My new book – STEM Education for the 21st Century – is published by Springer, Inc.

I have just published my book entitled STEM Education for the 21st Century, which was published in April of 2020 by Springer, Inc. The book includes an overview of diversity and inclusion in STEM education, theories of learning, a review of new types of active learning in science courses, new types of engineering education, a review of global interdisciplinary science curriculum, an overview of online education and some thoughts about the future of STEM education. The research for the book came about from eight years of work as an ACE fellow at Yale University, while working at Pomona College, while serving as the founding Director for the Yale-NUS Teaching and Learning Center, and while serving as Dean of Faculty at Soka University of America, where we developed a new interdisciplinary Life Sciences program. The book provides something of a travelog of my journeys in STEM education, and provides insights into the emerging new trends in STEM education as practiced at the best universities and colleges in the world.

Below is a link to the publisher’s site and a flyer which gives more information about the book.

My new Book – STEM Education for the 21st Century: 

Book flyer from pubisher


Here is the official “blurb” for the book!

STEM Education for the 21st Century, by Bryan Edward Penprase

This book chronicles the revolution in STEM teaching and learning that has arisen from a convergence of educational research, emerging technologies, and innovative ways of structuring both the physical space and classroom activities in STEM higher education. Beginning with a historical overview of US higher education and an overview of diversity in STEM in the US, the book sets a context in which our present-day innovation in science and technology urgently needs to provide more diversity and inclusion within STEM fields. Research-validated pedagogies using active learning and new types of research-based curriculum is transforming how physics, biology and other fields are taught in leading universities, and the book gives profiles of leading innovators in science education and examples of exciting new research-based courses taking root in US institutions. The book includes interviews with leading scientists and educators, case studies of new courses and new institutions, and descriptions of site visits where new trends in 21st STEM education are being developed. The book also takes the reader into innovative learning environments in engineering where students are empowered by emerging technologies to develop new creative capacity in their STEM education, through new centers for design thinking and liberal arts-based engineering.  Equally innovative are new conceptual frameworks for course design and learning, and the book explores the concepts of Scientific Teaching, Backward Course Design, Threshold Concepts and Learning Taxonomies in a systematic way with examples from diverse scientific fields. Finally, the book takes the reader inside the leading centers for online education, including Udacity, Coursera and EdX, interviews the leaders and founders of MOOC technology, and gives a sense of how online education is evolving and what this means for STEM education. This book provides a broad and deep exploration into the historical context of science education and into some of the cutting-edge innovations that are reshaping how leading universities teach science and engineering. The emergence of exponentially advancing technologies such as synthetic biology, artificial intelligence and materials sciences has been described as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and the book explores how these technologies will shape our future will bring a transformation of STEM curriculum that can help students solve many the most urgent problems facing our world and society.

Below are abstracts for each chapter. I welcome your feedback and ideas for followup works.

Chapter 1: History of STEM in the USA

A review of the history of Higher Education in the US, with an emphasis on the role STEM education and diversity within in US higher education from Colonial times to the 21st century.  The founding of the first universities in the US was motivated by providing religious training and later shifted toward science and engineering education as the nation began to grow and the education system included more diverse institutions. At each stage the growth of higher education produced new economic growth, and yet the expansion of the higher education system made slow progress in providing greater access to higher education for women and non-white students. In the 19th century the founding of liberal arts colleges, historically black colleges and Land Grant institutions began to provide more diverse curricula and provided access to women and African American students. In the 20th century, US universities were massively scaled up, and increasing fractions of students received degrees in STEM subjects, with the growth of a STEM workforce which enabled social mobility through higher education. The concept of a meritocratic system of equal opportunity, underlies the American Dream and expectations for social mobility in the US has not provided equal results for students from all racial and ethnic groups, and especially in STEM fields, where the levels of enrollment, degree completion and persistence through graduate programs are all lower for non-white students and women. Bringing greater equity and inclusion within STEM fields is urgently needed, and the chapter reviews some key recommendations for helping develop more diversity in the STEM workforce across all levels of higher education.

