â‡’A STEM Systemâ‡?
Student #2: Freda Freshie Students enter STEM I with widely varied academic and practical backgrounds. Their mathematics prowess ranges from understanding basic algebra to poor arithmetic skills. Their science skills range from sound qualitative conceptual knowledge of a wide variety of conceptions to wild misconceptions they may have difficulty expelling. Modelerâ€™s students have ranged from a young lady able to overhaul an automobile engine by herself during a two-week holiday period to a young man unsure of which end of a screwdriver should be used to tighten a bolt. What the future holds for a student entering 9th grade in high school is a near total unknown. Some current research and development activities are suggested by one set of futurist to make work unavailable for many adults as other futurists believe many new and desirable careers will be opened. STEM courses appear to be the best candidates for preparing high school students for uncertain futures. In addition to satisfying academic needs, Modeler believes STEM courses should be expected to prepare students with (1) skills that promote success in most workplaces and (2) ability to perform basic maintenance skills when living with low incomes. Further, a democratic society needs most citizens to be able to understand technical arguments at a basic level and to form judgements about complex scientific/engineering issues to be reflected through voting. The STEM Teaching Team faces major challenges whether Freda Freshie is already well prepared to embark on a journey to become a cosmological researcher or she is STEM illiterate.
⇒A STEM System⇐
At Stemeter High School, Freda discovered with the Student Problem her first Student Team encountered that the STEM course was very different from anything she had experienced previously . She was registered for STEM I and was not held to the same standards for team participation as expected for the students registered more advanced STEM courses. Peer pressure from the more experienced students showed her that success depended upon each team member participating fully to the best of her/his ability in experimental work, learning knowledge/skills applicable to the Student Problem, locating specific information, and writing the final report. She also discovered that the STEM Catalyst, even though well-educated and experienced, might not have all the answers – or would not provide answers the team members could derive from other sources. Also, STEM Catalysts had real jobs, with components that she had never imagined, that could interfere with their availability when the team wanted them. The adult STEM world was much more complex, demanding, and rewarding than she had realized.
⇒A STEM System⇐
Freda also learned quickly that many STEM situations demanded quantitative work – that mathematics really had uses beyond passing tests. She hoped that Wanda, her first Student Team’s leader, would help her understand how ratios worked so she could understand the comparisons needed to provide a definitive answer to their borax production problem. Two weeks of interesting lab work and many hours of seeking information so the team could understand many different aspects of the problem was coming down to comparing two energy relationships. She was also going to subject her written contribution to the withering editing of the best writer on the Student Team, a prospect she found much more daunting than handing in a 5-minute flow of consciousness about some observations. Compared to her, Freda found Wanda to be extremely confident, cooperative, a mentor and peer teacher, a collaborator with the Lead Teacher and STEM Catalyst – a good team leader. Wanda delegated tasks and challenged every team member. She took her position seriously, but did not do all the work. Through practice, she was becoming a good manager of people and was effective at achieving cooperation from all team members.
â‡’A STEM Systemâ‡?
Through formative testing, Freda was found deficient in several important concepts of immediate need. The Lead Teacher sent Freda to several introductory mini-classes, provided some tutoring on ratios and requested Wanda do some peer teaching for honing Fredaâ€™s skills of understanding and using ratios. Also, Freda was given several responsibilities for working with another team member to optimize maximum solution concentration and rate of temperature reduction for crystallizing borax at the most desirable crystal size. The processes and working environment were much different from the cookbook experiments with one partner used in middle school.