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Learning

Differences Among Learners, Real and Not

Blog Type:  Learning Date Posted:  Friday, April 26, 2013

Submitted by Annie Murphy Paul

The idea that students have particular “learning styles”—visual, auditory, kinesthetic, etc. — is a popular and persistent one despite the lack of scientific evidence to support it. (For a great summary of the research, see this blog post by UVA cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham.)

The apparent weakness of learning styles theory does not mean, however, that students don’t differ from one another. They clearly do. But let’s focus on differences that have empirical support. Scott Barry Kaufman points out one such set of differences in one of his recent columns on theScientific American website—that is, differences in working memory.

As Scott explains, “Working memory involves the ability to maintain and manipulate information in one’s mind while ignoring irrelevant distractions and intruding thoughts. Working memory skills are essential for everyday intellectual functioning.” And learners vary in the capacity of their working memory, a fact that teachers can take into account:

“In an educational setting, helping students overcome working memory burdens can be particularly helpful. Over the past decade John Sweller and colleagues have designed instructional techniques that relieve working memory burdens on students and increase learning and interest. Drawing on both the expertise and working memory literatures, they match the complexity of learning situations to the learner, attempting to reduce unnecessary working memory loads that may interfere with reasoning and learning, and optimize cognitive processes most relevant to learning.

Cognitive Load Theory can be particularly useful for students with working memory deficits who are otherwise extremely intelligent and competent as it allows them to more easily demonstrate their brilliance.” (Read more here.)

For learners with such working memory deficits (and for all of us when we’re learning something new or difficult), reducing cognitive load can lead to big improvements in performance. We can do so by breaking concepts and problems into smaller steps, weeding out extraneous information, presenting information in multiple modalities (e.g.,  supplementing written text with pictures or aural information), and simply slowing the pace of learning so that we don’t become overwhelmed.

To quote Dan Willingham: “People do learn differently, but I think it is very important to say exactly how they learn differently, and focus our attention on those differences that really matter.” What are some other evidence-based distinctions we can make among learners? Read Annie Murphy Paul's blog and weekly newsletter, The Brilliant Report.

annie murphy paul headshot

Annie Murphy Paul is a book author, magazine journalist, consultant, and speaker. 

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Tags:  Annie Murphy Paul auditory cognitive load theory cognitive process Daniel Willingham John Sweller kinesthetic learning learning style Scientific American Scott Barry Kaufman The Brilliant Report visual working memory

What Does the Brain Have to Do With Learning?

Blog Type:  Learning Date Posted:  Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Submitted by Dr. Matthew H. Schneps

There has been a lot of talk in recent years about "brain-based" learning, and the role neuroscience plays in education. It makes sense to think this way because when we learn cells grow, connect, disconnect, or die. Learning is the process by which the brain rewires itself.

What then can neuroscience tell teachers and students about how to make learning most effective? This turns out to be a very difficult question to answer. The brain is extraordinarily complex, and neuroscience is only beginning to touch upon questions that relate to what happens in the brain during classroom learning. But the fact that we don't understand this hasn't stopped many from promoting all kinds of myths about how the brain works, often to justify and support methods for teaching that are not really backed by research.

One of the most common myths about the brain in education has to do with the capabilities of its right and left sides. People talk all the time about being "left brained," or "right brained," and use this to explain why they can do some things, and not others. But, if neuroscience can tell us anything at all about learning, it is that the brain is almost fluid in its adaptability (a process called plasticity). The brain can grow cells to direct the burden for learning to whatever regions are able to accommodate the task. In an extreme case, where people with severe epilepsy have had half their brains removed, they are able to recover functions thought resident in the side of the brain no longer there.

Profs. Kurt Fischer, Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, and I developed a resource for teachers (funded by the Annenberg Foundation)that has videos about such ideas, including dyslexia. Visit “Neuroscience and the Brain,”www.learner.org/courses/neuroscience.

If you are interested in science and dyslexia, please visit www.LVL.SI.edu, where you can join our community, and voice your ideas.

