STEM-Based Teaching in Learning: History
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Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education promotes innovation and creativity and provides learners with the opportunity to develop critical thinking, problem solving, and analytical skills, which are all essential for sustainable development. When these skills are applied to real-world situations, they can help to address social, economic, and environmental challenges. STEM education can foster new solutions and technologies that contribute to sustainable development. 

  • sustainable development goals
  • STEM approach
  • the teaching

1. Introduction

Over the past decade, the STEM approach has gained increasing attention and popularity in numerous research domains and countries. Recently, the STEM approach to science, technology, engineering design, and mathematics has emerged as one of the foremost global trends and methodologies in developing educational resources and curricula for students in science [1][2].
In order to promote the economic wellbeing of the present and future, there is a significant demand for STEM professionals, as learners acquire the skills of critical and analytical thinking through STEM education, enabling them to become innovative and analytical thinkers and, ultimately, producers in their professional careers. To achieve this, it is essential for educators to undergo training in STEM-based teaching approaches [3].
According to Roberts, there are three primary drivers for the increased interest in STEM-based education. The first is educational, as it provides students with advanced opportunities to study STEM subjects, which can facilitate their entry into STEM-related professional fields. The second driver is economic, as STEM education can prepare knowledgeable leaders in these fields to promote economic development. Finally, the third driver is related to retention, as STEM education can help to retain talented individuals within the STEM fields and prevent them from being recruited by other industries [4].
The growing interest in STEM-based education has extended to the Arab region, with a particular focus on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This is evident in the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, which emphasizes the importance of investing in human capital by enhancing training and equipping citizens with the knowledge and skillsets necessary for future jobs. In support of this, research studies have demonstrated that over 80% of jobs worldwide are related to STEM disciplines [5][6][7].
In line with this growing interest, the Ministry of Education in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia established the National Center for the Development of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) in 2017. The center aims to launch its programs across three levels. The first level comprises scientific centers for STEM, which offer programs during evenings, weekends, and summer vacations. The second level consists of STEM school centers, of which 32 have been established through the training of a group of specialists. Finally, the third level involves STEM integration in classrooms, which the center hopes to achieve in the near future [8].
Conversely, there has been growing interest in sustainable development both globally and locally, with many aspects of daily life reflecting this trend. Recently, the United Nations launched seventeen sustainable development goals that aim to address societal challenges across various domains, including material, technical, industrial, and social dimensions. The UN has identified education as a key goal in achieving the remaining sixteen goals, with the first objective being to ensure quality, equitable, and inclusive education for all, while enhancing lifelong learning opportunities [9].
Sustainable development has become increasingly vital in education due to its potential to address societal challenges such as environmental degradation, social inequality, and economic instability. Education can play a critical role in promoting sustainable development by providing learners with the knowledge, skills, and values needed to address these challenges. Sustainable development education seeks to integrate sustainability principles into the curriculum and educational practices, ranging from early childhood education to higher education. By incorporating sustainability into education, learners can develop an understanding of the interconnectedness between social, economic, and environmental systems, and how they can contribute to sustainable development. Furthermore, sustainable development education can foster critical thinking, creativity, and problem-solving skills among learners. It provides them with opportunities to engage in real-world sustainability challenges and to think innovatively about solutions. By doing so, learners can develop the skills necessary to become responsible and active global citizens who can contribute to sustainable development. Overall, the importance of sustainable development in education lies in its potential to equip learners with the knowledge, skills, and values necessary to address the complex challenges facing our world today and to create a more sustainable future [10][11].

