As K-8 students progress through the STEM Discovery and Engineering program units during the school year, instructors carefully observe behavior, work, and attitude in order to assess students in five important areas: technical skills, teamwork skills, use of the engineering design process, risk/innovation/creativity, and growth mindset/effort. Our STEM curriculum aligns vertically throughout each student's school career, so STEM skills progress can be tracked in the same five areas from Kindergarten through grade 8.
At the conclusion a STEM Discovery unit, K-5 students receive a detailed analysis of their skills in each area to show development in relationship to grade level expectations. We hold off on letter grades with younger students in STEM classes to encourage more risk-taking and enjoyment of new challenges. With more years of experience in STEM skills and concepts, students in grades 4-8 begin receive letter grades in STEM Discovery and Engineering classes, in addition to the detailed analysis.
The Five Core Areas of STEM Assessment
- Technical Skills
The specific skills learned will vary greatly between grade levels, but this assessment area evaluates the competency of use of technology and tools, computer programming, robotics, and the collection and analysis of data.
- Teamwork Skills
Students are taught and then practice interpersonal and collaboration skills that allow them to function as part of a team. These skills are based on the Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens and include goal setting/organization, conflict resolution, active listening, persuasion, and respect and leadership.
- Use of the Engineering Design Process (EDP)
Elementary students will learn the Five-Step EDP, which guides them through imagining a solution to a problem, constructing it, testing it, and then improving it. This process is a fantastic tool for encouraging creative thinking in a number of disciplines, including STEM, while ensuring structured thinking and deliberate creation and testing of a solution.
Learning advanced technical skills and using them to solve problems requires students to be willing to take risks and think creatively in order to solve old problems in new ways. Students are asked to develop multiple unique ideas during the brainstorming process, choose a harder/different/bigger plan (even if it may not work), and to always look for ways to make the project the best it can be rather than settling for a project that is simply complete.
- Growth Mindset/Effort
Recently, a great deal of research has emerged demonstrating the dangers of a fixed mindset. A fixed mindset describes the idea of an individual born with an unchanging skill set which they are powerless to overcome. The limitations of a fixed mindset not only stifles learning, but enslaves an individual to perceived shortcomings. A growth mindset, on the other hand, empowers individuals to work hard at difficult tasks and gives comfort in the midst of challenge with the knowledge that everyone may improve. A growth mindset encourages students to stay open to trying difficult or unfamiliar things, to behave in a way that positively encourages peers, to be proactive in finding independent answers without relying on instructors, and to continuously grow and strive to be the best version of themselves through self-reflection. This is a challenging skill to learn but an important habit of mind and one of the great indicators of success in adulthood.
If you would like your child to have additional training and opportunities to learn and practice these skills, we offer extracurricular activities (ECAs) outside of normal school hours. The exact courses offered change from time to time based on teacher availability, demand, and technology, so please take a look at the School Store and watch for Newsletter updates for any new opportunities!