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Dr. Matthew H. Schneps is the director of the Laboratory for Visual Learning at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

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Preschool Daydreaming, Lifelong Learning

Blog Type:  Learning Date Posted:  Thursday, May 29, 2014

Submitted by Dana Allara

girl with spray paint can

The theme music to the preschool years is a seemingly never-ending chorus of “Why Mommy? Why? Mommy, why?” Young children are passionate explorers who seek out understanding and revel in the wonders of their world—they are intrinsically motivated and love learning. What can preschool parents do to keep this thirst for knowledge and inquisitive spirit alive as their children enter the elementary school years and beyond?

Encourage daydreaming! Really. Daydreaming.

Dedicated preschool parents often feel pressured to fill every moment of their child’s day with an age-appropriate, stimulating and educational activity.  One of the most valuable things a parent can do during the preschool years in order to foster intrinsic motivation is to step back and open up space for genuine downtime. Encouraging your child to spend time daydreaming, imagining, thinking and reflecting is a gift to her both intellectually and emotionally.

Daydreaming is an internal experience that involves high-level cognitive processes in which the child is in control of his own thinking. He can delve deeply into one aspect of the imagining, or the wondering and he decides when to move on to a new thought as well as what mystery to explore next. Self-directed, creative ideas are critical for academic success in later years. A daydreaming child can replay ideas, rework them and gain deeper understanding at his own pace. On an emotional level, children who are encouraged to daydream become more self-aware and begin to build a positive self-image as a thoughtful person who has creative ideas and enjoys intellectual pursuits.

Parents of preschoolers can encourage daydreaming in both structured and unstructured ways. When daydreaming happens naturally, parents can purposefully respond in a positive, enthusiastic manner. When a child hears her mother say, “I can see you dreaming over there! I am sure you are discovering amazing things!” the child knows that thinking and imagining are valued by the parent and that great things can come from going within. Creating environments in which daydreaming comes naturally can be as simple as afternoon quiet time or taking a car ride without bringing the electronics along. The magic of the inner life of daydreaming is that it is the child who focuses his attention and pursues his own dream, true self-motivated exploration and learning. One daydream-friendly car trip led to a long stretch of silence from the back seat. Eventually mom asked, “What are you thinking about back there?”  The enthusiastic young boy replied, “I taught myself to wink!” This downtime allowed this little boy to persevere on a challenging task that involves creating new brain connections.

Moms, dads, and teachers can also construct special dreaming or thinking times. Some families even set aside “think-breaks” in which everyone is invited to take a few minutes to think on a particular topic. Nurturing these thinking and imagining skills helps to build a positive self-image and fosters abilities in introspection, creativity, and intrinsic motivation.

The child who daydreams develops a rich inner-life, experiences the joy of discovery, and enthusiastically engages with challenging material. The intellectually-interested preschooler of today grows naturally into the intrinsically motivated student of the future.

dana allara headshot

Dana Allara is a parent coach and founder of Personalized Parenting.

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Tags:  Dana Allara daydreaming elementary school years high-level cognitive process imagine inquisitive spirit intellectual pursuits intellectually interested intrinsic motivation

Debate = Empowerment

Blog Type:  Learning Date Posted:  Thursday, May 14, 2015

Submitted by Caleb Koufman

landmark high school debate

When most people imagine the extracurriculars offered at a school for students with language-based learning disabilities​, such as dyslexia​, debate club is usually not among them. Just like any presumptions about their disabilities, though, students ​where I work as a teacher ​proved this one wrong, too.

It is my job to encourage students to question lessons and provoke discussions in a polite and articulate nature​ despite whatever learning difference they may have.​ ​After persistent student requests, and a bit of uncertainty on the part of the faculty, senior faculty member Bruce Stoddard and I started a debate team as an extracurricular activity at the school.

