Most teachers went through school with little more technology than textbooks and whiteboards. This approach may have worked ten years ago, but teachers today should seriously consider utilizing online learning resources to help prepare students for a STEM career.

That’s because most STEM careers rely on user interfaces that are connected to the web. So, students who want to pursue a career like microbiology or web development need to be competent when working online.

As a teacher, you can usually find a host of online resources to help facilitate learning. Sites like Cool Australia and NASA STEM Resources host tons of exciting classes and activities that might work well in your classroom.

However, you should take care to not become over-reliant upon screens for teaching. It can be difficult to regulate what is being learned if you give children unlimited access to tech and the web, and children can easily become distracted when browsing online resources. Additionally, many students today spend excessive amounts of time looking at screens — research suggests that 72% of children spend more than 2 hours a day on screens. This can lead to difficulty concentrating, and issues with eye health and headaches later in life.

Project-Based Learning

Project-based learning is the pinnacle of STEM education. When a project-based activity goes right, the whole classroom becomes engaged and students start to feed off each other’s energy and engagement.

However, project-based learning does take a fair bit of planning and preparation and isn’t something you should throw in halfway through the term.

Instead, try to make a project-based learning activity that relies upon design thinking so that students become fully immersed in a term-long project. Design thinking requires students to identify problems, and create solutions to those problems based on the content and materials you’re teaching in the class. Just make sure you create a low-stakes classroom environment so that students don’t become paralyzed by a combination of difficult content and pressure to perform.

Conclusion

Preparing students for a STEM career is all about creating a positive, engaging classroom environment that supports learning. You can do this by creating project-based learning activities, and by taking advantage of online resources that help students connect with STEM material and teach them how to work with online interfaces. If you find that students struggle to connect with STEM material, consider showing them how the content they’re learning in the classroom might apply to a future career that they’ve love.

Happy teaching,

Dan Matthews wearing a khaki jacket and glasses

Dan Matthews is a freelance writer and content consultant who specializes invaluable insights for a wide variety of audiences. However, he loves to focus on and emphasize the importance of the sciences as to create a better tomorrow through green technologies, sustainability, and environmental preservation.

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