There’s a tendency to think of 21st Century skills as only relevant to the arts and humanities; however, the skills required to thrive in the 21st Century are essential components of any effective STEM education. Problem-solving, critical and creative thinking, adaptability, and the ability synthesize and effectively deploy large amounts of data have always been crucial parts of advanced STEM learning and application but these are not as strongly integrated at primary and secondary level.
Furthermore, in recent years, due to structural changes in research and industry, the soft skills of personal capacities of confidence, leadership, strategic teamwork and so on have become even more important. When it comes to advancing in STEM, it is no longer enough to have a deep knowledge of your work, you must now be able to articulate this to often non-specialist audiences who control the purse strings of research funding and investment.
How do we prepare our STEM students for this world? Investigative learning is gaining popularity within the classroom, and Debate Mate has plenty of resources to support this. However, more importantly, we must integrate talk strategies into our lessons. Students need to be able to articulate not only their knowledge, but also to construct and follow through with original ideas. This is why debate-led teaching is such a useful tool.
With most of the knowledge that humanity has acquired at our fingertips through the internet, success is not enabled by the tiny percentage of this a student can memorise and recall, but by their capacity to draw new connections between given information. Debating develops this really well.
Students are pushed to engage with multiple levels of their knowledge simultaneously. Their research and knowledge forms the basis of their core argument, while they must engage effectively with the responses and criticisms put forward by their opposition, often rapid fire and on the spot through Points of Information. This builds students confidence in manipulating information to put forward a strong and well evidenced hypothesis.