In many ways, 2019 has been a year of great acceleration and progress in the field of STEM education.
In the roughly dozen or so years since the term ‘STEM’ was first popularized, the acronym referring to the subjects of science, technology, engineering and mathematics has become something of a household term.
Not only are traditional primary-school science educators talking about STEM, but it seems that our entire global culture has started to shift towards recognizing the power and importance of scientific innovation as we collectively look towards solutions to the challenges of our modern times.
It’s truly an exciting time to be a young person exploring the various subjects and disciplines of STEM, and, while the work is challenging, it’s also never been more invigorating to be an educator or educational leader devoted to furthering STEM education opportunities.
As we look back on 2018 and the years preceding it, we can also look forward to the trends emerging on the horizon.
Field Report: What research says about STEM education trends
It can be difficult to forecast the trends and influences in STEM education due to the rapidly changing nature of the technologies that inform STEM pedagogy.
However, referring back to a 2013 report tasked with forecasting STEM through 2020 offers some key takeaways for STEM practitioners across the globe. The report keys in on a dozen “technologies to watch”.
These technologies have already begun to play out in our classrooms and our lives, and this report provides a solid glimpse for what’s to come.
It’s surprising to look back at the use of mobile and online learning tools as a ‘new’ idea just a few years back. Today’s classrooms at the primary and university levels have, for the most part, fully integrated the use of personal technologies with instruction.
It’s no longer strange to see a smartphone or tablet being employed in the classroom, and this comfort with technology has set the stage for what’s to come.
In addition, the use of ‘out of the box’ approaches, such as gamification and alternative or immersive environments, seems like it just might be paying off.
Greater interest in advanced courses in mathematics and science is a trend that seems like it will only increase as educators and administrators continue to invest in not only off-the-shelf STEM pedagogical products, but also invest in a mindset that values the power of properly prepared educators and prioritises meaningful, rich opportunities for students to engage with science, technology, engineering and mathematics in the classroom, and the real world.
Many thought leaders in the educational community remain excited and forward-thinking about the future of STEM and, increasingly, STEM initiatives are happening via global collaborations that reach far beyond political borders.
What do these emerging STEM trends look like in practice?
Some experts predict that more schools will invest in multi-use makerspaces in which students can engage in truly hands-on problem-solving through experimentation, robotics, coding or even low-tech group activities that model the experience of solving engineering problems in the real world.
Others predict that Silicon Valley technocrats will continue to have a major influence on STEM education trends as companies such as Google continue to proactively grow their employment pipeline. But, at the same time, it seems likely that individual products or services will become far less important than a more holistic commitment to digital literacy and self-directed learning.
The future of STEM education will likely involve some shiny bells and whistles, such as AI or even new funding streams for coding courses, but what’s most essential about the future is that we are now building upon our successes in a way that’s different from building the plane as we fly it.
With more than a decade and a half of experience and experimentation behind us, the next steps in STEM education look brighter than ever and, together, we can light the way towards global solutions that can collectively advance us all — with our foot on the accelerator.