Teaching STEM While Social Distancing: Sharing Knowledge and Overcoming Challenges


Many countries around the world are in lockdown during the novel COVID-19 pandemic, while many more countries have adopted strict social distancing rules that have forced STEM teachers to conduct online lectures to their stay-at-home students. This poses a number of challenges in the entire education sector, and it mandates that the teachers adapt to the new circumstances and find ways to retain the level of teaching quality that will ensure knowledge retention and inspire a desire for permanent learning for their students in lockdown.

Online learning, or eLearning as it’s popularly called nowadays, is not without its challenges. The online learning experience can be particularly stressful for students that are used to the traditional classroom environment, which is why it is up to the teachers to make this transition as seamless as possible. Here are some effective tips that will make knowledge sharing during lockdown fun and rewarding for all.

Assessing the child’s learning level

Before you can start your online lectures and before you can kick-start any online activity with your students, for that matter, you have to assess the knowledge level of each student. This is an important step whether you are teaching your existing students or if you are working with new pupils, and for a number of reasons, particularly if you are conducting video sessions with the whole class at the same time.

You might think that you know your students well, but keep in mind that the online classroom is a unique environment and that not everyone will be able to adjust as easily as their peers. Strive to discover who has problems adjusting or following the curriculum, and make sure to accommodate their needs. This process is essential if you are taking on any new students because you have to make sure that everyone is able to progress at the same pace.

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Emphasize practical demonstrations

The STEM field is highly engaging and quite fun for the students, or at least it should be if the teacher goes the extra mile to emphasize practical demonstrations and lessons within the curriculum. This goes double for online classrooms because students are sitting at home where there are a lot of distractions – as opposed to sitting in a truly productive environment like a science or engineering lab.

With that in mind, you have to make these lessons as engaging as possible to adapt to the pandemic situation. If you have access to the lab back at school, be sure to make use of as many science props as possible. If not, then make sure to make your own homemade laboratory where you can conduct various safe experiments and demonstrations while inspiring your students to contribute, suggest topics for their next class, and more.

Making sure the homework gets done

Whether or not your students like doing homework shouldn’t be up for debate – homework is an essential part of learning, it solidifies knowledge, and it teaches many valuable life lessons such as discipline, perseverance, and more. So you should definitely give your students homework, but you have to make sure that it’s fun, engaging, and rewarding in order to ensure it gets done.

To achieve this, you have to provide your students with the right resources. For example, when doing chemistry homework, your students would benefit greatly from solving chemistry practice problems with the help of online videos and text solutions that were made to engage the student, grab their attention, and make learning fun and rewarding. Sure, make them use their paperback textbooks but make sure that they have the right online resources to make that knowledge truly stick.

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Monitoring knowledge gaps and pain-points

One of the most important elements of effective learning, especially for aspiring scientists and engineers, is making sure that there are no knowledge gaps. As a STEM teacher, you have to take an individualized approach to teaching and spend adequate time checking each student’s progress to determine if they have any pain-points and knowledge gaps that they are struggling with. If you are unsure about how to do this, you can always focus on collaborating with your colleagues and peers in order to discover the best practices for monitoring student progress online.

Engage your students like they were in a classroom

Last but not least, you yourself have to be fun and engaging during class. It might sound frivolous and even a bit demeaning to your profession at first, but the truth of the matter is that your students are likely to drift away if you just sit in front of the camera reciting lessons off of a PowerPoint presentation. Your goal should be to engage your students in meaningful conversations and discussions, to lead a lively classroom where students will exchange ideas and talk about interesting projects, and most importantly, you have to do this with energy and zeal.

Wrapping up

The STEM field is fun and engaging by nature, but you can’t expect your aspiring scientists to stay interested if they are no longer consuming knowledge in a productive learning environment. Be sure to use these tips to overcome the challenge of social distancing and share your knowledge efficiently and effectively.

Author: Clair Adams

Claire Adams is a personal and professional development expert who believes that a positive attitude is one of the keys to success. She enjoys life to the fullest in the healthiest way possible and loves to share her insights into the lifestyle, parenting, education, and entrepreneurship. Feel free to reach her on Facebook and Twitter.

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