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What Is STEM? A Discussion About Conceptions of STEM in Education and Partnerships



Educational reformation has proceeded slowly despite the many calls to improve science and mathematics for our students. The acronym STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) has been adopted by numerous programs as an important focus for renewed global competitiveness for the United States, but conceptions of what STEM entails often vary among stakeholders. This paper examines the conceptions of STEM held by faculty members from a public Research I institution in the middle of a regional “STEM movement.” Faculty members responded to two open-ended questions: (1) What is STEM? and (2) How does STEM influence and/or impact your life? Although 72% of these faculty members possessed a relevant conception of STEM, the results suggest that they do not share a common conceptualization of STEM. Their conception is most likely based on their academic discipline or how STEM impacts their daily lives. STEM faculty members were likely to have a neutral or positive conception where non-STEM faculty members often had negative feelings about STEM.