Junior ​William Cassilly and Sophomore ​Kenneth Deluze comprised the first-ever​ debate team ​at Landmark School​. It was such a pleasure to witness any anxieties about debating melt during the initial speeches. Suddenly, finding their confidence, Kenny started slamming his fist onto the desk in front of him like a Manhattan courtroom lawyer as he accused the other team of conceding a point that they forgot to address, and Liam calmly and inquisitively cross-examined his opponent like a Southern legislator before making his final arguments during the final focus. ​

Despite what most people may think about students who inherently struggle with language, these students ​can be uniquely​ skilled at the most important aspects of debate.

​They value presentation and preparation and authentically appeal to judges. With strong verbal and logical reasoning, our debaters are able to diminish the effect of their learning disabilities and present a strong and confident demeanor at the podium. ​Despite their challenges with reading and writing, many of our students ​often ​have an affinity for compelling public speech and the ​new debate club allows ​them​ to realize this. ​ ​

The experience of learning how to debate requires acquiring new skills that are often outside of any student’s comfort zone. In general, most people dread public speaking. But debating also requires knowledge of how to take notes in shorthand and write persuasive cases that cite scholars, scientists, advocates, lawyers, judges, politicians, literature, and legislature. The most important part of debate, though, is the experience of confronting an intimidating challenge and succeeding. Debate is empowering to students, and we hope to watch the program grow in the future to incorporate more people with varying levels of experience.

This week we will be attending our​ third official debate at a competitive private school nearby. ​The topic is whether or not high schools, universities, and professional sports teams should ban the use of ethnic group images such as mascots and team names. There's no telling who will win or lose but the debate is sure to be inspiring, competitive, and the start of a new and exciting tradition.

caleb koufman headshot

Caleb Koufman is a faculty member at Landmark High School.

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Tags:  Caleb Koufman compelling public speech confidence debate debate club disabilities dread public speaking dyslexia empowerment exciting tradition extracurricular activities Landmark School language-based learning disabilities learning differences logical reasoning persuasive cases

Asking for Help

Blog Type:  Learning Date Posted:  Tuesday, March 25, 2014

By Nicole Subik

Why is it that many of us view asking for help as a sign of failure?

If you are traveling from Point A to Point B and stop to ask for directions along the way, does that mean that you failed? Didn’t you make it to Point B? I call that success.

College students often struggle with seeking out help, and when they do reach out, they are frequently in what I call a failure mindset. They see signing up for a tutoring session as a last resort. And sometimes, quite frankly, students ask for assistance too late in the semester for it to salvage rotten grades. In those cases, to keep with the journey metaphor, they are too far off the course to make it to Point B without a major detour. Honestly, that is a frustrating situation for everyone—students, parents, and college personnel.

I would like to suggest a paradigm shift. Tutoring—probably the most popular and widely available support at the college level—should be seen as a place to stop along your journey, a place to replenish, get direction, and gain knowledge. Tutoring should be something you seek to help you get to your destination, not a refuge for when you are already broken down and out of fuel.

In order for college students to make the most of their tutoring sessions and other academic supports, they must buy into this paradigm shift. Arriving to a session with a failure mindset shuts you off from the interactive process that is so vital to this proven one-on-one interaction. The same goes for academic coaching, an increasingly popular support for college students who want help with time management and study skills.

Parents, teachers, and college personnel can help students seek out help early  and consistently by not only making sure students are aware of resources, but by framing those resources as positive and natural parts of the educational journey.  Before they even go to college, start talking about supports available. The more we can lead our students away from asking for help only when they are in serious trouble, the better off they will be. Successful college students are proactive, not reactive about seeking out academic support.

About the Author

nicole subik headshot

Nicole Subik is a Learning Specialist at Villanova University's Learning Support Services

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Tags:  academic coaching educational journey failure mindset Nicole Subik study skills time management tutoring Villanova University’s Learning Support Center

Project Based-Learning as a Tool to Boost Executive Function Skills

Blog Type:  Learning Date Posted:  Tuesday, August 14, 2018

steamworks at landmark high school

By Carl Gasowski

Walking into the STEAMworks Technology Department in the school where I teach, one might see a student working on a computer-controlled wood carving, or perhaps constructing and programming a drone, or maybe even composing and recording music. Aside from the common workshop and studio space that these students share, they also benefit from the experience of using hands-on, project based-learning as a means to develop and understand their thought process.

