David L. Evans, Ph.D.
Executive Director, National Science Teachers Association

With connection comes engagement and inspiration, which are often squelched by passively listening to lectures or reading textbooks.

A new approach

The best K-12 teachers know this and are taking an “active learning” approach with their teaching by incorporating more authentic learning experiences in the sciences as they are practiced and experienced in the real world. Thanks to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) teachers nationwide, are blending science and engineering practices with core science ideas and broad cross-cutting concepts to teach kids to think and behave like scientists and engineers.  Teachers are nurturing a love of science and keeping students engaged by encouraging them to work together to answer their questions and most importantly, to demand and evaluate evidence as the basis for learning.

Staying on track

Once they get to college though, too many students are abandoning STEM degrees. The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) report found that fewer than 40 percent of the students who enter college intending to major in a STEM field actually complete a STEM degree. The reason? Most colleges still favor “sage on the stage” lectures for introductory STEM courses, and while possibly entertained, students are not engaged.

The report noted that higher education “classroom approaches that engage students in ‘active learning’ improve retention of information and critical thinking skills.” The research behind the NGSS on how we learn science is just as valid after high school graduation as it is before—and just might help students stay with that STEM degree.