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STEM School Chattanooga offers a new model for teaching and learning in order to prepare its students to one day enter and excel in the complex, ever-changing global workforce. By consistently exploring and implementing innovative practices, STEM School extends beyond simply meeting Tennessee graduation requirements to build in its students a strong foundation for thinking critically, innovating, and leading. This foundation therefore equips students to address current issues and problems and provides them with the tools they need to continue to learn and grow. STEM School believes this ultimately will make its students marketable, successful, and empowered to positively impact social, economic, and political issues on a global scale. Consequently, to accomplish this task, STEM School requires a unique approach to both teaching and learning – which impacts three main areas: its curriculum, its classroom structure, and its grading practices.
How STEM Curriculum is Unique
STEM School Chattanooga's curriculum offers learning experiences based in the real world – using a model focused on science, technology, engineering, math, and the arts. Projects are developed in collaboration with local industry and higher education institutions, and are designed to address current issues and problems. This nurtures important academic and career skills as students are expected to comprehend, apply, and innovate with the knowledge they learn. Such projects also help students make the connection between academic learning and real-world situations. The key attributes of this curriculum are built through project/problem based learning (PBL) and backwards planning and curriculum design.
How STEM Classroom Structure is Unique
STEM School Chattanooga expects its students to take ownership in their learning process. Here the paradigm of “seat time” is flipped so that students are the primary workers during the school day and teachers facilitate the learning process. Class time, therefore, has limited lecture-based instruction, and students often take the lead in their learning through technology access, self-pacing, group work, and hands-on experiences. Three components that work to impact this change are a focus on blended learning, one-to-one technology integration, and the use of technology resources.
How STEM Grading Practices are Unique
STEM School Chattanooga uses a grading practice that focuses on student performance of content standards – referred to as grading for learning. The belief is that student grades should reflect what students know and are able to do. Therefore, the grading system expresses a student’s level of understanding, not just a number. It also challenges students to produce truly advanced level work, since only performances that demonstrate application, synthesis, and evaluation of content are rewarded with high achievement.