In the Loop: Inspiring Rigorous STEM Teaching Across the Globe

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Across the globe, there is a clear agreement on the importance of rigorous teaching of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Students with strong STEM skills are not only better prepared for employment and work in our rapidly changing world, they are also better prepared to tackle the enormous and complex challenges we face as a global community. From health, to climate change, to clean water and sanitation, to sustainable cities – many of the world’s most pressing challenges will require STEM expertise at the heart of the solution.

With this in mind, in May, Teach For All's Global Learning Lab hosted a  classroom learning loop, a learning process to study classrooms in different cultures and contexts and draw lessons that can be applied locally, that focused on rigorous STEM teaching. Educators from 20 countries came together to explore what rigorous STEM classrooms look, sound, and feel like through the learning loop process which lets participants study classrooms in different cultures and contexts and draw lessons that can be applied locally.

Throughout the learning loop, participants identified the patterns they saw represented in the most inspiring classrooms. One of these patterns was a shift from a knowledge-based approach, in which students were asked to memorize abstract concepts, to a practice-based approach where students solved real-world problems. In one classroom students were genetically testing fish to see if restaurants were actually selling the fish they claimed (spoiler alert: in nearly half the cases, they weren’t). Reflecting on this class, one participant said, “In order for students to awaken their curiosity in the topics we are studying the problems must be real, relatable, and doable.”

As a network spanning 50 countries across the world, Teach For All is uniquely placed to harness and spread insights on what really makes a difference in classrooms serving the most marginalized students. Currently, over one third of the 13,000 participants of Teach For All network partners around the world teach STEM subjects. Together, these teachers impact more than 350,000 students. In 11 countries we see Teach For All network alumni entrepreneurs actively working to provide quality STEM education and opportunities. For example, in Nepal several Teach For Nepal alumni came together to design and facilitate an intensive two day STEM boot camp for female students. They designed the program to provide girls with powerful experiences that  got them excited about STEM, raised their awareness around gender stereotyping in the field, and built their basic technology skills. They have since secured sponsorship from UNESCO and partnered with several local organizations to run a longer second boot camp.

Teach For All’s Global STEM Initiative, launched thanks to the generous support of the Arconic Foundation, the Amgen Foundation, and ExxonMobil, aims to unlock the full potential of this network of educators. The rigor in STEM education learning loop is a part of this initiative which  is designed to build a STEM community that connects STEM leaders and practitioners across the global network, enabling them to share insights and innovations, best practices, and sustainable solutions.