How can we apply this concept in the classroom? Providing students with design challenges will enable them to utilize this process. Allowing students to use their creativity and allow time to fail at first will help them to think about what is needed to make a prototype work. In other words we can encourage “fast failure” wherein they learn to quickly iterate possible solutions. A more enriched learning experience occurs when something doesn’t work the first time. This type of thinking can also take place when a problem is presented to the students. In order for students to have a reason to pursue a problem it starts with a driving question. This allows students to create with a purpose and is also where critical thinking begins.
Dr. David Thornburg spoke at the CUE 2013 conference and discussed the importance of a driving question in order for the students to ask “why?”. His foundation called the Knights of Knowledge™ promotes inquiry-based learning through STEM education. His team has put together sample videos in many subject areas to help pique interest in students around a topic in a specific subject area. He also discussed importance of setting expectations; not limiting what the teacher expects the students to achieve, but keeping it open or limitless. This gives the students the opportunity to stretch farther. He surmised that if you start at the floor students could reach beyond the ceiling.
Engineering in education is about giving students the opportunity to go through the process and developing an approach to problem solving and critical thinking. The idea or concepts of engineering are built into the Next Generation Science Standards. With the implementation of Common Core and the Next Generation Science Standards the content is not the forefront of the objective anymore rather it is the process by which you get to the content has become the focus. It is the actions that the students take through analyzing and applying knowledge. The engineering process is one method that will get us there.
The world is desperately seeking out engineers. There is a company that is even willing to provide you with a free dinner for a year if you find them an engineer! So find that driving question and let your students build and explore. They just might develop into future engineers.
By Karen Wilson, STEM Coach