By: Dr. Emily Agard
Director of SciXchange at Ryerson University, making science accessible, engaging & inclusive
“How can we change the narrative of science in this country?” That was the question the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, posed to us at the opening of the Canada 2067 National Leadership Conference held on December 5 & 6, 2017. Diverse stakeholders, including youth, educators, industry leaders, community partners, and policy makers, came from across Canada and gathered at the Design Exchange in Toronto to discuss the challenges and opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education in a rapidly changing world.
“The evidence is in that young people are still disengaging too early from STEM disciplines and too many are closing doors to the future. The time is right to do something bold as a nation and support our kids’ learning.” — Dr. Bonnie Schmidt, President and Founder of Let’s Talk Science speaking at Canada 2067 National Leadership Conference
Canada 2067 is a bold national initiative using a collaborative, inclusive approach to organize conversations about the future of STEM education in Canada. Over the past 2 years, the Canada 2067 team has conducted extensive research, including the review of over 30 international and Canadian reports on STEM education, and consulted with experts to identify areas of consensus and actions in STEM education around the world.
A key component of Canada 2067 is consultation with Canadians. Through online tools and social media strategies to ask Canadians about important issues, Canada 2067 has received over 170,000 inputs about STEM learning in Canada. The team developed conversation guides for high school students, and held youth summits and Global Shapers millennial roundtables to obtain direct, in-depth input from youth.
The Canada 2067 vision is for students to graduate with opportunities for diverse careers, and a wide range of skills to navigate the world around them. What has emerged from this initiative so far is a STEM Learning Frameworkconsisting of 6 student-centred pillars: how we teach, how we learn, what we learn, who’s involved, where education leads, and cross cutting issues. At the Canada 2067 National Leadership Conference, we engaged in panels to discuss the first 4 pillars in the context of where education leads and the cross cutting issues.
How can teachers enhance STEM education to make it more relevant and engaging for youth? The future of STEM education depends on a strong teaching workforce supported by professional development opportunities and resources. Strategies must factor inclusivity, diversity and accessibility in education, and focus on interdisciplinary thinking and effective use of technology.
How can we support inquiry-based learning and provide experiential and transformative STEM education? Creativity, partnerships, social empathy, curiosity and critical thinking were key elements identified as necessary for purposeful learning environments. Panel member Spencer Turbitt, CEO and cofounder of iApoetheca Healthcare Inc. is a recent university graduate. He stressed the importance of self-awareness and advised that students need to be empowered to figure out how they learn best, thus shifting some of the onus from teacher to learner.
How can we promote digital literacy, enable cross-cutting competencies and assess the development of these competencies? Students need to develop skills to thrive in a future of rapid change and disruptive technologies. Competencies for success must be defined and demonstrated. Strategies should take an interdisciplinary approach and allow students to learn how to interact with people from diverse backgrounds.
How can we establish and maintain strong partnerships that allow the community and local business to be effectively engaged in education and allow learners to be more engaged in changing the education system? Trust and mutual respect are important for making partnerships work. Each partner must benefit from interactions. Equity, diversity and inclusivity must be central in all strategies. Social responsibility must be an integral component in STEM education.
The STEM Learning Framework is not a blueprint or set of solutions, but rather a catalyst for discussion. The Canada 2067 team has conducted robust research and listened to thousands of voices, but the conversation needs to continue. Many challenges lie ahead, but with them are many opportunities. I invite you to join the STEM conversation and provide your input to help shape the future of STEM education in Canada.