Five-Phase Production Process

In the STEAMworks Technology Department students move through the development of each project in five phases. They start by identifying what they want to learn about, including skills and content. Next, they brainstorm project ideas, select an idea to pursue, and begin the process of planning. During this phase, students are encouraged to sequence the steps needed to complete their project while researching the materials they may need and anticipating potential challenges. It’s a phase that can teach both the importance of simplicity and the nuances of complexity. The planning and design phase accounts for the bulk of their project and is ripe with opportunities for conversations about their thought process, strategies, and design choices. 

After completing their plans, students begin to visualize the fabrication of their products as they move into the prototyping or drafting phase. They might build a smaller model, test a concept for an individual component, or practice a technique before they move onto the building phase. During the building phase students get to see their ideas come to life. They can identify where their plan was successful and where it may have fallen short. Finally, at the completion of a project, it’s all about evaluating the process and the result. If additional drafts are to be made, then students assess where to make improvements.

Tangible Growth

Aside from planning and time management, moving through the whole process teaches patience, productivity, and perseverance. As an instructor on the sidelines of the process, the success and progression of student skills are tangible in the products that the students create, their awareness of the necessary steps, and their approach to challenges and obstacles.

About the Author

Carl Gasowski is entering his 14th year as a teacher in the Science and Technology Department at Landmark High School.]]>

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Tags:  Executive Functioning hands-on learning innovation learning science STEAM STEM technology

Adventure Is Out There

Blog Type:  Learning Date Posted:  Wednesday, February 11, 2015

By Tristan Whitehouse

Not all classrooms need walls — or proper floors for that matter. What they do need is people willing to learn together through exploration.

Over the past decade, outdoor education programs have grown in prevalence throughout the country, because the interpersonal skills that students develop in the woods directly influence performance in schools.

Three years ago, Landmark School began the Outdoor Leadership class with hopes of improving the lives of our students with comprehensive leadership and wilderness training. When most people think of schools designed to meet the needs of students with language-based learning disabilities, they may be surprised to find some of our students learning various communication techniques seventy five feet up a rock wall or a hundred feet below in caves. We've found that not only do these students succeed, but they thrive when presented with the challenge.

field journalsAt the beginning of the course my co-teacher, Zachary Fisher, and I, encouraged students to meditate on the word “Leadership” and come up with a series of adjectives to describe it. Common candidates included trustworthy, amicable, knowledgeable, and considerate. They then categorized these words into three key criteria for leadership: interpersonal skills, judgment skills, and technical skills. In any setting, whether it be the wilderness or the board room, these skills must always be present and balanced. The Leadership Triangle, became the theme for the program. Every skill students learned would relate in some way to a side of the triangle.

While the students learned a slew of outdoor skills such as outdoor cooking, fire building, knots, gear repair, survival, and first aid, they were encouraged to write in their field journals. We expected these journals to be simple notebooks with periodic visitation by students but we were amazed to see that these journals have become prideful works of art for many. Intricate diagrams and drawings have complimented student’s notes on every subject from fitting a backpack to their body, to maps and landscapes of places we've visited as a class. We've learned that if you give your students the opportunity, they will surprise you with superior quality and craftsmanship.

The Outdoor Leadership class at Landmark School is still relatively new, but already it has shown that the woods can have a dramatic effect on our students for several reasons:

First, outdoor learning can provide opportunities for students to immediately see the fruits of their labors:  Lashing together two saplings and hanging a tarp between them can provide instantaneous relief from the elements. Toiling over twigs and bark to make the perfect tinder results in flame. Helping a peer get to the top of a twenty foot wall builds trust and friendship. The outdoors provide instant feedback for a job well done.

