STEM Anyone? Inspiring Students to Pursue STEM Careers

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June 20, 2016 by HCDE-Texas

STEM Anyone? Inspiring Students to Pursue STEM CareersStudents are more interested in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers than we previously thought, according to a recent study published by the Amgen Foundation.

Although students may show an increased interest in STEM fields, they are not translating that interest into a college STEM major. In order to more successfully move students into STEM careers, they need early opportunities that will inspire them to explore a variety of careers in scientific fields.  Secondary science teachers are uniquely positioned to stimulate students’ interest in STEM but often lack specific knowledge of pathways to STEM careers.

The Amgen student survey was designed to understand what motivates teens to study science and pursue a career in a scientific field. Results show that a surprising 81 percent of students are interested in science, but only 37 percent say that they like their science classes.  It is not shocking that classroom teaching methods can greatly impact a student’s desire to learn more about a topic.

Students profess to enjoy hands-on learning like experiments and field trips the most, followed by tools and strategies that help them relate science to real life. One-way communication such as class discussions or teaching straight from the book are least interesting, but among the most common.  In a race to ensure that students are successful in learning science content, we must also make sure that they are literate in pathways to science career success.

“We are in an era where scientific advances provide the opportunity to make meaningful progress against some of the world’s most serious diseases. To sustain this momentum, we must inspire the next generation of innovators. Through this study, we have seen that teachers are critical catalysts to inspiring a love of science in students.”–Raymond C. Jordan, senior vice president of Corporate Affairs at Amgen, and Amgen Foundation Board of Directors member.

Most teenagers lack opportunities to learn about specific scientific careers and opportunities to engage with practicing science professionals—experiences that are critical to developing a lifelong love of science. Most students believe that knowing an adult in their field of interest would be helpful, but only 32 percent actually know an adult in a science-based career. Teachers, especially secondary teachers, can play a more impactful role in steering students toward STEM careers, but these teachers must have their own learning opportunities first.

HCDE hosts an annual summer opportunity for science teachers to learn more about STEM careers and to see STEM careers in action during industry based field experiences. Science Teachers and Industry: Learning About Chemicals in the Environment is sponsored by the Texas Chemical Council and industry partners. Teachers in the week-long program have the opportunity to learn more about the local chemical manufacturing industry, local and state regulatory agencies and a wide variety of STEM career opportunities from practicing scientists and higher education sources. Teachers get specific, practical advice and personal contact information that they can use to inform students about STEM careers in a variety of areas.  This summer the program will run from July 18-21, 2016. For more information email .


About the Blogger:

Lisa Felske is curriculum director for science at Harris County Department of Education. Her areas of expertise include integrating science with other disciplines and student misconceptions in science. She enjoys being a Girl Scout leader, reading way past her bedtime, and using the Oxford comma.


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