Bangkok, Thailand ─ A week of extensive STEM training and forums for the Strengthening Teacher Education Program (STEP) has concluded with many prominent scientists and prolific educators ─ taking part as guest speakers and trainers.
A prominent STEM curriculum developer and teaching practice expert, who is also Director of CREATE for STEM Institute and the Lappan-Phillips Professor of Science Education at Michigan State University, Prof. Dr. Joseph Krajcik extracted successful measures and thought processes of how to drive success in STEM education.
The STEP training sessions and forums took place from 18 July 2023 to 21 July 2023 (at Avani Sukhumvit Bangkok Hotel). The program was established by SEAMEO STEM-ED, Office of National Higher Education Science Research and Innovation Policy Council (NXPO), and The Teachers’ Council of Thailand (Kurusapa) with support from Chevron Enjoy Science II.
Its objective was to target and nurture pre-service and in-service teachers ─ to be more competent and better-equipped teachers (a probable responsive action to the 21st-century and digitized world) ─ in light of elevating educational standards in Southeast Asia.
The STEP event this July, served as preparation to modulate STEM learning units and policy proposals. On this occasion, SEAMEO STEM-ED and its partners foresaw and concurred on the importance of synergizing tangible plans ─ and commitment toward what will be a foundation for the program in the upcoming years.
In this matter, the Director of CREAT for STEM at Michigan State University Prof. Kraijcik, who is internationally regarded as a notable Professor for improving the teaching and learning of science ─ was invited as a guest speaker during the sharing experience forum.
With his extensive experience in pioneering and improving STEM education in the United States, he spoke about “Successful STEM Education implementation: Experience from the United States”, which served as a model for participants and implementors of STEP foundational plans (in this case, Thailand, Indonesia, and Kazakhstan) to draw upon when developing their proposals.
Focus on what is important
In his presentation on successful STEM education implementation, which is a summary of the current trends in United States science education, the CREATE for STEM Institute Director highlighted that the first focus is making “science for all.”
Prof. Krajcik emphasised from the start of his presentation that science “serves as cultural achievements and it is essential for ensuring the future generations will live in a society that is economically viable, sustainable and free.” The notion Prof. Krajick remarked, which is fundamental to effective learning units is that science is a quintessential element of modern life (and is crucial at the individual level).
In order to deploy successful and effective STEM education, Prof. Krajcik suggested there must be an accurate mindset and attention to various elements. One crucial point Prof. Krajcik emphasized was the “figuring out” process, which can be perceived as a journey to problem-solving skills.
In detail, he explained the initial stage emerges once the problem (e.g., scenario, phenomenon, situation, or event) is encountered by students, then they would formulate questions that can lead to using scientific practices. Ultimately, this could evoke problem-solving and critical-thinking skills that call for the problem students encounter that the first stage.
Shifting to a more practical aspect of STEM implementation, Prof. Krajcik expanded upon the above that scientific knowledge can be acquired through “organizing around disciplinary core explanatory ideas”, “central on the role of scientific inquiry and engineering practices” and “using crosscutting concepts.”
Consequently, two emerging practices are expected to take place ─ and in this matter, Prof. Krajcik vividly spoke about “modeling”, which referred to constructive models to explain the problem or an event whilst “computational thinking” is the utilization of computational thinking to make sense of the problem.
Strongly suggesting a “crosscutting” concept (a set of overarching big ideas that investigate STEM areas), he further cited how such a concept also elicits systematic thinking. Furthermore, the matter of “curriculum coherence (the alignment of the specified ideas, the depth at which the ideas studied, and the sequencing of the ideas within each grade and across the grades” will lead to integrated understanding in students, he added.
Amid all the focusses Prof. Krajcik pointed out, there are still challenges in STEM-related areas. In his conclusion, he urged that there are aspects that pose challenges for students, teachers, and schools. These included the necessity for teachers to develop interdisciplinary knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge; establish appropriate physical resources and assessments; and the support of technology to complete different tasks.
After his presentation, the Director of CREATE for STEM Institute will continue his support and contribution to STEP program by bringing lessons from the United States and improving training in the program. Countries that formed an alliance with SEAMEO STEM-ED in the STEP journey during the forums included Indonesia and Kazakhstan while the next step will target the synergism of development plans.
Joseph S. Krajcik is a University Distinguished Professor and the Lappan-Phillips Professor of Science Education. He is internationally known for his research on improving teaching and learning of science by designing, developing, implementing and testing innovative materials and environments that match evidence-based research about how students learn. He is the director of CREATE for STEM, a joint institute between the Colleges of Natural Science, Education, Engineering and Lyman Briggs.