15 Questions to Ask when Creating a STEM Culture in Education


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As you might know, I am very excited about STEM education! In fact, get ready even more STEM posts. For consultations and presentations at schools across the country I have developed these 15 questions you may want to ask as you develop or assess STEM possibilities for students. Also, please take a moment to subscribe to this blog by RSS or email, and  join me on twitter at mjgormans . I have some great posts coming your way involving PBL and STEM. Most of all, thanks for being one of those 30,000+ visitors a month and over 14,000 subscribers. Also, remember that I can come to your conference or school district in person or virtually and provide engaging, authentic, practical, and purposeful professional development . I have presented across the country for BIE (BUCK Institute), PBLWorks, Discovery Education, Alan November BLC… and so many more. I bring practicality, common sense, and techniques that allow educators to start the next day in their classroom. My expertise is PBL, STEM, Makers, and technology integration. See booking info and please contact me anytime at (mjgormans@gmail.com). Last… please pass this on with a retweet or other social media. You will find buttons at the bottom… it really encourages and supports me in my writing! Thanks so much.  Michael Gorman (21centuryedtech).

15 Questions to Ask when Creating a STEM Culture in Education – Michael Gorman

Let me get straight to the 15 questions I consider essential. If you are a new to, or planning for a STEM school, take a look as you plan. Already a STEM school… then use these questions to assess and determine your next journey along an amazing path!