Second, solving problems presented by hiking, camping, and leadership initiatives, develop creative minds and more versatile learners.  Problem-solving tasks such as group games, challenge students to think critically about their surroundings and make good judgment calls.

Lastly, studying leadership results in a greater sense of citizenship, connection, and responsibility. Sharing common experiences builds togetherness and encourages fraternity. Wilderness Education gives students the ultimate gift: the gift of adventure. It allows teens to lace their boots, strap on their pack, and head out their doorstep with the knowledge and skills to succeed anywhere the road takes them.

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Tags:  alternative classrooms education trends Interpersonal skills journaling judgement skills Landmark School language-based learning disabilities leadership initiatives Leadership Triangle outdoor education outdoor skills problem solving technical skills Wilderness Education

Learning with ADHD

Blog Type:  Learning Date Posted:  Monday, January 26, 2015

By Edward Hallowell, M.D., Ed.D. 

Learning with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is difficult, at best. I know because I have both ADHD and dyslexia. A phrase that I have come up with that I think best exemplifies what it is like living with ADHD is that it’s like “having a Ferrari engine for a brain with bicycle brakes.” The good news is that there are ways to strengthen these bicycle breaks to help stay on track and manage those Ferrari engine-like thoughts.

With the New Year steadily underway, there has never been a better time to take charge and evaluate what works best in trying to provide guidance to those with ADHD or, if you yourself have ADHD, finding the measures to take that work well for you. What has helped me most to overpower my ADHD began when I was in first grade. My teacher, Mrs. Eldredge, made it a point to make her students feel safe—whether they had ADHD or not—to inquire about anything. By eliminating fear, she allowed me to believe that I could be as successful as I wanted to be. I have carried this notion with me throughout my life and have instilled this belief in the patients, both children and adults, that I work with today. Having a confident mindset to take on any task will make you unstoppable. Another tip to help stay on track is to follow a schedule. Everyone needs structure, especially children, but for those who have ADHD, schedules and rules are as essential as maps and roads are for drivers. Without them, these kids can get completely lost.

With encouraging teachers and setting an organized, well-defined schedule, students will not only be more productive,  but also more excited to succeed.

dr. edward hallowell headshot

Dr. Hallowell is a child and adult psychiatrist, author, speaker, and leading authority  in the field of ADHD. Founder of the Hallowell Centers in New York and Boston. but also more excited to succeed.

 

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Tags:  ADHD adult psychiatrist attention deficit hyperactivity disorder child psychiatrist confident mind set Dr. Edward Hallowell dyslexia eliminating fear guidance Landmark School language-based learning disability Ned Hallowell student productivity student success

Lessons Learned from Remote Learning: Tips for Parents

Blog Type:  Learning Date Posted:  Thursday, September 3, 2020

girl raising hand remote class

By Stacey Sargent and Robert Kahn

Mid-March of 2020 thrust all of us into a brave new world, and parents, students, educators, and administrators worked hard to bring their expertise and experience along for the ride!  Ultimately, June arrived and curriculum, teaching strategies, and personnel had become more or less accustomed to a routine of remote learning. But while educators came at this task from a perspective of “How does pedagogy, methodology, and curriculum translate?”, families often had to confront broader and more challenging perspectives involving multiple students in different schools, utilizing differing models, and competing for shared resources. Heading into this school year, at least we have been forewarned of the uncertainty ahead. There are factors we cannot control, and learning may take several different forms, including remote or hybrid phases, before we return to the world we knew in early 2020. Here are some tips from our experience to date specifically for parents on how to make remote learning most effective.

Create a successful learning environment

Just like in a classroom, it is important for students to feel comfortable and productive in their learning environment. Talk to your child about where in your home would be a good place to attend remote classes and complete school work. Ideally, the spot you choose should be a quiet, well-lit area with a desk or table and a comfortable chair. Remove items that could be a distraction and add needed supplies, such as writing utensils and paper. Many schools have published an at-home supplies list for the hybrid model, focused on the home learning center. In some cases, items like printers and articulating cameras are useful but costly. Less expensive versions are often fine, and schools or districts may have these items to loan out. Some parents may want to explore a cooperative pod approach to resources, bearing health mitigation in mind, where multiple families have access to items which may not be cost effective for individual households. 

