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Confidence builders

Empowering educators teaching science, technology, engineering and mathematics

Research |

By Jeff Green

All across the province, the classroom setting where children sit attentively in their seats is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Traditional learning methods are being disrupted; students are bustling about the classroom and teachers are enjoying every minute of it.

While it may sound chaotic, it’s exactly what many teachers are relying on to teach subjects like science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Dr. Karen Goodnough, a researcher in the Faculty of Education, says not all primary/elementary teachers feel confident teaching STEM subjects and are open to trying new methods.

Watch Dr. Goodnough talk about her research in the video profile below.

New style of teaching

With increasing demands, teachers find it hard to stay up-to-date on STEM subjects. Some are not specialists in STEM subjects; others may not have the tools or know where to start; while others lack the resources, time or opportunity. Often it requires embracing a new style of teaching to better inform and instruct students in these subjects.

Dr. Goodnough and her team lead The Memorial University/Hibernia STEM Teacher Inquiry Program, a project funded by the Hibernia Management and Development Company Ltd. Each year they help between 60-80 teachers build confidence through inquiry-based classroom practices in STEM subjects.

“This program is not just about engaging students and getting them excited about the material they are learning but it’s also about teachers gaining confidence in what they’re teaching.” Dr. Karen Goodnough

What this looks like in the everyday classroom is often the introduction of new tools or new teaching styles to capture students’ attention and help them better understand the material.

Interactivity key to learning

Some classrooms incorporate iPads as a new means of interacting with subject content. Others have explored video games or computer coding to teach children about building models, programs or applications. Some teachers ask students to review teacher-made videos before class, while other teachers eschew the traditional desk and chair arrangement in favor of a more fluid and active learning spaces.

Interactivity is key. Children collaborate via whiteboards and observe how other children approach problem solving. They write. They ask questions. They are active and engaged. These new tools and teaching approaches enable students to learn at their own pace and help make the subject matter relevant to their lives.

Enhancing teacher experiences

Dr. Goodnough and her research team are in constant contact with teachers, providing support. For their part, the teachers are committed to intensive learning; they re-group with the research team and other educators, sharing their experiences and ideas for the classroom. In the end, it’s all about enhancing the experience for teachers and helping foster student success.

The program is headed into its third year with no signs of slowing down. Learn more about the program online.

FunderHibernia Management and Development Corporation Ltd.

Special thanksSt. Andrew’s Elementary

This article is part of a new bi-weekly collection of research profiles celebrating the contributions of Memorial researchers. Be sure to check back for future profiles.

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