STEM OR S.T.E.M.? CHALLENGING A TRADITIONAL PARADIGM THROUGH INNOVATIVE THREE-STEP APPROACH TO STEM TEACHER EDUCATION
STEM is an educational paradigm for a curriculum based on the idea of educating students in four specific disciplines — science, technology, engineering and mathematics. While the acronym STEM has firmly entered the educational vocabulary in the Western world, it is still unclear what STEM is, how it is different from S.T.E.M. as an amalgam of different subjects, who STEM teachers are, and how we should educate teachers who will be teaching STEM-related subjects. Education researchers and practitioners are yet to reach the consensus about the essence of STEM education and effective STEM teacher education practices for both elementary and secondary teachers. Puzzlingly, the traditional subject boundaries in teacher education today are as strong as ever. The societies that aim at educating the next generation of citizens who will be able to think innovatively have to educate STEM teachers who are motivated and capable to break the traditional subject boundaries while embracing a holistic STEM paradigm.
In this paper, we propose an innovative pedagogical approach for teacher education that can facilitate the multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary STEM teaching and learning. Our approach has three steps: (a) STEM student teachers engage in inquiry projects that require the use of multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary concepts, ideas, and practices; (b) they collaborate on designing lessons that incorporate this approach in their teaching practice; (c) STEM student teachers implement their lessons during the school practicum and reflect on these lessons with their mentors and peers. This three-step approach allows future STEM teachers to experience this innovative pedagogy first as learners and then to implement it as teachers. Only after future teachers will experience the effect of breaking the traditional S.T.E.M. subject boundaries will they be ready to embrace the emergent STEM paradigm as 21st century educators.