By Calvin Mackie | Aug 28, 2019
I believe in creating high-functioning communities that are free of the mandate to produce. The idea being that if a community is high-functioning, they will be productive. The reality is that there are many communities that produce without being high-functioning, and once you start off on the wrong footing, the whole situation just goes from bad to worse.
STEM education is about doing.
It’s not about knowing. A scientist can tell you what is and what is not, engineers create that which never existed before, based on that same science. So it’s basically impossible for a standardized test to evaluate whether someone would be a great STEM person. And that’s the rub. That’s why you have so many kids flunking school but becoming great coders. To better read your students, it can’t be one-size fits all. If you want to set up your STEM community for success, you have to have more than just tests and standardized ways of assessing knowledge. It takes more than just tests, or at least an exploration of alternatives to standardized testing. We have a whole culture of giving and taking tests, but teachers would benefit from thinking beyond that and delving into project-based learning or portfolio-based assessment.
Evaluating Learning: Shifting Assessment from the Individual to the Collective
Developing smarter ways to evaluate students and participants is half the battle. This audience’s capacity to make or engineer will likely go further is you rethink evaluation instead of investing so much time developing a Master Test incorporating ALL knowledge you expect them to know. People have different gifts, but we’re looking at them and evaluating them by the same standards. And it’s time to stop. Testing kids does not present anyone with an accurate idea of where their knowledge is. In fact, many in STEM educators are leading a movement to neutralize the role of testing in performance assessment. The Whole Child approach (popularized by Chan Zuckerberg). They key thing to understand about evaluation is that STEM work is accomplished through the collective. STEM is not about individual talent, it’s about the team. That’s why collaboration is so important (both in this context and the in a professional environment). How can you develop a tool to better evaluate your community’s ability to work together and foster change? What is your concrete metric? Somebody asked me the other day to evaluate the STEM kids going through my program. I asked them, if a kid starts with nothing, and finishes with something they built, what do you evaluate? The assignment IS the evaluation. If you look at how long it took them to build it, that metric would not give you any pertinent information. They started with nothing and finished something, everything you need is in that.
What is a High Functioning STEM Community?
Diagram conveying what makes a healthy, high-functioning STEM community. CALVIN MACKIEA high-functioning STEM community is child-centered, adult-governed and elder-ruled. Plain and simple. It’s the way you organize your community with the intention of creating fluidity between generations, so that they are benefiting each other. In our STEM NOLA community, we are K-12 focused where we have at least two other groups (i.e. college students and STEM professionals) centered around the needs of the kids. We pay the college kids because in a high-functioning STEM community, adults (i.e. STEM professionals) are required to carry the load. People want to know what’s wrong with the African-American community; there’s a lot of statistics out there that talk about the disappearance of African-American communities due to the over-incarceration of black males. Well if you take 3 million black males out of a community, what does that do? It shrinks the amount of high-functioning adults, and puts more pressure on the elders. In most healthy communities, the adults are doing the work so the elders can have free time to pour into the kids. That’s the way communities are set up no matter where you are in the world. There’s always a respect you have to give to the elders but they have a lot of time to pour into the kids because the adults are doing the work.
Next Steps in Nurturing Your Community
At the end of the day, we will need to redefine the meaning of community and how we go about nurturing curiosity in our children in the face of automation, robotics and artificial intelligence. The meaning of community is something that sits in the domain of the Humanities. The philosopher, the sociologist will look at and study the impact of automation on the people but each educational entity or organization will need to find its evaluation methods. Building community takes time, hard work and lots of passion. When it comes to building a resilient community, no one does it quite like New Orleans. Not only did our city spring back from the disastrous Hurricane Katrina, but over the past 5 years, I have been working with numerous individuals in our community to assemble what we believe could be one of the strongest STEM education communities in the nation.