If your home allows, we recommend avoiding bedrooms as a learning venue, but space may be an issue, especially when multiple family members are going to school online and parents are working remotely. Teachers understand the drawbacks and constraints of virtual learning. However, as parents, you can help students focus and stay on task by being aware of the distractions posed by siblings or even adults passing through the learning area or lingering just off screen. In general, recreate the ‘class experience’ by not being a presence when your student is going to school. It’s an issue to talk about as a family if necessary.

Establish consistent routines

Your child’s school day is filled with routines at different parts of the day. Establishing routines at home can provide structure and consistency conducive to learning. Talk to your child about what routines they think would be important. Some routines to consider are meal and snack times, organization of school work and supplies, getting ready for classes, and break times. One consistent observation of many faculty was the need for supplemental executive functioning (EF) support in an all-remote mode.  

Time management, preparation, memory aids, planning organizers, focus, and motivation are different depending on the level of monitoring available to your student. Several veteran instructors noted that they were impressed at how students responded to the EF challenges of remote learning. It was a “learning to swim by being tossed in the deep end” experience: overwhelming for some but a trigger for independent growth in others. As a parent, the more you can be a supportive observer and coach, while keeping it positive and collegial, the better.  One tried and true method to avoid mixing the roles of parent and EF coach is to consult with your student’s teacher, advisor, or counselor about any observations before directly intervening with a strategy. Once a rapport is established, a school counselor or teacher can connect with other faculty, and meet with your student directly. In the case of an all-remote mode of learning, they will also have the opportunity to reach out to a person designated as your student’s executive function coach. Private tutorials in the pandemic have not dried up at all; many educators are available to help students with their organization, work load, and proactive planning.

Make the most of breaks

Help your child make the most of their down time in between classes. This is the time to use the restroom, grab water or a snack, and engage in movement activities. After class, encourage your child to step away from all screens, including phones and televisions. Take a family walk or engage in physical activities outside. Talented remote educators have learned the value of alternating activities on screen with other parts of the lesson that explicitly send students away for a task or a reflection. Screen fatigue is real; many working parents need no convincing of this. If the remote learning mode does result in some post-pandemic aversion to screen time, we may agree it’s a silver lining.

Keep in touch

When your child is learning at home, it is important for him/her to maintain a connection with the school. Check emails on a consistent basis for important school-wide updates. Maintain communication with teachers and advisors and reach out to counselors if needed. Even when your child is at home, he/she is still a supported and valued member of the school community. Deans, advisors, and counselors all conduct meetings virtually, similar to the drop-ins or scheduled visits they would normally have on campus. Take advantage of these extra opportunities to connect with faculty and team members. We’ve found a variety of creative ways that schools are continuing to build community online. One very simple one is for teachers to allow classes to have some group discussion time before and after the lesson. While maintaining an adult presence in the group is critical for safety, student feedback to teachers has been amazing when teachers allow less-structured ‘extended time’ for students to connect at the end of class for 10-20 minutes. Website hubs are great places to browse for community-building opportunities. In a remote mode, be alert for options to connect with school faculty and peers in non-class settings built into the school day, such as meetings, clubs, office hours, designated breaks, while continuing to encourage time away from the screen once the school day is done. As a parent, you may have a chance to provide input into your school’s plan for remote learning, so take that opportunity to suggest ways for student-faculty connection apart from the classroom hour, in hopes of approximating the way a school community functions.

As we navigate through the pandemic, remote learning has taught us a great deal; not only about the strategies and techniques that do and do not adapt to a digital interface, but also about the emotional and psychological demands of being a student and a teacher in circumstances where you often cannot control the interaction in expected ways. As an overall tip, patience and flexibility are even more essential to remote teaching, where despite the best efforts of both teachers and students, communication can take some unexpected turns. We will all benefit from absorbing the lessons that make us better, and making peace with the factors that are simply beyond our control.

