February Roundup: STEM

If there’s a topic in the quality blogosphere that has steam, it’s STEM. As I noted in my February post, February marked National Engineers Week in the U.S. In conjunction with this event, ASQ conducted two surveys: one found that students are wary of the STEM fields, but the other showed that current engineers are happy with their career choice. The question remains: how do we encourage the incoming generation of students to pursue STEM? I posed the question to ASQ’s 28 Influential Voices bloggers—who had much insight to share on the state of STEM worldwide. (STEM, by the way, stands for science, technology, engineering, and math.) I encourage you to read their thoughtful, wise, and sometimes-controversial responses. Some common themes:

We must do a better job of teaching STEM:

Rajan Thiyagarajan outlines seven key components of STEM education. Nicole Radziwill offers four steps to improving STEM education, including instituting a Kanban system and getting rid of grades. Bob Mitchell looks to Deming’s System of Profound Knowledge and statistical thinking to improve STEM. And Guy Wallace shares an in-depth action plan for success that he created for his grandson.

Other bloggers looked for ways to make students passionate about STEM. We must show students that there’s more to engineering that sitting in a lab or behind a desk, says Mark Graban. John Hunter argues that curiosity, creativity and fun are essential components of learning STEM.  Laura Freeman advocates the use of case studies in teaching STEM.  And Kerrie Ann Christian describes innovative ways that STEM is taught and promoted in Australia, while Dr. Lotto Lai describes STEM education in China.

Good mentors, teachers, and parents make the crucial difference:

“There is probably no greater gift you can give someone than the ability to solve problems based on a foundation of math, science, and technology,” says Tim McMahon. Aimee Siegler is concerned that her son isn’t challenged enough in math and science at school. Manu Vora writes about recruiting teachers who love math and science.  Anshuman Tiwari looks to governments and parents to do a better job of teaching STEM.

On the bright side, John Priebe remembers a mentor who helped him appreciate math, while Nergis Soylemez–Sayed reflects on her parents’ help with the subject.  David Levy writes that many teenagers he knows are pursuing the STEM fields.

Is STEM necessary for the quality field?

Scott Rutherford argues that while STEM “is a foundation of quality, it shouldn’t be the primary or preferred entry point into quality.” Jennifer Stepniowski reflects on her mixed relationship with math. Meanwhile, Cesar Diaz Guevara writes that it’s never too late to discover STEM (ASQ certifications can help!).

STEM outside the U.S.:

Jimena Calfa and Paulo Sampaio reflects on similar challenges in attracting and retaining STEM students in their native countries—Argentina and Portugal, respectively. Meanwhile, Sameer Chougle writes that many students pursue engineering in India—but he isn’t sure if that’s necessarily a good thing. And, writing from China, Chris Hermenitt argues that “STEM education in Asia is a driving force for the success of the region.”

(On a different topic, another good read this month is Deb Mackin doing the math on how quality can affect your bottom line. I’m happy to see that ASQ bloggers are posting on a variety of topics throughout the month. The more the merrier!)

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One Response to February Roundup: STEM

  1. Robert 'QualityBob' Mitchell says:

    On March 11, 2012 CBS’ “60 Minutes” aired a story on Kahn Academy. Sal Khan first began tutoring his niece in 2004 by posting algebra lessons on YouTube. Today Sal Kahn reaches millions of students. Sal has recorded so many subjects that if you watched just one of his lectures a day it would take over eight years to view them all. Kahn Academy is delivering an approach called “Flipping the classroom” where the students watch the lecture at home, and perform hands-on homework the next day at school under the watchful supervision of a teacher. Less lecturing, more personal interaction. This type of individualized instruction has teachers playing the role of coach or mentor. “Flipping the classroom” could be the perfect solution for improved STEM teaching.