Authentic STEM Learning and Teacher Mindsets
Many teachers in today’s classrooms, regardless of subject area, have little experience in the kind of learning they are asking students to engage in (Elmore, 2016). Rigorous standards in science and mathematics have set a new bar for what can be considered “authentic” STEM learning by requiring that students develop specific disciplinary skills, such as collaboration, application, argumentation, critical thinking and inquiry-based problem solving (NGSS Lead States, 2013). As states and school districts in this country continue to charge teachers with the challenging task of supporting students to engage in “authentic” STEM learning, teachers must develop the knowledge base and instructional aptitude implicated by these rigorous goals for students’ learning. Simultaneously, as teachers develop and refine their knowledge and practices of what is considered “authentic” learning in STEM, their views of student capability become integral to their instructional decisions. To have sustainable and successful policy reforms, school districts cannot afford to overlook teachers’ background knowledge, mindsets, and beliefs, including their potential deficit views of students. Therefore, attending to teachers’ mindsets and beliefs about what “authentic” STEM learning is and who is capable of it must be a priority for district leaders as they seek to implement effective and sustainable STEM-based reform initiatives across their schools. Several considerations are presented for districts seeking to help their teachers develop the instructional repertoire necessary to support students to engage in the disciplinary practices of authentic STEM learning.