About the Authors

Stacey Sargent is a teacher at Landmark Elementary•Middle School. She has over three years of remote teaching experience as a reading tutor and an English language instructor. She has taught students all over the world through virtual learning platforms. 

Rob Kahn was head of Landmark's Elementary•Middle School from 1985 to 2020, and before that was a tutor, teacher, academic advisor, department head, and dean of students at the school. He began teaching at Landmark in 1972 while at Harvard, and has his Master's Degree from Simmons University. He continues to stay involved at Landmark in a variety of roles.

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Tags:  remote learning tips for parents executive function strategies

Why We Need More Girls in STEM

Blog Type:  Learning Date Posted:  Friday, September 23, 2016 Byline:  by Melissa Davidson

girl in science class STEM

One of the things that I really strongly believe in is that we need to have more girls interested in math, science, and engineering. We’ve got half the population that is way underrepresented in those fields and that means that we’ve got a whole bunch of talent…not being encouraged the way they need to.”

—President Barack Obama, February 2013

Not every girl in school is interested in STEM, but there’s a new generation of dynamic young girls who will eventually pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Developing this interest and talent at a young age is crucial, just as much as instilling confidence and self-awareness. Strides are being made to improve educational opportunities, yet girls are still poorly represented in STEM classes.

This translates into a job market where only 1 in 7 engineers are female, only 27% of all computer science jobs are held by women, and women have seen no employment growth in STEM jobs since 2000, according to Forbes. It’s a lost economic opportunity for women, given that a general engineer makes between $70,000 and $100,00 a year.

Why aren’t more girls interested in STEM subjects? What can be done about it? Let’s take a look.

Introduce at a younger age

Schools that supply STEM programming and encourage elementary- and secondary-school girls to participate can shift the dynamic away from the field being a boys’ club. There are a variety of reasons boys are the main participants in science fairs, and it’s not just because they are the only ones with an interest in science.

Projects involving real-world applications and experiences will also foster a better understanding of what’s out there in the job world. There are many resources available to teachers now to help facilitate the process.

Mentoring opportunities

Exposure to positive female STEM role models at a younger age will have a dramatic impact on whether girls pursue careers in tech, science, and math down the road, according to Karen Horting, CEO and Executive Director at the Society of Women Engineers.

One-on-one mentoring programs and shadowing opportunities are also becoming more prevalent in schools. Groups such as the National Girls Collaborative Project work with public- and private-sector organizations and institutions interested in expanding girls’ participation in STEM.

Students - male and female - want to feel like they belong in whatever setting they’re in. If girls don’t have that sense of belonging, they may choose to drop the science or math class and pursue a different career path.

Bust the stereotypes

Biases still exist that math and science jobs are typically for males, while nursing and secretarial jobs are more geared toward females. Pop culture perpetuates the stereotypes with “nerdy” male computer programmers. Girls now are at least seeing more women portraying doctors, lawyers, and top government officials on the big and small screen.

The paucity of women is not only a social issue. It has economic repercussions as well. There will be 8 million STEM-related jobs in the U.S. by 2018 - jobs that we will not be able to fill domestically unless we can produce more STEM graduates, according to a George Washington University webinar discussing America’s STEM crisis.

Forty percent of today’s jobs require STEM competencies and almost all of the 30 fastest-growing jobs over the next decade will require these skills, but presently only a quarter of women are represented in these fields. The next generation of scientists and engineers need to include a wider range of talent, including more women and minorities.  

About the Author:

Melissa Davidson

Melissa Davidson is a full-time freelance writer with a B.A. in Journalism from the the University of Montana. In a former life, she was a newspaper reporter for several publications throughout the west. When she's not hovering over a keyboard writing about health, wellness, and social issues, she can be found riding and running on mountain trails with her dog, Romeo, in full pursuit.    

 

 

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Tags:  engineering engineering jobs Landmark School math real-world applications science science fair STEM technology women in the workforce

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