Experts agree: STEM education must teach about impact.

May 30, 2018 Randy Frank

scientist working with students

Advanced technology is changing the way we go to market.

In manufacturing, automation is helping us fabricate, assemble, and process products at greater speed, consistency, and scale. In health care, connectivity is equipping care providers with more – and faster – intel on their patients to help deliver better outcomes. The digital landscape is allowing consumers to self-serve and come to the table more knowledgeable than ever.

As industries change, so must the talent driving them. Securing the future of economic prosperity in Canada will demand that we change our approach to developing talent.

At the Canada 2067 National Leadership Conference, over 300 of Canada’s leaders from industry, government, education, and the non-profit sector gathered to discuss action plans for the future. The priority was to understand the greatest barriers to securing our future position in the global market, and how to overcome them.

The resounding opinion: we must change our approaches to teaching science and technology.

Watch: Canadian leaders weigh in on approaches to teaching science and technology. 

Canadians support STEM education, but need to better understand its impact.

Canadians believe in science, technology, engineering, and math – or STEM. In our State of Science Index study, the majority of Canadians reported they believe science can solve sustainability challenges, like energy supply, clean water supply, and sanitation. 43% even believe these disciplines will deliver flying cars in our lifetime.

They also support today’s youth pursuing careers in these fields. In the same study, 86% of Canadians report they would encourage kids to pursue a science career. Nearly 40% of them even regret not choosing a STEM-based career themselves.

If this is the case, where is the gap? Research and industry leaders alike are pointing to the same problem: we can’t connect theory with practice.

Mojdeh Poul speaking

Mojdeh Poul, 3M Canada President, shares the power of applying science to life at the Canada 2067 National Leadership Conference (December 2017).

Approaches to teaching science and technology must demonstrate the impact of science on our daily lives.

Research is uncovering a disconnect between the impact of science on our day-to-day activities.

A whopping 72% of Canadians are largely unconscious of science and its impact on their lives, thinking about it only “a little to never”.1 Among youth specifically, 2/5 students don’t see how science will have relevance in their work and say studying science won’t be important at all to their future careers.2

scientist doing demonstration

 “I'm really convinced that if we were to have a more authentic, actual practice of science in classrooms, more students would choose science-related careers. Instead, we just ram a whole bunch of information at students to the point where they just hate it. It's just not the way to go.” – Dr. David Blades, Professor, Science Education & Curriculum Studies University of Victoria

At 3M, we’re no strangers to the gap between theory and practice. We are renowned for the strength of our technologies, like our adhesives, abrasives, and nanotechnology. But what is little understood is how these technologies are leveraged for gentler healing, stronger structures, or brighter smiles.

The core of our brand is based on demonstrating how we apply science to life. And there are few things more powerful than when you see someone make the connection. They start to understand how the foundational elements lead to safer roads, healthier patients, and more sustainable business practices.

If we can find a way to build these same ah-ha moments into our approaches to teaching science and technology in the classroom, our future will look considerably brighter.

Learn how we’re helping to drive economic prosperity in Canada.

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References

  1. State of Science Index report
  2. The Canadian Youth Science Monitor

About the Author

Randy Frank

[enBio=As a scientist by trade, Randy is a born problem-solver. Each day he inspires his team of 150 innovators to leverage science, technology, and R and D to help improve Canadian business. Randy has dedicated his life to science, with more than 17 years at 3M and countless leadership positions in the community.],[enJob=Executive Director Research and Development, Quality and Regulatory Affairs, 3M Canada],[frBio=Scientifique de formation, Randy est un solutionneur de problèmes inné. Chaque jour, il inspire son équipe de 150 novateurs à tirer profit de la science, de la technologie et de la R-D pour améliorer le milieu canadien des affaires. Ayant consacré sa vie à la science et fort de plus de 17 années au sein de 3M, Randy a également occupé d’innombrables positions de direction au sein de la communauté.],[frJob=Directeur exécutif, Recherche et développement, Qualité et Affaires réglementaires, Compagnie 3M Canada]

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