When it's done well, project-based learning (PBL) honours your learner's inherent gifts as vital to the success of the group. With that said, PBL also offers an avenue to those teachers wishing to give their students an awesome experience within STEM learning.
PBL has always allowed students to take ownership of the direction of their learning and placed a focus on higher-order thinking. STEM learning is no different in that regard. In the article Six Characteristics of a Great STEM Lesson, Anne Jolly says:
"STEM develops a set of thinking, reasoning, teamwork, investigative, and creative skills that students can use in all areas of their lives. STEM isn’t a standalone class—it’s a way to intentionally incorporate different subjects across an existing curriculum."
She goes on to describe the 6 things that make STEM learning so awesome. These 6 factors are also why STEM learning is—and always has been—the new PBL.
6 Reasons STEM Learning Makes the Grade
- STEM lessons focus on real-world issues and problems. STEM learning addresses real social, economic, and environmental problems and encourages solutions to them. Real-World STEM Problems has terrific ideas for classroom projects.
- STEM lessons are guided by the engineering design process. During the EDP, teams of students try their own research-based ideas, take different approaches, make mistakes, practice useful failure, and keep trying. This closely echoes how students use Solution Fluency, which mirrors many familiar learning processes like the scientific method.
- STEM lessons immerse students in hands-on inquiry and open-ended exploration. STEM learning is open-ended; at the same time, the students’ work is collaborative and solutions are student-generated. There is also a sharing of ideas as they work to design their own investigations.
- STEM lessons involve students in productive teamwork. With STEM learning, students work together as a productive team which is a practice modelled by STEM teachers across the school.
- STEM lessons apply rigorous math and science content your students are learning. STEM lessons purposely integrate content from math and science subjects. In this way they also encourage collaboration with other teachers in these subjects, providing insights into how course objectives can be woven into a lesson.
- STEM lessons allow for multiple right answers and reframe failure as a necessary part of learning. STEM learning provides plenty of room for multiple right answers and approaches and offers rich possibilities for creative solutions.
Learn more about what makes STEM learning great as well as best practices for creating STEM lessons in Anne Jolly's Edweek article Six Characteristics of a Great STEM Lesson.
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