The Future Substance of STEM Education

This website is an archive of the work completed as part of the NSF funded, Future Substance of STEM Education (STEM Futures) project.

The heart of the STEM Futures project was a week-long virtual design-studio workshop experience for faculty in STEM disciplines to collaboratively develop new programs and curriculum materials. The goal was to advance innovative visions for STEM education that go beyond the acquisition of core content knowledge to integrate mindsets and values. This integrative framework was introduced in a white paper that was shared prior to the design-studio workshop sessions, and explored through a webinar series conducted prior to the workshop.

The challenge

We are underprepared at multiple levels for the economic, environmental, and societal disruptions that accompany the advance of global civilization and technology. If nothing else, the events of the past few months demonstrate that we live in a volatile, uncertain, and ambiguous world. Navigating this complex landscape, whether it be shaped by the current COVID19 crisis, climate change, or other future challenges, will require significant knowledge of science, technology and mathematics.

The citizens of tomorrow must be better able to understand, discover, develop, and implement innovative and principled solutions to complex, STEM-infused problems in a rapidly changing environment.

It is also clear that in the face of unprecedented challenges – and opportunities – traditional silos between scientific knowledge, essential skills, and human values are dissolving. Learning to succeed in this world will require new kinds of learning and new forms of knowledge. Our students will need to go beyond mere knowledge of STEM disciplines. They will need creativity, ingenuity, and the ability to work collaboratively. And they will need to understand the broader social and the ethical contexts within which we live and work.

Watch the video that introduced the project to the participants.

The participants

105 individuals, accepted from 179 applicants, formed into 25 teams. Most individuals applied as part of pre-formed teams, while others were placed into new or pre-formed teams after their acceptance. Participants represented 53 different institutions from 29 U.S. states. They were 65% female, and 32% persons of color or otherwise underrepresented minority. Participants met over Zoom and worked collaboratively using an online platform developed by the Science Education Resource Center (SERC).

Learn more about the workshop process through which the project tackled this challenge »

Workshop outputs

The final products of the workshop included a diverse and innovative set of curricular design products, including: 6 degree programs, 9 certificate programs, 7 efforts for courses, course components, or curricular alignments, and 3 training and professional development programs. These efforts spanned traditional disciplines such as Biology, Chemistry, Geology, Engineering, and the Health Sciences, as well as more interdisciplinary STEM programs. These diverse teams designed their materials for a broad array of audiences including STEM majors and non-majors, first-year students, disciplinary majors in upper-level courses, college faculty, preservice teachers, student leaders, and college STEM-bound high school students. Despite the range of content covered and audiences targeted by these different curricular designs, one thing stayed constant: the intentional, meaningful and contextually relevant integration of foundational, meta, and humanistic knowledge.

Explore the Curricular Design Products : Exemplars of the Future of STEM Education »


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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant #1935479: Workshop on the Substance of STEM Education. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.