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A Call to Action: Incorporating Active STEM Learning Strategies into K-12 and Higher Education

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy is issuing a national Call to Action to improve STEM education through the use of active learning.

Throughout the Obama Administration the President has recognized that engaging and educating more students in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects will meet a growing need in the Nation’s high-tech economy and prepare young people for range of rewarding careers.  This recognition has driven investments in many programs that have increased student diversity and interest in STEM fields, such as the President’s Educate to Innovate, Computer Science for All and Nation of Makers , campaigns and lead to collaborations such as 100K in 10, and US2020. Earlier this year, as part of the release of the President’s 2017 Budget proposal, the Administration highlighted a comprehensive STEM for All effort, which prioritizes three areas for investment in STEM education to expand access and opportunity for all students:

  • Improving STEM teaching and supporting active learning
  • Expanding access to rigorous STEM courses in middle and high school, including in computer science, and
  • Addressing bias and expanding opportunities for underrepresented students in STEM

The first component of this STEM for All effort is implementing effective teaching strategies in STEM classrooms at all levels, including those that incorporate research insights about active learning. Active learning strategies, in which students must engage, think, and solve problems, have been shown to increase retention of knowledge; develop higher-order skills such as analysis, synthesis, and evaluation; and increase student retention in STEM fields.

Active learning strategies include experiences such as:

  • Authentic scientific research or engineering or software design in the classroom to help students understand the practice of science, technology, and engineering and promote deep learning of the subject matter;
  • Interactive computer activities to support students’ exposure to trial-and-error and promote deep learning;
  • Discussions to encourage collaboration and idea exchange among students; and
  • Writing to generate original ideas and solidify knowledge.

Today, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy is issuing a call to action to educators in K-12 and higher education, professional development providers, non-profit organizations, Federal agencies, private industry, and members of the public to participate in a nationwide effort to meet the goals of STEM for All through the use of active learning at all grade levels and in higher education..

In issuing a call to action for active STEM learning, we are seeking commitments to implement active learning strategies in STEM fields, and we are also interested in actions and efforts that will encourage others to do so, including: (1) incentives for PK-12 educators and higher education faculty to implement active learning strategies, (2) investment in professional development opportunities for instructors at every level of education, and (3) training materials and resources for educators to promote the help them use active learning.

Tell us what you are doing in response to this important call to action. Please submit your ideas here by September 23, 2016.

Jo Handelsman is the Associate Director for Science in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Quincy Brown is a Senior Policy Advisor at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.