Design Trends Influencing STEM Education

When it comes to STEM education, many teachers think about utilizing advanced technology and increasing online engagement. However, design trends influence the field in many subtle ways.

Children use tools like a screwdriver to tinker with a robot on a table.

By incorporating the ideas below, from active learning classrooms to constant connectivity, educators can better engage students and improve learning outcomes.

Informal Spaces

A traditional classroom with numerous desks facing the front can stifle creativity. During one study, experts analyzed students' knowledge of technology and engineering literacy. It also looked at learners' experiences in these topics outside of school. Results revealed that those with more frequent excursions outside of the classroom scored higher than those with few. This study suggests there's a definite link between informal STEM learning and proficiency.

Yet what does informal education mean, and how does it apply to classroom design? In school spaces, common areas can include open lounges, private study spaces, outdoor areas, coffee shops and much more. Teachers can also boost informal learning by scheduling trips to museum exhibits, working on projects in makerspaces, designing structures with everyday items and tending to urban gardens.

This approach to STEM encourages students to maintain lifelong learning in science, technology, engineering and math as it applies to a multitude of settings and experiences. Beyond formal learning environments, students can spend an abundant amount of time reinforcing concepts outside of the classroom.

With intentional design and meaningful schedule coordination, schools can create informal environments that are crucial to STEM learning. A vast array of experiences also allows students to learn the context around ideas and skills.

Active Learning

A decade ago, you could walk into any classroom, and each would look the same. Today, however, many educators understand the advantage of active learning spaces. Instead of desks, these areas feature round or oblong tables with moveable seating. Students can face one another and participate in small group work, and each setting often comes with a whiteboard.

Beyond desks, each room includes multiple displays, allowing teachers and students to project presentations from laptops and tablets. Microphones are also accessible, allowing for ample sound projection. Of course, Wi-Fi and power supplies are critical, as students require access to digital devices.

With STEM education, active learning design encourages student engagement through activities and discussions rather than passive listening. According to experts, this concept is more effective than traditional lecturing, leading to greater student learning.

On the flip side, research reveals teachers behave differently in active learning classrooms compared to traditional designs. In active environments, instructors consult with individuals and small groups more frequently. They also focus more on group-based discussion than lecturing.

Constant Connectivity

When it comes to a STEM classroom, widespread and accessible technology is key. Students have a variety of devices, including tablets and laptops, which they can connect to the wireless network. They should also have various software programs, including virtual reality, which immerses students in hands-on learning activities in a professional setting.

Unfortunately, many schools struggle to meet technical requirements and are unable to retrofit existing classrooms. While some schools add whiteboards for collaboration and implement cloud-based file-sharing programs, many implement bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies. This design trend allows students flexibility in their education, both in and outside the classroom.

In the past, the classroom book learning space was separate from labs, a place where children utilize computers and technology. Today, however, those spaces are one-in-the-same. Students should be able to switch from lectures and discussions to hands-on projects without having to move around.

Because STEM classrooms have many requirements, the design needs to be flexible. Students must be able to freely and easily collaborate on projects, including those that require access to software or digital tools. Similar to meeting in groups to discuss a book, students need areas where they can plan, discuss and troubleshoot projects.

Arts Education

By incorporating the arts through maker classrooms, teachers can attract students who would otherwise find STEM education inaccessible. With this type of curriculum, learners can build projects and gain hands-on experience that expands on critical concepts. In makerspaces, students get inspired by the arts, take photos, write stories and use technology to edit what they've created.

In one classroom, students used robots called Ozobots to draw lines and colors. With this technology, students crafted characters from the book "Charlotte's Web." Beyond art and design, students also used elements of computer science.

In another makerspace, students focused on the traditional STEM subject of robotics. The teacher encouraged learners to compete and see who could create the strongest machine. He had one requirement — each bot should be able to recycle. With this project, students learn how STEM ideas apply to real-world settings.

By transforming STEM into STEAM education through makerspace design, students can understand the information better. They have a chance to combine traditional art concepts with LEDs, motors, electronics and more. As a result, they can learn to transfer their knowledge to other things they interact with.

Color Combinations

Many design trends influencing STEM education focus on technological improvements and furniture. Yet colors in the classroom can make a significant difference. In one study, researchers studied 78 students in three schools ranging from ages 8 to 9. They painted classroom walls for five weeks and performed attention tests on the students at the end of each day.

As a result, experts learned that the color purple elicits the highest levels of attention, followed by blue and green. On the other hand, the color red leads to the lowest levels of concentration. This study reveals to educators how stimuli from physical spaces can affect learners' behavior and attention.

Since these spaces — and their colors — have a significant impact on learning outcomes, schools should analyze interior components of classrooms in relation to STEM. Designing specifically for education contributes massively to lesson plans and lecturer efforts.

Teachers and schools that want to maximize learning outcomes in STEM and more must understand how key aspects of design, including color, contribute to attention. These benefits span socio-culture and economic differences, meaning educators can adopt these changes despite their location or funding.

The Top Design Trends Influencing STEM Education

Science, technology, engineering and mathematics are crucial parts of today's curriculum. When it comes to maximizing learning outcomes, many schools focus on the equipment and technology available. However, design also has a significant impact.

Informal spaces, for instance, can relate concepts to real-world concepts. The arts, while not part of STEM, can offer kids hands-on activities that make topics more accessible. Plus, colors themselves can promote improved attention spans and accelerate the adoption of knowledge.

Educators and learning institutions who want their students to excel in STEM must stay abreast of design trends and incorporate ideas when possible.