Science panel seeks ways to fan student innovation

October 16, 2009

By Flinn Foundation

Science Panel Seeks Ways to Fan Student Innovation

Most schools have their share of math and science students who ace standardized tests, thrive during classroom discussions, and excel on independent research projects—who, in short, conquer every academic task thrown their way.

But how can schools produce more mathematics and science students with a distinct and harder-to-define skill: the ability to innovate and become future innovators in American business, science, medicine, and other areas?

That question is at the heart of work being conducted by a committee of the National Science Board, which is holding a series of discussions on the topic here this week. The goal of the board, which sets policy for the National Science Foundation, is to produce a series of policy recommendations by next year on how schools can produce more elite innovators in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—known as the “STEM” fields for short.

Members of the expert committee said their final report will likely have to address several questions. What are the characteristics of an innovator—ability, interest, determination, curiosity, or all of those traits? What separates innovative ability from other, related skills, such as creativity? And can math and science classroom instruction and assessment in the United States realistically be revamped to nurture innovation among students?

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