As children progress through their early childhood education, they begin to engage with STEM learning. Science, technology, maths and engineering is increasingly taught between ages 3-5 to prepare children for scientific learning that takes place during primary and secondary school. STEM learning is incredibly important to children’s development: for example, early maths skills are the strongest predictor of later school achievement. Overall, STEM learning helps children analyse information and solve problems.
Despite increases in broadcast information regarding the importance of STEM learning in early childhood education, less than 5% of early childhood classroom time involves teaching science, technology, engineering and maths skills. This is contrary to popular learning methodology which requires full immersion in a subject for a prolonged period for learning to be effective. One method which has been the subject of recent research is making STEM learning social. The goal of social STEM learning is to help increase children’s motivation for STEM tasks.
Research Into STEM Learning
In recent research, four-year-olds were set to work on two STEM tasks: a maths task and a puzzle. The children participating in the study completed both exercises by themselves. However, during one of the activities, the children were told that were working as part of a group. They were told, “You are in the green group and the green group plays maths games.” Children undertaking this first exercise work green T-shirts and were seated at a green table. During the other task, children were told they were working alone.
The results of the study demonstrated that when the STEM task incorporated a social element, children were more motivated to complete the task. Children in the ‘social’ focus group were more resilient as they completed the task and invested more time in completing the challenge. They also reported that they felt more confident finishing the task and found more enjoyment in their work. Despite the fact that the ‘social’ element wasn’t real, children felt more connected to their peers and were more motivated during the focus exercise.
How To Teach STEM Subjects Effectively
Essentially, helping children feel like part of a team is key to helping them work effectively as they learn about complex topics included in the STEM curriculum. Asking children to form teams and work collaboratively on science, technology, engineering and maths subjects can help them gain the confidence and enjoyment they need to learn these subjects effectively. Prejudiced stereotypes such as gender roles within STEM learning and the difficulty of STEM subjects can be adjusted by using social elements within teaching methods to help children learn properly.
At Robyn Taylor Early Childhood Centre, we encourage our students to socialise and understand each other during their STEM learning sessions. We offer a social teaching method as part of the Robyn Taylor early learning method. If you would like to learn more about STEM learning in early childhood education, book a tour of our education centre or enrol your child, please use our contact page to reach out to us or call on 02 9705 8309.