With the growing shortage of STEM professionals, STEM learning has never been so important. Designing successful learning spaces for STEM can help provide a strong foundation to inspire the future generations of STEM professionals.
What is STEM?
STEM is an acronym that incorporates a range of subjects, including science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. While these subjects are in no way new, the importance of these subjects has seen a rapid growth over the years.
Traditional learning spaces, with individual desks facing the front, are not effective for STEM subjects. These practical and hands-on subjects require a much more modern and collaborative learning space.
A collaborative learning space is especially important for these subjects where the majority of class time involves active participation and practical activities. These subjects are perfect examples of ‘learning by doing’.
Over time, the STEM industry has experienced a shortage of professionals. This skill shortage is costing the UK economy around £63 billion each year. In the United States it is estimated that 3.5 million STEM jobs will need to be filled by 2025.
To solve the problem, students need to be exposed to STEM subjects as early as possible. Also, STEM learning spaces need to be designed in a way that will sustain a connection and engagement throughout student’s education.
Designing successful STEM learning spaces
STEM subjects are technologically driven, which makes it impossible to design successful STEM learning spaces without incorporating technology. Whether its laptops, tablets, or interactive whiteboards, integrating technology into STEM spaces contributes towards creating a collaborative environment. Technology also encourages teamwork and provides opportunities for students to research ideas and find solutions to problems.
Designing successful STEM learning spaces will use technology as a central component of the workspace. A successful STEM learning space design will also require constant Internet connection and sufficient electrical outlets to power such technology.
Encourage teamwork and collaboration
STEM classrooms should have a primary focus of on encouraging teamwork and developing collaboration between students and the teacher. A free-flowing design layout will help with this and is ideally suited for project-based and active learning subjects, allowing students to work both individually and together in teams.
Working together in a team is considered one of the best ways to learn, allowing students to learn from one another and combine their understanding and skills. A collaborative space should encourage and support ideas and experimentation to help students work together in finding solutions.
We’ve already covered the importance of technology in designing successful STEM learning spaces. Following on, a successful learning space for STEM should also be well equipped. After all, how can students learn without the necessary equipment?
A well-equipped STEM learning space will include the necessary technology, utilities, and amenities to fulfil learning plans. A successful STEM learning space will include all the necessary equipment expected of such spaces.
Whether this be science lab facilities or machinery in technology workshops, having the correct equipment is essential to optimise student learning.
Another important factor in designing a successful learning space for STEM is flexibility. Flexibility will allow both students and teachers to move furniture and equipment according to their needs. It also entails removing any barriers to student learning and encouraging experimental learning.
A major component of flexibility will allow for the easy movement of furniture according to the needs of a particular lesson. Demonstrations and team projects may require furniture to be rearranged, highlighting the importance of flexibility.
An effective and successful STEM learning space will allow students to switch from learning theory to practical exercises instantly. A successful STEM learning space will also provide easy movement around the room for both students and the teacher.
Organisation is vital for a successful learning space, especially when used by multiple classes on a daily basis. An organisational system that allows students and teachers to quickly find and store items will help benefit learning.
Untidy learning spaces and work areas that arise from multiple group projects or individual exploration will lead to a clutter that hinders learning rather than supports it. Implementing organisation and storage facilities will benefit teachers and students alike and will help create a successful STEM learning space.
STEM subjects are active learning subjects and should be taught as such. Active learning allows students to use methods of learning suited to them and encourages them to take ownership of their learning.
It’s proven that one of the best ways students can learn is by teaching others. Active learning helps encourage this by empowering students and embracing new pedagogies. In many cases, students want to actively engage and to add input into a subject area. Not only should lessons be designed to incorporate student input, but learning spaces should be designed to encourage active participation.
Designing successful STEM learning spaces provides a strong foundation to help engage and enrich students’ knowledge and skills. Through designing successful STEM learning spaces, students will not only be provided with the opportunity to study STEM from an early stage, but also feel connected and engaged.