How STEM Education Differs from Science Education Instruction

Marissa Alonzo | Published  April 20, 2018



If you are a teacher in the 21st Century, then you know that the education landscape has changed quite significantly in the last two decades. The differences between traditional science education as we once knew it and STEM education has been the subject of much debate, but one thing that we cannot deny is that the buzz around STEM continues to be a leading topic in education circles and politics. 

What is the difference between science education and STEM education, though, and what do first-year teachers need to know coming into a science classroom?

STEM Education 

STEM education focuses on the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and math and aims to provide a thoughtful approach to teaching students how to critically think and problem solve. In the article 'Why STEM? Success Starts with Critical Thinking, Problem-solving Skills,' the author states "educating students in STEM subjects (if taught correctly) prepares students for life, regardless of the profession they choose to follow." This has proven to be the reasoning behind many schools and districts' thought-process as they attempt to implement a STEM education approach in the classroom, while aiming to ensure students gain an understanding of each necessary concept meeting necessary criteria given within their state's standards or the NGSS. 

How do science teachers incorporate STEM into their instruction?

Many STEM educators follow the 5E instructional model created by Roger W. Bybee, which focuses on engaging, exploring, explaining, and elaborating a concept. The model gives educators a clear pathway to instruction by following the 5 E's and bringing student inquiry into full student comprehension. But, with so many elements of lesson planning in mind, many educators find themselves floundering in development, real-world application, and alignment. According to Jamie LaGesse, an educator in Texas, one thing that should be kept in mind when planning is "preventing the creation of a gap between the "real" world and the "school" world."

Another effective way to implement STEM education instruction fully that has proven results is to secure a program, such as STEMscopes, that has all lessons, or 'scopes' in this instance, that you need to prepare your classroom instruction. Not only are the scopes engaging, fun, attractive, and effective, STEMscopes also builds programs to meet and fully align to the NGSS and individual state standards. In addition, National Institute for STEM Education, provides certification in STEM teaching to both individuals and campuses ensuring teachers have the right tools to carry out instruction. 

Science Education

So, what is science education if STEM education focuses on interdisciplinary instruction? In short, science education teaching focuses on one discipline per course. Think of the days of lined desks and individual classes like Biology, Chemistry, and Mathematics where the focus was walking away with just the particular tools needed for that specific discipline.  Another determining factor between the two is that science education teaching is often taught in a vacuum, meaning that there is no real-world application. The use of STEM allows application because the theory science teaches is communicated through the language of math, the tools of technology, and solutions of engineering. 


No matter what type of classroom you have, whether you are a fully STEM-centric school district or classroom, or you teach to a traditional science classroom, ensuring students have the best possible ways to comprehend and learn pertinent skills will always be the first thing to plan for in your instruction. 



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