Speak the Language: STEM Terminology

STEM Education Terms and Terms Referenced in The Case for Being Bold: A New Agenda for Business in Improving STEM Education:

21st Century Skills: Refers to the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed as effective citizens, workers, and leaders in the 21st century. This skills set includes: information and communication skills (information and media literacy skills; communication skills); thinking and problem-solving (critical thinking and systems thinking; problem identification; formulation and solution; creativity and intellectual curiosity); interpersonal and self-direction skills (interpersonal and collaborative skills; self-direction; accountability and adaptability; social responsibility); global awareness; financial, economic and business literacy, and developing entrepreneurial skills to enhance workplace productivity and career options; and civic literacy.

Alternative Certification: Refers to every avenue to becoming licensed to teach, from emergency certification to very sophisticated and well-designed programs that address the professional preparation needs of the growing population of individuals who already have at least a bachelor’s degree and considerable life experience and want to become teachers.

Asynchronous Learning: A student-centered teaching method that uses online learning resources to facilitate information sharing outside the constraints of time and place among a network of people.

Career and Technical Education (CTE): Instruction that prepares a student for employment immediately after the completion of high school. Although traditionally associated with auto-shop or carpentry courses, career and technical education programs frequently include a strong academic component and teach such cutting-edge skills as computer-aided design and robotics. Formerly referred to as vocational education.

Critical Thinking: Mental process of acquiring information and evaluating it to reach a logical conclusion.

Digital Divide: A term first coined by the 1999 U.S. Department of Commerce report Falling Through the Net to describe gaps in access to technology among various populations. More recently, rather than referring solely to the presence or absence of technology, the digital divide refers to the disparity in how technology is used in schools.

Distance Learning: Delivery of instruction via multimedia computers, satellite or teleconferencing when the teacher is in one place and the students in another.

E-Learning: Use of technology, especially computers, to enhance education and learning. This technique is commonly associated with distance-learning.

Gifted Student: A student who demonstrates a high degree of intellectual and/or creative ability, exhibits an exceptionally high degree of motivation, and/or excels in specific academic fields, and who needs special instruction and/or special ancillary services to achieve at levels commensurate with his or her abilities.

Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS): A set of cognitive skills beyond the basic acquisition and memorization of facts. This broad term includes the following: critical thinking, creative thinking, problem solving, decision-making, and reasoning.

Invest in What Works and Innovation Fund: An initiative devoted to commissioning a blue-ribbon private sector panel of premier business leaders, educators, researchers, and others to make recommendations to the Secretary of Education on successful programs and innovations across the country that should be scaled. The panel will also be charged with making those successful practices and lessons learned universally available. The $650 million initiative is funded by the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund. This money is awarded to school districts and non-profit groups with strong records of accomplishment.

Magnet School: A school with strong emphasis in a particular subject area (i.e. music, science, drama, math). Students may be selected for admission through an application process rather than being assigned based on residence.

Out-of-Field Teaching:
A practice in which teachers are assigned to teach subjects outside of their training or certification area.

Race to the Top: A competitive grant program funded with $4.35 billion from the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). This initiative supports states’ efforts to drive substantial gains in student achievement with four main goals in mind: using data to drive instruction, raising standards, turning around historically low-performing schools, and improving teacher and principal quality as described in the ARRA.

School Within a School: A special program, charter school, or magnet school that is housed within a regular school. Schools within schools allow districts to experiment with innovative programs and teaching methods using existing facilities. Also referred to as small learning communities (SLC).

Small Learning Communities (SLC): A form of school structure that is increasingly common in secondary schools to subdivide large school populations into smaller, autonomous groups of students and teachers. The school structure creates a more personalized learning environment. Also referred to as a school within a school.

Standards-Based Instruction: Instruction that is directed toward student mastery of defined standards.

STEM: Refers to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education.

Teacher Certification: The process by which individuals receive state permission and qualification to teach in a public school. Many teaching certificates are highly specialized by subject, grade levels, or specifics such as counseling or the ability to teach students with disabilities. Also referred to as teacher licensure.

Technical Skill Assessment: Used in career technical education, this assessment measures a student’s proficiency in their CTE program of study.

Virtual Schools: Accredited schools that teach a full-time (or nearly full-time) course of instruction, primarily or entirely over the Internet, designed to lead to a degree.

Work-Based Learning: Education opportunities that reinforce core curriculum subjects through internships, apprenticeships, or other programs that place the student in a real-life work environment.