STEM Mindedness: Continuous Learning
Continuous learning is an active and ongoing process in which self-directed learners at all levels of the school pursue goals they identify through a reflective learning cycle.
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Active and Ongoing
"Continuous learning is an ongoing, unbroken flow of learning that is carried out by the individual, every day, indefinitely," says Robert Talbert, mathematics professor at Grand Valley State University. As an example, he cites the work of engineers, increasing in complexity at an exponential pace. Talbert stresses that to keep pace with change, individuals must add continuously to their own skill sets.
In a STEM community, all stakeholders take responsibility for continuous learning relevant to improving student readiness for college, career and citizenship. Administrators and teachers stay abreast of research, best-practices and technological tools. Students set, monitor and implement learning goals with support from the school, parents and strategic alliances. These partners engage in ongoing opportunities to increase their understanding of student learning needs and the relationship between education and a safe and economically viable community.
As self-directedness is an attribute of continuous learners, it also is part of the STEM culture. In Cognitive Coaching, A Foundation for Renaissance Schools, Art Costa and Bob Garmston posit that self-directed people know what they know, as well as what they don't know, and use this understanding to set challenging goals. They are able to accurately assess their progress towards meeting those goals and persevere in the face of barriers. STEM schools bear out this position. Individually and collectively, STEM communities are motivated to seek constant improvement with purpose and self-awareness.
Reflective Learning Cycle
In STEM schools, self-directed learners make meaning of experiences and use a reflective, cyclical process to determine next steps. The essential elements of a reflective cycle include:
For maximum impact, STEM schools apply the principle of continuous learning community wide. Through this process, school practices are refined, knowledge is deepened and skills are sharpened as educators continuously adapt their practices to meet the needs of the 21st century learner. Further, continuous learning becomes the norm for students as they embark upon college and careers and lead their lives as productive citizens. The ultimate benefit is reaped by the community at large having a better trained, more thoughtful workforce and citizenry.
S²TEM Centers SC is an innovation partnership managed by South Carolina’s Coalition for Mathematics & Science. Its purpose is to serve South Carolina by growing the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) possibilities and capabilities of learners and leaders.
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