The STEM Field of Education

I was reading Mark Gudial’s recent blog post and thought it was a great example of something I’ve been ruminating on recently… Teaching is a STEM Occupation.

A Professional:

I’m teaching Media Computation (n=234) this semester…

Analyzes data:

…on two programming problems on a recent quiz. (We have a 30 minute quiz every other week.) They didn’t really bomb, but an average of 82% on one programming problem (Problem #3 below) and 76% on the second (Problem #4) was lower than I was hoping for. Those are all mostly due to partial credit — only 25 of my 234 students got full credit on Problem #4. Worse yet, we had a “simple” matching problem where we offered four pictures and four programs — which program generated which picture? More than half the students got at least two wrong. The score on the matching problem was 72%, even lower than the programming task problems.

Hypothesizes:

My conclusion is that my students can’t yet read code and understand it. So, I drew on what I know from the research to come up with a best guess solution.

Tries a modification:

I decided to solve the problems in a live-coding session (starting from a blank editor, and talking aloud as I wrote the code) in each of the ways that I saw students doing it…

Re-evaluates:

Could an exploration of these variations/contrasts help students see how the code changes related to behavior changes? … I got good response from students. I’m looking forward to seeing how they do on similar problems on future quizzes.

This is an enactment of the Scientific/Design/Problem Solving Process.  And, if you read Guzdial’s entire narrative, you’ll understand the above quotes overly-simplify the Scientific, Technical, Engineering, and Mathematical skills he employed.  I realize that not every teacher does this, but this is what good instruction should look like.

I would like to strongly suggest that we need to be promoting STEM Teaching as a STEM Career.  It’s a real shame that because many of the most lauded STEM Universities don’t have an education program, students on their campuses who truly enjoy teaching (as TAs or tutors or working their summer jobs as camp counselors or swim instructors), likely won’t hear the world ‘teacher’ contained in any career advice they receive there.

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