Klein Keynote Speaker at STEM Think Tank 2008

Stacy Klein, associate dean for outreach at Vanderbilt’s School of Engineering and associate professor of the practice of biomedical engineering, gave the keynote speech at the STEM Think Tank 2008. Eighty-five leaders in science, technology, engineering and mathematics education for girls participated in the conference, which took place Jan. 31- Feb.1, 2008, at Nashville’s Harpeth Hall School.

In her talk titled, “Transforming Girls’ STEM Education,” Klein noted that the number of science and engineering degrees awarded to U.S. citizens is decreasing at a time when job growth in these areas is predicted to increase.

“Performance trends of American students on comparative international assessments in math and science show a course of decline from near the top in elementary school to near the bottom by the end of high school,” she said.

Although more women than men are earning doctorates in traditional female fields such as education and the humanities, they lag significantly at the doctoral level in the sciences, computer science, engineering and mathematics.

“We need to recruit, educate and retain excellent K–12 teachers who fundamentally understand biology, chemistry, physics, engineering and mathematics,” Klein said, quoting the national report Rising Above the Gathering Storm. “The critical lack of technically trained people in the United States can be traced directly to poor K–12 mathematics and science instruction.”

According to Klein, research shows that girls learn best when the curriculum clearly links mathematics, science, and technology to the real world and offers collaborative coursework utilizing girls’ verbal skills.

She noted that Vanderbilt offers two effective National Science Foundation-funded programs for secondary school science teachers: Vanderbilt Instruction in Biomedical Engineering for Secondary Science (VIBES) and the Research Experiences for Teachers (RET).