2. Sustainable Development Goals for Learning

Development is the means of upgrading society and moving it from the current situation to a higher and better one, and it is a continuous process concerned with forward development and continuous comprehensive or partial improvement. It is also a necessity for every human society to achieve people’s goals, the foremost of which is access to a standard of living or a better life. Development is a comprehensive process that is ramified in various aspects of life and moves society to new stages of progress, and it is an essential element for human and social stability [12].
On 25 September 2015, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) [13], as it identified 17 goals at the core of its plan, ensuring its achievement to bring about the required change, which is embodied in facing the challenges facing humanity in the field of development, to ensure for all residents, now and in the future, a sustainable life that enjoys peace, prosperity, and fairness. It also shows the environmental constraints for the use of natural resources and the maximum limits for that, and the goals address a range of social needs such as education, health, social protection, and job creation. At the same time, they are concerned with climate and environmental protection. They also address the main obstacles that may prevent the achievement of sustainable development such as inequality, patterns of unsustainable consumption, weak institutional capacity, and environmental degradation.
The United Nations General Assembly considers in its report that education can achieve the goals of sustainable development if it is able to take care of and develop specific capabilities needed by learners of all ages and in all parts of the world. The framework of the association identified the capabilities, which he defined as the competencies necessary to achieve sustainable development, as follows: systemic thinking, foresight, normative competence, strategic competence, collaborative competence, critical thinking, competent self-awareness, and integrated problem-solving competency [14][15].

