Every college STEM student should be learning science hands-on

Every college STEM student should be learning science hands-on

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Jason Williams started this petition to Education policy makers and

Hands-on, early-on

Common sense says we learn best from experience. Colleges teach sports by playing on the field and STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) subjects are no different. STEM student success depends on hands-on learning. But undergraduate STEM in the US hasn't delivered this for everyone. Many STEM undergraduates don’t get to learn while doing until late, if at all. Many leave STEM before they get a chance. 


This is unacceptable. The next generation of scientists and engineers need the best training to solve our greatest energy, health, and environmental challenges.  We’ve known the best approach for years. In 2012, the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology published a blueprint for a million additional STEM graduates calling for “Classroom approaches that engage students in ‘active learning. [to] improve retention of information and critical thinking skills ... [leading to] increased persistence of students in STEM majors” (see PCAST Report ). Doesn’t this recommendation still make sense?


We have the "CURE"

Since the 2012 report, even more research has demonstrated that when we give freshman and sophomore students hands-on research experiences as part of their STEM curriculum we improve persistence in STEM and graduation rates (see  Rodenbusch et.al. 2017). Often called CUREs (Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences; see CUREnet ), research shows that providing this experience early helps level the playing field for students from diverse backgrounds, including students historically excluded from STEM (e.g. Black, Hispanic, low-income, female). 


Implementation: a national challenge 

Despite knowing CUREs are highly effective, there’s NO national strategy to provide them for every STEM student. This is a recipe for perpetuating inequality. Students at well-off institutions spend their freshman STEM classes learning hands-on while students at institutions with fewer resources struggle and often leave STEM when they could have been flourishing. The petition authors have summarized how for their own field (life sciences) CUREs could benefit all students and be delivered at scale (see Building Back More Equitable STEM Education: Teach Science by Engaging Students in Doing Science ). Implementing this scale of change is not easy, particularly at schools with a high teaching load and low research infrastructure. But a national strategy for nation-wide CURE partnerships, faculty training, and institutional support could put us on the road to making it happen. 


Do you CARE? Sign the petition 

For National STEM Day (November 8, 2021) we want to demonstrate that STEM students care about their education. The voice that has been heard the least in the decade-long policy debate is that of undergraduate STEM students. Raising awareness among STEM students about how their own education could be improved gives them the power to demand the best for themselves. We call upon all undergraduate STEM students and the faculty who teach them to sign and share this petition. Bringing together all stakeholders could be a meaningful step in developing a national plan.

5 have signed. Let’s get to 10!
At 10 signatures, this petition is more likely to be featured in recommendations!