Free Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Education books

The National Academies (of science, engineering…) have produced a number of educational books over the past decades, and it has been harder to keep track of them all, so I’m copying descriptions of some recent ones below. The nice thing is that you can read the full text of any of these books online for free. These are very useful for better understanding the problems of STEM education, especially when preparing grant proposals.


How People Learn (1999) examines these findings and their implications for what we teach, how we teach it, and how we assess what our children learn. The book uses exemplary teaching to illustrate how approaches based on what we now know result in in-depth learning. This new knowledge calls into question concepts and practices firmly entrenched in our current education system. How Students Learn: History, Mathematics, and Science in the Classroom (2005) builds on the discoveries detailed in the bestselling How People Learn.

Engineering in K-12 Education (2009) reviews the scope and impact of engineering education today and makes several recommendations to address curriculum, policy, and funding issues. The book also analyzes a number of K-12 engineering curricula in depth and discusses what is known from the cognitive sciences about how children learn engineering-related concepts and skills.

Tech Tally: Approaches to Assessing Technological Literacy (2006) determines the most viable approaches to assessing technological literacy for students, teachers, and out-of-school adults. The book examines opportunities and obstacles to developing scientifically valid and broadly applicable assessment instruments for technological literacy in the three target populations. The book offers findings and 12 related recommendations that address five critical areas: instrument development; research on learning; computer-based assessment methods, framework development, and public perceptions of technology.

Educating the Engineer of 2020 (2005) is grounded by the observations, questions, and conclusions presented in the best-selling book The Engineer of 2020: Visions of Engineering in the New Century. This new book offers recommendations on how to enrich and broaden engineering education so graduates are better prepared to work in a constantly changing global economy. It notes the importance of improving recruitment and retention of students and making the learning experience more meaningful to them. It also discusses the value of considering changes in engineering education in the broader context of enhancing the status of the engineering profession and improving the public understanding of engineering. Although certain basics of engineering will not change in the future, the explosion of knowledge, the global economy, and the way engineers work will reflect an ongoing evolution. If the United States is to maintain its economic leadership and be able to sustain its share of high-technology jobs, it must prepare for this wave of change.

What is science for a child? How do children learn about science and how to do science? Drawing on a vast array of work from neuroscience to classroom observation, Taking Science to School (2007) provides a comprehensive picture of what we know about teaching and learning science from kindergarten through eighth grade. By looking at a broad range of questions, this book provides a basic foundation for guiding science teaching and supporting students in their learning.

Learning Science in Informal Environments (2009) draws together disparate literatures, synthesizes the state of knowledge, and articulates a common framework for the next generation of research on learning science in informal environments across a life span. Contributors include recognized experts in a range of disciplines–research and evaluation, exhibit designers, program developers, and educators. They also have experience in a range of settings–museums, after-school programs, science and technology centers, media enterprises, aquariums, zoos, state parks, and botanical gardens.

Learning to Think Spatially: GIS as a Support System in the K-12 Curriculum (2006). Spatial thinking is a cognitive skill that can be used in everyday life, the workplace, and science to structure problems, find answers, and express solutions using the properties of space. It can be learned and taught formally to students using appropriately designed tools, technologies, and curricula. This report explains the nature and functions of spatial thinking and shows how spatial thinking can be supported across the K-12 curriculum through the development of appropriate support systems.

Knowing What Students Know (2001) essentially explains how expanding knowledge in the scientific fields of human learning and educational measurement can form the foundations of an improved approach to assessment. These advances suggest ways that the targets of assessment-what students know and how well they know it-as well as the methods used to make inferences about student learning can be made more valid and instructionally useful. Principles for designing and using these new kinds of assessments are presented, and examples are used to illustrate the principles. Implications for policy, practice, and research are also explored.

Technically Speaking (2002) provides a blueprint for bringing us all up to speed on the role of technology in our society, including understanding such distinctions as technology versus science and technological literacy versus technical competence. It clearly and decisively explains what it means to be a technologically-literate citizen. The book goes on to explore the context of technological literacy the social, historical, political, and educational environments.

Relying on a comprehensive review of the research, Mathematics Learning in Early Childhood (2009) lays out the critical areas that should be the focus of young children’s early mathematics education, explores the extent to which they are currently being incorporated in early childhood settings, and identifies the changes needed to improve the quality of mathematics experiences for young children. This book serves as a call to action to improve the state of early childhood mathematics. It will be especially useful for policy makers and practitioners-those who work directly with children and their families in shaping the policies that affect the education of young children.

America’s Lab Report: Investigations in High School Science (2005). Laboratory experiences as a part of most U.S. high science curricula have been taken for granted for decades, but they have rarely been carefully examined. What do they contribute to science learning? What can they contribute to science learning? What is the current status of labs in our nation s high schools as a context for learning science? This book looks at a range of questions about how laboratory experiences fit into U.S. high schools.

They also published the national science education standards in 1996 and a 2003 follow-up report on their influence.

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