3. Teaching according to the STEM Approach

The STEM approach is one of the modern teaching approaches in the world in general and the Arab world in particular, taking various directions, including our need for more STEM disciplines. In another case, this approach stuck to schools, becoming what is called STEM schools. STEM has moved towards a project-based curriculum. Accordingly, this diversity in the use of the term STEM led to the difficulty of defining a unified definition for it, and by examining these trends, it was good to define the concept behind the term through the context contained in it, and from those contexts referring to the disciplines that it refers to (science, technology, engineering design, and mathematics), and in another context refers to professions in the business and industrial sectors, among other contexts [16].
STEM is an interdisciplinary pedagogical approach that embraces a holistic and integrated learning experience for students by breaking down the conventional boundaries that separate the four disciplines of science, technology, engineering design, and mathematics. This approach integrates the four fields into a cohesive and challenging real-world learning experience that is intended to be both rigorous and interconnected. Science/sciences (S): are the branches of scientific knowledge (physical, biological, earth, and space sciences); mathematics (M): are the branches of mathematics and its applications (which is the language of science) [17]; technology (T): innovation and change in the natural environment or modifying it to meet human needs and requirements [18]; engineering (E): applying scientific knowledge to address a problem and designing a solution [19].
For STEM-based teaching to effectively achieve its expected goals and objectives, it is crucial to adhere to a set of principles and foundations. One such principle, as highlighted by Vazquez, Schneider, and Kummer [16], is the emphasis on integration between subjects, which forms the core principle of teaching according to the STEM approach. Bybee identified several models of STEM-based teaching. The first model focuses on a single discipline, either in science or mathematics. The second model combines science and mathematics majors, with engineering and technology taught separately. The third model employs technology, engineering, and mathematics in the teaching of science, whereas the fourth model teaches each of the four disciplines separately. In the fifth model, the connection between science and mathematics is established through the use of technology and engineering, while in the sixth model, communication takes place between the concepts of the four disciplines without merging them. The seventh model of STEM education combines two or three majors in one course, whereas the eighth model seeks to integrate these four majors. Finally, in the ninth model, all four majors are combined in a single course [2].
Several methods are utilized in STEM-based teaching to facilitate different styles of integration between academic subjects, including coordinated, complementary, connective, communicative, and blended. Coordination involves presenting the content of one subject simultaneously with another subject if the need arises. Complementary integration involves presenting the content of a subject to supplement basic content in another subject. Connection integration presents a central topic, content, or similar processes between two academic subjects, enabling students to understand the similarities and differences between them. Communication integration uses one discipline to link other disciplines with it. Blending integration involves implementing projects, pivotal topics, or procedures that require the merging of two or more disciplines. This integration occurs at three levels. At the interdisciplinary level, concepts and skills are separate in each discipline, but within a common central theme between the disciplines. At the interdisciplinary level, concepts and skills from two or more disciplines are linked to form key concepts and skills between disciplines. At the cross-disciplinary level, concepts and skills learned from two or more disciplines are applied to real-world projects and problems, forming the learning experience [16][20].
The second principle in STEM teaching follows the fundamental principle of integration between the four disciplines, which is to establish a connection between the subject matter and the student’s life. This principle seeks to promote the application of newly acquired knowledge and skills in the student’s daily life. The third guiding principle emphasizes the development of 21st century skills, including problem solving, creativity, effective communication, and collaborative learning. The fourth principle requires the activation of students’ abilities and motivation towards work, achievement, and the practical application of knowledge in life. To meet the diversity of students in terms of learning styles, tendencies, and attitudes, the fifth principle emphasizes the importance of considering the diversity of the educational context [16][21].
To effectively implement teaching based on the STEM approach and adhere to the fundamental principles, a set of applied foundations must be in place during teaching. These foundations include the following: Firstly, the context of motivation and participation, as students require learning contexts with personal meaning that provide them with an entrance to activity. Secondly, engineering design challenges, which allow students to develop and explore relevant technologies for a convincing purpose, aiming to develop their creative skills, problem-solving skills, and higher-order thinking skills. Thirdly, the activity should allow students to learn from their failures and then have the opportunity to redesign. Fourthly, the content of science and/or mathematics should be integrated into the activity, promoting learning objectives related to the content of science and mathematics or one of them. Fifthly, student-centered teaching methods, such as project-based and problem-based learning, should be employed to help students develop their knowledge in science and mathematics and deepen their conceptual understanding. Lastly, good engineering design aims to develop teamwork and communication skills among students [22].
Teaching based on the STEM approach requires careful consideration of educational teaching practices for each of the four subjects. In science and engineering, teaching practices include asking questions, identifying problems, developing and using models, planning and implementing research, analyzing and interpreting data, using mathematics, positive thinking, constructing explanations and designing solutions, engaging in arguments from evidence, and obtaining and evaluating information. In technology, teaching practices involve raising awareness of the technology systems of the Internet upon which society depends, learning how to use new technologies when they become available, discovering the role that technology plays in the advancement of science and engineering, and making informed decisions regarding technology due to its relationship to society and the environment. Teaching practices for mathematics include finding the logic of the problem and finding its solution, applying mathematics in daily life, using technically appropriate means to deepen understanding, abstract and quantitative logic, building proofs, criticizing the logic of others, taking care of accuracy, searching for and benefiting from the structure, and searching and expressing regularity in recursive logic [16][23].
STEM teaching has been the focus of numerous studies due to its significance and novelty in the educational field. Khaja’s study is one such example, which examined the impact of the school environment on the implementation of the STEM approach. The study revealed that schools with a higher level of readiness and environmental, physical, and social integration are more likely to achieve successful integration between science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The study also recommended the development of a plan for male and female teachers based on teaching using the STEM approach [24].
Studies have investigated the impact of the STEM approach on teacher development. Jabr and Al-Zoubi’s study found that training activities based on the STEM approach and metacognitive thinking can develop pedagogical knowledge, necessary technology to teach mathematical knowledge, and self-development among mathematics teachers [25]. Similarly, Aldahmash, Alamri, and Aljallal’s study indicated that training programs based on the STEM approach can overcome difficulties that teachers encounter in teaching this approach, forming positive attitudes towards it and improving their self-efficacy towards teaching based on this approach [3]. However, Pollard, Wessonb, and Younga’s study indicates the difficulty of creative teaching in general, and according to the STEM approach in particular [26]. DeJarnette’s study suggests that training on the STEAM approach is less effective for preprimary teachers compared to middle and high school teachers [27].
Research has explored the impact of teaching based on the STEM approach on the various aspects of students. Ghanem’s study found that a proposed approach based on the STEM approach has a positive impact on developing systems thinking skills among students. This ability enables students to view the world and its processes in a holistic, inter-relational way and understand how various system processes interact with each other [28]. Additionally, STEM-based teaching has a positive impact on the development of conceptual comprehension and creative thinking among students, as indicated by Kaware’s study [29].

This entry is adapted from the peer-reviewed paper 10.3390/su151612542


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