A Common Thread

Over the years, our work here at Sun Associates has crossed many curricular and subject domains.  Our traditional work in instructional/educational technology has become increasingly focused on STEM learning while our broader program evaluation work has often connected to civics, social studies, public history, and the development of historical thinking skills.  Recently my associates and I have been thinking about how these various domains weave together, and the growing realization is that critical thinking is the common thread for so much of the work that we do.

In the coming weeks, I’ll devote space here on the blog to exploring how critical thinking – and really, the other “C’s” of communication, collaboration, and creativity – is at the center of many of the curriculum initiatives with which we work.  In particular, I am interested in exploring how a properly-focused STEM initiative could be the gateway through which students develop skills/literacies/dispositions that can have benefits that extend well beyond increasing interest in engineering or some other scientific or technical career.

Educators and the public at large have heard the clarion call for “more STEM graduates”. While there are certainly compelling and immediately apparent benefits to increasing the nation’s ability to produce more “inventors, discovers, and makers”, there is an equally compelling argument that the nation will benefit from ensuring that all students develop the critical thinking skills that underlie STEM education.  As the current election cycle highlights, our nation’s civic well-being rests upon the assumption that we have an electorate that is capable of thinking deliberatively, processing information/data, formulating questions, and understanding and appreciating the connections between individuals and their broader world.  Educators know that there are a variety of pathways to teaching these skills and that students with these dispositions will find ways to succeed in a virtually limitless number of vocational pursuits. It seems that now more than ever before it’s essential to cut across the “silos” that separate curricular domains and to spend some time thinking about the integrated, cross-cutting, skills that are the foundation of an educated public.   

Here are some links to articles, papers and sites that I’ve found useful in thinking about these issues.  More will come in future posts as we further develop the notion of how STEM can inspire and underlie more than a career. Feel free to use the comments to suggest additional resources and add to the conversation.