Giving Compass’ Take:
• According to a report by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, English learners make up about 4.6 million of the student population in schools but do not have the same access to STEM learning as others.
• How can schools create STEM curricula that take into account the needs of English learners?
• Read about how makerspaces are helpful for English learners to understand STEM.
According to a recent report by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, the population of English learners in schools has grown to about 4.6 million — or about 9.4% of the school age population — and these students need to have equal access to STEM learning opportunities to avoid underrepresentation in the workforce, EdSurge reports.
English learners often are interested in STEM and can comprehend the concepts, but their access to rigorous instruction is often limited by the assumption that they must achieve a certain proficiency in English before they can participate, even though hands-on learning opportunities often require fewer English skills and may even enhance English learning.
The report from the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine highlights that not all educational activities are language-dependent. Some forms of instruction — such as demonstration and experimentation — can encourage English learning in context and at least allow students to “gain a sense” of concepts even if they don’t understand all the details in the lesson. Those details may need to be supplemented through later instruction adapted to their learning needs.
The biggest obstacle, the committee noted, is often teachers’ lack of preparation in being able to provide the kinds of opportunities that make STEM learning more accessible to English learners. This need may be addressed through professional development on the topic.
Because STEM learning is core to many new technologies and jobs in the workplace, it is especially important that schools learn how to connect students with this material earlier, and in a more meaningful way. The inclusion of hands-on activities benefits all students, as does collaboration with local community partners who can help bring STEM learning to life.
Read the full article about barriers for english language learners in STEM by Amelia Harper at Education Dive
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