that is all too often a part of STEM education—but there are many differences among them. It does seem clear, he suggested, that the context in which schools are operating matters. In a practical sense, that context determines the resources that are available to support the school, such as universities, research organizations, or businesses, that can provide direct support and experience for STEM students. And the context influences the policies that shape the school, such as district rules that do or do not allow school leaders and teachers the flexibility they believe they need to be effective.
Teachers matter greatly to schools’ outcomes, Gamoran added, particularly their content knowledge.4 Other discussions highlighted the vital importance of curriculum—particularly curricular focus—as well as a variety of ways of thinking about curriculum and instruction. He mentioned two views: some argue for tight coherence and consistency of the curriculum, while others emphasize the importance of monitoring students’ learning as they develop understanding in a particular domain.
The workshop also revealed several areas where more work is needed, Gamoran observed. Much of the discussion of school types focused on high schools, for example, although grades K-8 are also very important. There was more attention to mathematics and science than to engineering and technology education. These are imbalances that reflect the literature, and they may also reflect the emphasis of current accountability policies. The T in STEM has always been easy to overlook, one participant observed, because it is difficult to define. Is it educational technology? Is it technology as a result of engineering? Technology has not been well incorporated into science standards, and although there are separate standards for it, its place has not been clearly established.
Each of these points suggests fruitful areas for further research and analysis, but committee members ended the workshop with an appreciation for the many creative schools, educators, and others who are already hard at work preparing the next generation of STEM students and workers.
4Researchers have identified the importance of pedagogical content knowledge, specific knowledge of how to teach the material in a particular field, as very important to teacher effectiveness. See National Research Council (2010) for more on this point.