The STEM Process: Teaching Students to Overcome Obstacles

Not to toot my own horn, but it does feel good when things go as planned and I am right.  Now, bare in mind that things rarely happen the way I forsee them.  And so, when the execution matches the plan, I do get quite giddy.

In yesterday’s blog post I talked about the idea of perseverance and how to effectively teach it.  I hypothesized that it needs to be taught and assessed for our students to grow and develop as global citizens.  While I’d like to say that I proved this theory correct, I haven’t, yet.  Sure, I have data that supports it, but that’s not why I’m so happy today.

I’m happy because I suggested that while my students struggled during yesterday’s STEM class because they faced failure and challenges, it is all part of the process of perseverance.  Students need to fail, fix their mistakes, process the issue, and retry.  They failed and ran out of time to complete the other steps in the process.  I said, That’s all part of the process.  Grit happens in a meticulous manner.  Learning happens through mistakes and failure.  So, while I was a bit frustrated following yesterday’s STEM class, I also realized that my students needed to be frustrated to bring about the awesomeness that happened in class today.

After prefacing the class with a synopsis of yesterday’s blog entry and how failure is part of the process of perseverance, the students got right to work.  The group that couldn’t get a generator working yesterday because they had cut all of their wires, had a working turbine by the end of class today.  The group that was trying different turbine designs, tested both today.  Another group that couldn’t quite figure out how to measure the efficiency of their wind turbine yesterday, used the energy sensor and variable load tools to figure out how efficient their design truly is.  The groups approached today with different perspectives and a renewed sense of vigor.  They wanted to persevere and solve their problems.  The positive energy floating about the classroom today was contagious.  Every group managed to solve at least one of the problems they faced yesterday.  They overcame obstacles with zeal and delight.  They took risks and found success.  Today was an awesome day in STEM class because the students persevered and solved problems after yesterday’s class that was plagued with struggle and apathy.

So, I was right.  My students needed a difficult day in order to bring about what we saw happen today.  Failure breeds success.  The students saw and felt that today.  Debriefing today’s class prior to lunch was fruitful.  The students felt proud and a sense of true accomplishment when the literal and figurative light bulbs went on.  The STEM process of perseverance was alive and well as our students continued solving problems, erecting efficient wind turbines.


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