Reverse Engineering for STEM Education

*Note:  My thoughts today… May change tomorrow… Let me know what you think…

I’m inspired by the notion of reverse engineering… 

If we imagine a future that engages all students in STEM learning which ultimately results in students making informed decisions about their own future… I imagine a STEM workforce that is diverse!

If this is true, then what are the critical road blocks in our current system?

STEM postsecondary programs have specific secondary school course requirements for admission to the programs.  If we consider Engineering programs as the postsecondary pathway, the requirements are typically:

College programs in Engineering Technology:  Grade 12 College or University English and Grade 12 College or University Mathematics with Physics recommended.

University programs in Engineering:  Grade 12 University credits in Advanced Functions, Calculus and Vectors, Physics, Chemistry, and English.

Admission to some of these programs are highly competitive which require high student achievements in these academic courses.  Though some of the programs do require personal statements in the application process, most programs accept their applicants according to grade averages based on 6 Grade 12 courses including the required courses.

If the goal is to have students consider pursuing professions such as engineering, then we must ensure that students who show interest in these areas have the robust program they need to equip them with the knowledge and skills needed to be successful.  How then, do we design elementary and secondary programs to prepare our students for these outcomes?

Mathematics and Science Education play a critical role in STEM pathways.  If STEM education does not focus on providing concrete learning outcomes for the subject areas that are required for entry into postsecondary programs, then STEM programs will not result in the diversity of outcomes we hope to achieve in STEM industries.  To interest students in professions such as engineering is important but at the same time, we must ensure that our students are also achieving success in mathematics and science to equip them with the skills and knowledge necessary to get access to these postsecondary programs.

The Ontario Science & Technology and Mathematics curriculum have a wealth of opportunity to develop the knowledge and skills needed to pursue STEM professions.  Opportunities to learn skills are outlined clearly in the policy.  However, we are still challenged today to capture the interest of diverse populations to pursue courses such as physics in secondary programs to provide access to postsecondary programs in STEM.  I challenge us to think about how we might ensure that subjects such as physics and calculus become relevant for diverse populations of students.  In a recent position paper, a group of STEM organizations describes the call to action for secondary physics programs – The Role of High School Physics.  Engineers Canada also has a great deal of information about the current status of Diversity in Engineering – Engineers Canada – Diversity in Engineering.

I believe there is a great need to get students, parents and communities engaged in STEM learning through exciting initiatives and programs.  However, excitement alone will not create the change we are seeking.  We must also consider the work we must do with our educators in order to provide the robust learning environments we need to ensure that ALL our students – across all social identities – are provided with opportunity for deep learning that will EXCITE AND PREPARE them with the knowledge, skills and curiosity to become future STEM innovators, critical thinkers and creative problem solvers!

How might we tackle this challenge together?



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