Chapter 2: Active and Peer-Based Learning

The chapter reviews the history of how STEM educators were able to document more effective learning through assessments that provided quantitative measures of learning in active-learning environments.  Key innovators within the field of active learning, peer-based learning and scientific teaching are profiled in detail, starting with leading innovators in the field of physics, were much of the best data validating active learning was first acquired. Eric Mazur’s peer learning techniques, which enable students to discuss problems within large classes and therby “construct knowledge” are described detail. The history of  Carl Wieman’s Science Education Initiative is described, with details about his transition from Nobel Prize winning physics researcher into an internationally recognized leader in STEM education. The transformation of physics and astrophysics with active learning and research-based curricula is described with numerous examples for making more exciting and engaging classes through active learning. The development of active learning in Biology is described, including the work in BioQuest, SEAPhages and a new initiative from Jo Handelsman known as TinyEarth. These research-based courses and approaches to active learning and course design are described in detail to give examples of how 21st century research can be brought into the classroom to bring students in active engagement with cutting-edge science.

Chapter 3: Theories of Teaching and Learning

Detailed examples of a variety of theories of learning and course design are described to provide an overview of teaching and learning concepts necessary for more effective STEM education. Examples include Jo Handelsman’s work on Scientific Teaching, and classic theories of learning such as Piaget’s theories of autonomy, Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development, Belenky’s theories of learning, and other ideas from social constructivism that can be helpful in STEM education. Multiple taxonomies of learning can be used in STEM subjects to help structure course design, and Bloom’s Taxonomy, the Feisel Schmitz Taxonomy, and the Miller Taxonomy are described along with types of learning outcomes useful for course design. The ideas of Constructive Alignment and Threshold Concepts can help structure active learning pedagogy learning objectives that can unify and animate courses in STEM disciplines, and a review of these theories along with examples is provided. Schulman’s theory of pedagogical content knowledge and its application in STEM courses is described.

Chapter 4: Engineering Education Reconsidered

The new engineering education for the 21st century has been inspired by blending “design thinking” with active pedagogies to provide exciting new learning environments for engineering.  Detailed case studies of leading programs of innovative engineering education are provided, including the Center for Engineering at Yale University, California Polytechnic San Luis Obispo’s “Learn by Doing” approach, and the innovative Olin College of Engineering with its emphasis on project-based learning.  These three programs illustrate how new types of engineering education train students more effectively for the complex and interdisciplinary tasks that today’s engineers face in their work. A review of the new Liberal Arts Engineering movement is described, with detailed examples of the leading engineering programs that are blending disciplines from outside of STEM fields into the engineering curriculum to deepen and strengthen engineering education.

Chapter 5: Online Education in STEM

From a series of visits to the leading online learning centers during the “year of the MOOC” in 2013, the roots of the online learning phenomenon are explored, and their applications to STEM disciplines are described. Site visits to the headquarters of Coursera, edX, Udacity, and HarvardX are combined with an overview of their history and current programs, including interviews with the founders and leaders of all of these major online education centers. The evolution of online learning from its early days into the present is described, along with new types of online learning that include “stackable micro-credentials,” hybrid courses, and online degree programs. The future of online learning and its impacts on colleges and universities is also described, with examples of possible new types of online learning environments in STEM fields.

Chapter 6: Interdisciplinary Science

Numerous distinguished organizations, including the AAMC, AAAS, NSF, and NRC, have highlighted interdisciplinary research and education as vital for training future scientists and physicians. These recommendations are described in detail along with some examples of why interdisciplinary STEM education is needed for the 21st century. A review of a broad range of theories of multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, and integrated science education is described, along with a taxonomy of methods for integrating curriculum in interdisciplinary or multi-disciplinary programs. A review of interdisciplinary science programs ranging from one semester to four-year durations gives examples of this new kind of education can be implemented, and how interdisciplinary science has transformed the landscape of science education. Case studies from a set of 12 interdisciplinary programs in 5 countries provide detailed information on the curriculum and the ways in which faculty prepare for teaching these programs. From the review of these 12 programs a set of “best practices” for interdisciplinary science is presented, with detailed recommendations for structuring faculty training and for organizing the curriculum and assessment of teaching and learning.

Chapter 7: The Future of STEM Teaching and Learning

The 21st century has been described as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and the emerging science and technology of our present century is described and compared with earlier industrial revolutions. In each case, transformative technologies have sparked revolutions that have shaped not only the economy, but also higher education and STEM education. The history of each of these revolutions is explored and the detailed ways that higher education and STEM education has evolved is reviewed in the past and present centuries. The main technologies of the current industrial revolution, Artificial Intelligence, Biotechnology, Nanotechnology and the Internet of Things are described in separate sections. The role of these emergent technologies in a new kind of STEM curriculum is described, along with examples of new courses based on these technologies at Stanford, MIT and Harvard. These new exponential technologies and the emerging realities they will bring challenge the sustainability of our planet and our notions of humanity, and how this may shape our STEM education and our universities in the coming century is described.