I had the opportunity to attend a conference in October called Transforming Institutions: 21st Century STEM Education. There were many good ideas that I took away from this conference but the question that I started the conference with is, what is Transforming Institutions, STEM Education really all about. I know what STEM is. It stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. But what does transformation mean? The easy definition that I found was “a thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance”. (Thanks Google!) So the question really is, what needs to change (or be transformed) about the way that we teach STEM disciplines?
That question is a little harder to answer. If we say that we need to transform the way we teach, that first assumes that we admit there is an issue with how we are teaching now. Is that true? The opening keynote gave a couple of statistics that are quite startling. Two-thirds of Americans over the age of 25 don’t have a college degree. Around 50% of students who start college never complete. Is this true?
In the past few years we have seen an increase in the scholarship of teaching that has been focused on actively engaging students in courses and the positive outcomes that come from that. Unfortunately, these activities are a minority on most campuses. The culture of most campuses was fashioned many years ago and success for all students wasn’t part of that culture. What was re-iterated over and over at the conference was that to make true change we must make student success the focus for the campus and make it the mission of everyone.
What does student success mean to you?