How STEM Teaching is Unique in a Research University

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Being a Computer Science major, I believe that STEM matters a lot in developing the world. By educating students in the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, STEM has been proven to succeed in helping students improve their creativity, critical analysis, and problem-solving skills, by turn, creating innovators and critical analysts among students.

My experience of STEM education in a liberal arts college in US

I have been studying Computer Science at Franklin & Marshall College (F&M) in the US for the last two years. Since the college provides liberal arts education, I have taken courses in a variety of fields such as humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and languages. This is a clue to the way F&M approaches the STEM education.

F&M helps students create the STEM education from a broader perspective by providing classes in a variety of fields. Teaching involves concepts from multiple disciplines, and solving a problem requires perspectives from various points of views. This helps us think and strategize creatively through multiple concepts. It also opens up more ways to approach on finding solutions on a single problem.

My experience of STEM education in a research university like USYD

A class at USYDThis semester, I studied abroad at University of Sydney (USYD), and I mainly took courses in the field of my major. Nevertheless, I have also gone to classes in social sciences to observe. From this experience, I learnt that STEM education here at USYD is very different from the one at F&M.

STEM education at USYD is taught through a very specific and specialized course. Every class has a specific concept from a particular discipline, and we have to learn how to use resources from classes to pass through each challenge. Students here pay particular attention to their respective majors, and they tend to not go out of their focused topics and interests while solving problems.

Comparison of the two systems and why it doesn’t matter

To compare these two systems in detail, I would analyze it from two aspects. In terms of the teaching aspect, STEM at a liberal arts college teaches students to integrate the STEM disciplines and think of an issue broadly from multiple perspectives whilst STEM at a research university teaches students to think deeply through the field of their specialized focus topic.

In terms of the learning aspect, I have noticed that STEM students at a liberal arts college tend to discuss and talk about matters and issues with others in the learning process although those at a research university tend to find solutions on their own. Of course, I realized that this is a very subjective point since it came out of my own experience.

Nevertheless, this difference is just a mere variation in terms of educational beliefs. In either way, both liberal arts and research universities have still succeeded in creating innovators and critical analysts through the STEM education. The thing that matters is that students need to be able to apply the STEM education into their approaches in solving global challenges.

Phyo Thuta Aung is a Computer Science major with an Applied Math minor at Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster and studied abroad with IFSA Australia program at University of Sydney in Sydney, Australia in Fall 2019. He served as an International Correspondent with IFSA through the Work-to-Study Program.

Article by Phyo Thuta Aung