INNOVATION IN ACTION
STEM School Chattanooga offers a new model for teaching and learning in order to prepare students for the complex and ever-changing global workforce. The STEM School consistently explores and implements innovative practices in not only helping students meet Tennessee graduation requirements, but also in building a strong foundation in our students so they will one day enter and excel in the global workplace. This foundation means that our students are equipped and ready to address current issues and problems, and are able to lead, critically think, and innovate.
The mission of our school is to develop and share a new paradigm for world-class education using technology as a gateway to cultivate students’ inquisitive nature, exercise innovation, think critically, and collaborate to become leaders who are self-sufficient learners with the same passion as Chattanooga’s Renaissance.
Students who experience and learn in the STEM School environment will have the tools they need to learn and grow. Ultimately, we believe this will make the students both marketable and successful, and reach our goal of STEM School graduates who positively impact global social, economic, and political issues. In order to accomplish the above mission and goal, this requires a unique approach to teaching and learning. This unique approach impacts three main areas: the curriculum, the classroom structure, and our grading practices.
How Our 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. Students develop important academic and career skills as they learn through projects developed in collaboration with local industry. Students are expected to address current issues and problems; to comprehend, apply, and innovate with the knowledge they learn; and to make the connection between academic learning and real world situations. The key attributes to this curriculum design are through project/problem based learning and backwards planning and curriculum design.
PBL stands for project/problem based learning. PBL is a dynamic approach to teaching in which students explore real-world problems and challenges, simultaneously developing cross-curriculum skills while working in small collaborative groups.
Backwards Planning and Curriculum Design is the process by which our faculty design a unit of study for our students. Our faculty begins this process by starting with a STEM issue or problem that is current, relevant, and co-developed with local business, industry, and higher education partners. Faculty and staff develop the curriculum with a focus on the end in mind; they first build assessments, then find resources, and finally design the lessons.
How Our Classroom Structure is Unique
Students who attend the STEM School are expected to take ownership in their learning process. The school has flipped the paradigm of "seat time," so that students are the primary workers during the school day and teachers facilitate the learning process. Class time has limited lecture-based instruction. Students often take the lead in their learning through technology access, self-pacing, group work, and hands-on experiences. The primary structural items that impact this change are a blending learning focus, one-to-one technology integration, and the use of technology resources.
Blended Learning is the instructional practice by which we integrate technology throughout our curriculum, instruction and assessment. The role of a teacher at STEM School Chattanooga is not to dispense information. The role of our teachers is to help students use technology to access good information, help students use that information, and push students to apply the information in a new context.
One-to-One Technology Integration is defined as creating a structure where every student has a personal computer or mobile device. At STEM School Chattanooga, every student is provided an iPad 24/7. However, this is not only a structural change, but it is a philosophical change. We believe content delivery is no longer the primary purpose of the teacher. Instead, because the content is at the students’ fingertips, students are to become experts in accessing content, using content, and applying content.
Technology Resources are those items that provide opportunities for common organization and communication among students, parents, and teachers. These resources also provide content and learning opportunities for our students.
How Our Grading Practices are Unique
STEM School Chattanooga uses a grading practice that reflects a focus on student performance of content standards. Our belief is that student grades should reflect what students know and are able to do. In so doing, our grading system provides information on a student’s level of understanding and not just a number. Our grading practices also challenge students to produce true advanced level work as only student performance demonstrating application, synthesis, and evaluation of content is rewarded with high achievement.
Through using Grading for Learning, we expect students to be able to communicate their learning levels for our content targets, learn how to identify and improve their learning, and, ultimately, take ownership of their own success as all individual grades can be improved throughout the year.
Innovation In Action
Innovation underlies everything we do at STEM School Chattanooga. Our model is a new paradigm in schooling that we believe addresses the needs of our current and future workforce.