The STEAM-Active (Project Number: 2021-1-ES01-KA220-HED-000032107) project is funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Education and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA). Neither the European Union nor EACEA can be held responsible for them.

Exploring the Values Undergraduate Students Attribute to Cross-disciplinary Skills Needed for the Workplace: an Analysis of Five STEM Disciplines

Partners' Institution
DHBW – Baden-Wuerttemberg Cooperative State University
Year of publication
2019
Educational stage
Secondary Level
Journal name
JOURNAL OF SCIENCE EDUCATION AND TECHNOLOGY
Thematic Area
STEAM intervention (teaching strategies, evaluation...)
Summary
Employers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields report that recent graduates are deficient in important skills such as collaboration and professional writing. Those skills are vital in order to communicate findings clearly to other scientists and the public, both orally and in writing.

This study examined the disciplinary cultures in which STEM faculty teach and STEM students learn. It was conducted at a research-intensive, public university in the United States. A conceptual framework developed with the study predicts that faculty values are embodied in their teaching practices, and student values are shaped by their classroom experiences, leading to transmission of disciplinary values from faculty to students.

Group activities are one of the most widely studied learner-centered teaching approaches and one of the most beneficial for promoting student achievement, persistence, and positive attitudes towards science.

Heat maps in the article indicate that the faculty members rate the importance of working in groups rather low as the students do. For the faculty members this may result from student resistance to group activities which discouraged faculty members them from using this teaching strategy in their courses. Note from reviewer: Thus the rather low rating from teachers may indicate disillusionment of the teachers rather than really attaching little value to working in groups. Similarly in inteviews students mention negative experiences with group projects in their courses. This highlights the need for faculty to pay careful attention to the design of group activities to ensure that the workload is distributed equitably and grades accurately reflect student contributions to the group effort.

Relevance for Complex Systems Knowledge
One motivation for the study was the fact, that it is unknown whether the values of STEM students and faculty members are in similar alignment. Alignment of values and educational goals among higher education stakeholders is a critical first step in the development of curricula that allow students to develop the knowledge and skills that are necessary for career advancement.

2000 students have been surveyed majoring in biological sciences, chemistry, physics, mathematics, and computer science.

The major part of the article does not indicate significant gender-related differences. Two findings relate to gender:

(1) The article mentions that female students showed greater willingness to engage in collaboration than male students. The widest discrepancy between student and employer values, which seemed to cut across all disciplines, related to the importance of working in groups (see notes on group work in the summary above).

(2) Across disciplines, female students valued applying science to everyday life more highly than male students.
Point of Strength
The article may help understanding areas of resistance and disillusionment of the teachers which shoud be overcome using appropriate methods. Mostly this is not gender related except the willingness to work in groups.
DOI
10.1007/s10956-019-09778-8
Keywords
Undergraduate education, Cross-disciplinary skills, Classroom experiences, Students’ values