STEM Instruction, Relevance, and Students’ Future Career Paths

STEM Instruction and the Importance of Relevance

It’s not interesting. It’s not relevant. Too often teachers hear these phrases from students in science and mathematics classes. In their article, “The impact of college- and university-run high school summer programs on students’ end of high school STEM career aspirations,” Joseph A. Kitchen et al. argue that in order to inspire students to not only find interest in STEM content, but to ultimately choose STEM career paths, it is essential for STEM classes and programs to keep content relevant. The authors show that instructors can significantly and positively alter students’ perceptions of STEM subjects by engaging students with real-world applications and actual professionals in STEM fields (13).

The authors note that it is during high school when many students start seriously considering their future career paths. Given that high school students’ aspirations are still malleable, it is also a prime time for STEM instructors to promote not just present understanding of STEM subjects, but students’ future trajectory for STEM career choices (12).

Strong Students Get Stronger and the Struggling Continue to Struggle

Strong Students Get Stronger and the Struggling Continue to Struggle

The “Matthew”-effect originally described the concept that “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer” (3). However, since the term’s coining in 1968, it has been applied to the educational phenomenon in which “strong students get stronger and struggling students struggle even more” (3). In their paper, “Is teacher judgment accuracy of students’ characteristics beneficial for verbal teacher-student interactions in classroom?,” authors Maralena Pielmeier et al. explain that students with already high pre-achievement and high levels of confidence in a given subject are more likely to be verbally engaged in class, while students with lower pre-achievement and self-confidence are less engaged. However, if teachers can accurately judge students’ levels of student achievement and confidence, they may be better able to address the needs of lower performing students and help mitigate the “Matthew”-effect.

Time spent on math and science homework linked to higher standardized test scores, but not higher grades

Time Spent on Math and Science Homework Linked to Higher Standardized Test Scores, But Not Higher Grades

The homework debate has continued in the United States for well over one hundred years. How much homework should teachers give? How should teachers assess homework (for accuracy or completion)? What is the purpose of homework? In their paper, “When is Homework Worth the Time?: Evaluating the Association Between Homework and Achievement in High School Science and Math,” authors Adam V. Maltese et al. remark that over the decades homework has been seen as a way to pull students toward academic mastery, toward educational preparation and competitiveness in increasingly globalized marketplaces. They note that, “After the Russians first sent a mission into space, there was a general feeling in America that students were under-prepared, and homework was seen as a tool to improve the educational preparation of students and ensure America’s safety and development” (53).

Studies about the time that students are required to spend on homework are inconclusive. For example, the authors note that the National Assessment of Educational Progress concluded that as of 2003, only 10-12% of students reported having two or more hours of homework per night. The National Center for Educational Statistics argued that there was an increase of students reporting two or more hours of homework each night from 7% in 1980 to 37% in 2002 (53). Although much media coverage has touted the idea that American high school students are overburdened by homework, the authors of this paper argue that, “statistics do not support the notion that a majority of high school students in the U.S. toil away on homework each evening after school…These data indicate that most of the arguments against homework, which appear in the popular media, may originate from a vocal minority” (53).