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ERIC Number: EJ1173822
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2017
Abstractor: As Provided
Monitoring the Pipeline: STEM Education in Rural U.S.
Forum on Public Policy Online, v2017 n2 2017
Higher education institutions are charged with creating one million more STEM professionals over the next decade, a 34% increase in undergraduate STEM degrees annually (PCAST 2012). Examining why college STEM courses manifest high attrition rates, interdependencies emerge that begin in early childhood education. Those of us in higher education recognize the need to transcend the boundaries separating our institutions, and this study describes one effort to lend support for elementary districts on the verge of immerse technology. Through the lens of a case study, teacher professional learning for STEM education in a rural setting in the northeast U.S. is explored. The study reports on a small-scale professional learning initiative for elementary school teachers, measuring current levels of confidence in science instruction and technology integration. A snapshot of technology infusion and confidence in teaching STEM among elementary teachers in the pre-implementation phase of their districts' 1:1 device deployments is reported. While recognizing barriers to persistence and engagement in STEM at the primary, secondary and higher educational levels of the system, it often takes a concerted effort to tackle big problems. Authentic learning experiences, innovative curricula, and increased teacher efficacy are required to engage students in finding suitable solutions for today's problems and tomorrow's challenges. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education receives the lion's share of attention, funding, and research in the United States. The nation is falling behind in its ability to remain competitive within a globalized society. For liberal arts education, the "T" in STEM is often interpreted as computing. The U.S. Congress passed the STEM Education Act of 20151 , making technology a STEM discipline. Not only does computational infusion help students better comprehend STEM principles and perform better in other STEM subjects, it gives students the tools and thought processes to apply to STEM concepts for solving complex problems, or as Jeannette Wing suggests, it develops "computational thinking" (2006). Using the example of simple data collection, recording and analysis using Google spreadsheets in elementary school can prime students' later understanding of scientific observations and deductions. Regardless of the specific field of expertise one pursues, a basic understanding of computers and computational thinking is essential (National Academies 2010, Yadav et al. 2014). Despite the predicted employment prospects for the nation's STEM workforce, there are more far-reaching reasons for attention to declining enrollments in STEM subjects and fluency in these capabilities. "Poor student achievement in science translates into dismally low adult scientific understanding" (Epstein and Miller 2011, 4). And, in the current age of misinformation, disinformation, and fake news, the ability to think critically and act accordingly impact the status of our democracy, planet and lives. This paper provides an introduction to the multiple factors behind why college students tend to be STEM averse and an overview of other factors contributing to low enrollment in STEM majors. Next, attention is turned upstream to review barriers to engagement and persistence in STEM content before students arrive at college. Through the lens of a case study, these and other precipitating conditions are examined within a small group of elementary educators.
Descriptors: STEM Education, Rural Areas, Elementary School Teachers, Faculty Development, Higher Education, School Districts, Case Studies, Science Instruction, Technology Integration, Barriers, Learning Experience, Teacher Effectiveness, Technological Literacy, Spreadsheets, Computer Software, Computer Literacy, Majors (Students), Academic Persistence, College Students, Socioeconomic Influences, Risk, Poverty, Enrollment Trends, Class Activities, Workshops, Minority Group Students, Self Efficacy, Teacher Surveys, Teacher Attitudes, Statistical Analysis
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Elementary Education; Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: New York
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A