  1. What does STEM mean to the education process and culture of a school for students and educators? So many schools have jumped onto the idea of STEM education involving Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.  The integration of these four areas is very important, but what does it mean for a building or district? We must be careful not to amplify these areas of study, while putting less emphasis on other areas of the curriculum. It is important to emphasize the idea of “Why STEM?” as your school or district takes the steps toward  STEM education.  People must understand that STEM will be a way to engage students in all content areas.
  2. Are there any unintended results as we emphasize this idea of STEM? The elements of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math are wonderful areas of study and really embrace the idea of future job growth and good salaries. Schools have addressed this idea by extending the STEM acronym with extra letters. We now find STEAM (include the Arts), STREAM (include reading), STREAMIE (include everyone.. I am still waiting to see STREAMIER (more STREAMIE) and STREAMIEST (most STREAMIE)! How big can we make the acronym as we try to embrace the entire curriculum? Does this amplification really serve a purpose or is it all glitter? I think it might be how we define STEM to begin with, which leads to our next question.
  3. How does your building, district, and community define STEM? Before bringing in a STEM program, collectively decide on a definition for STEM. I like to think of STEM as a verb and not just four nouns. It is the process of students doing, thinking and connecting throughout the entire curriculum. This is the subject of a future Blog… so be sure to subscribe! Please note that I stated “a building, district, and community definition of STEM”. Everyone should be able to provide a consensus definition. While this might seem obvious, it is not always the case!
  4. What does a lesson or unit look like when STEM is infused? Is there a process that the school or district is ready to embrace and provide training on? This should involve some type of inquiry method that allows for student exploration while constraining them to mandated curriculum standards. This might include the 5E’s, a Design Method, Deeper Thinking Processes, Project Based Learning, or Problem Based Learning. It must start at the basic lesson level… before expanding to units of study. In many places, it is a classroom transformation.
  5. What does a STEM Classroom look like? I mean this in both a physical and pedagogical way. This does not take a remodel of the school, although large classrooms are nice. How does this physical classroom integrate with the pedagogy? Remember that STEM builds a culture of connected and authentic learning. Before implementation, all educators should visit some STEM classrooms and schools.  If there are not any available, take a look at PBL, Montessori, or Reggio Emilia classrooms. When visiting, spend more time observing students than teachers. Also keep in mind that some technology is needed. Take some time in determining what it is. Order the technology based on lesson needs and standards. Avoid the toys that shine until that need is determined. You will notice your technology dollars being spent much more efficiently!
  6. What modification(s) may be needed to the daily schedule? While in the beginning a school may have dedicated STEM time, a goal is to bring a STEM culture to every classroom… everyday!  That schedule change could be a long term goal and may vary among schools. How can classes and students be shared to allow for trans-disciplinary learning? What subjects can be paired together and allow for team teaching? There maybe a need for longer periods of learning. Perhaps teachers can find some ways to connect even in a traditional schedule. It all takes time, so remember … small steps.
  7. How do we get ready for assessment in STEM? I like to say that STEM assessment goes beyond the standardized test. As we use an inquiry and collaborative approach it is important to make sure all students are learning content. How do we assess not just the nouns, but also the verbs in our standards? Do we have rubrics that incorporate the 4C’s and other soft skills? I see what I call “STEMie” lessons that are based on few standards and with no assessment. How do we go beyond this? When we are intentional with standards and assessment, the standardized test will be satisfied.
  8. What qualities do STEM students have upon graduation at the different levels in education? I often say that we are not preparing students for the specific skills of a career, but rather the universal skills needed to work in any career. We need to determine these skills and qualities as as we build our STEM programs. How do we build these attributes into lessons and units and also into assessment, where the appropriate tools must be determined? As we think of careers, a STEM program must help students determine a career pathway and find passions that engage them.
  9. What are a building or district’s community connections for STEM?  Keep in mind that every community is different. The community outside the school’s walls is important for authentic learning. A STEM school must look for connections  that make learning relevant for students. Databases can be created to identify professionals, institutions, business, industry, and government entities that can be partners for real world learning. These partnerships should be a two way street. The real benefactors will be your students!
  10. How does a school or district sustain the STEM momentum?  All initiatives start out with a lot of energy. Many times this begins with particular groups and individuals. How do we place this ownership with the entire institution? There may need to be some ongoing in-service along with a retelling of the story. Keep in mind that the goal is to build a STEM culture!
  11. What does STEM look like in every classroom? We must think of STEM as not a subject but a process. How does it fit into Social Studies as we study culture and society. Is there a design process in the teaching of writing in the Language Arts Classroom? STEM really connects to Bloom’s upper levels of thinking. This happens in every subject.
  12. How are we developing thinking in both the right and left brain? So much of STEM is thought of in the left brain. It is the right brain that allows for thinking that engages innovation found in the arts. Music is a type of code just waiting for the influence of that right brain. Daniel Pink has often said we need to develop a whole new mind!
  13. How can we be certain that college/career readiness is part of the STEM program? Once again note the word “readiness”. This implies our students are ready with both the skills and the passion. How does one industry have multiple occupations that rely on STEM thinking? We must be persistent at integrating these ideas into every lesson.
  14. How do we make our STEM process… not just another initiative? As we all know education has a way of adopting new initiatives in a hyper intensive way. There must be ways to think how STEM thinking fits into programs already in place. It could be PBL, Deeper Learning, SEL, or skills needed for that 21st Century graduate. Spend time on doing those important cross-walks between current district programs. Make it one program, I call it… do what is best for students!
  15. How do we celebrate our STEM successes? This should be part of the action plan. It should be on the timeline and include important benchmarks along the way that have been accomplished. Start celebrating early and keep it going. Take time to honor educators, students, mentors, parents, and community agencies. Make it part of a STEM night, webpage, news release, student project, campaign, multimedia event, and remember to make sure it happens in individual classrooms along with the entire building/district. This goes along way in building an sustainable STEM culture. Enjoy the ride!

Thank you for joining me and I hope you found this information something you can use in your school and useful to share with other educators.  As always, I invite you to follow me on twitter (mjgormans). Please give this post a retweet and pass it on to someone who will benefit. To ensure you do not miss a future valuable post or other resource covering PBL, Digital Curriculum, STEM, 21st-century learning, and technology integration please sign up for 21centuryedtech by email or RSS. Have a great week… enjoy the Websites! – Mike (https://21centuryedtech.wordpress.com/

Booking Info – It is time to think about your school or conference needs.  Are you looking for a practical and affordable professional development workshop for your school or conference? I have traveled the country delivering PD relating to technology integration, PBL, STEM, Digital Literacy, and the 4 C’s. I have delivered hundreds of workshops and presentations. Check out my Booking Page. I also have some great ways to make amazing PD happen virtually. Please contact me (mjgormans@gmail.com) soon if you have an interest. My 202 calendar is filling fast. In fact, it might be time to begin thinking about next January and 2022! Look for contact information at the Booking Site. Last… please pass this on with a retweet or other social media. You will find buttons at the bottom… it really encourages and supports me in my writing! Thanks so much.  Michael Gorman (21centuryedtech)

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