From education to employment

Project based learning vs. flipped learning – which is best for closing the STEM skills gap?

Coorous Mohtadi, technical specialist at MathWorks

In January, a report into STEM skills by the National Audit Office found that the returns from work to address skills gap in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) are not good enough. One of the report’s initiatives in terms of spending was to provide higher education institutions with additional money to support their teaching of STEM subjects.

But how can we ensure this investment directly translates into the narrowing of the STEM skills gap? With campaigns for both project based learning and flipped learning being used in universities, which is most suitable for these technical subjects? And which will encourage more students into STEM careers in order for the UK to keep up with our European peers?

Project based learning – a student-centred teaching that involves a dynamic classroom approach in which it is believed that students acquire a deeper knowledge through active exploration of real-world challenges and problems.

Flipped learning – a type of blended learning that reverses the traditional learning environment by delivering instructional content, often online, outside of the classroom. It moves activities, including those that may have traditionally been considered homework, into the classroom.

Coorous Mohtadi, technical specialist at MathWorks, weighs up the cases for each, arguing that project based learning can improve both the quality and quantity of STEM students.

“Unlike other education techniques, this approach means students can see, hear, and touch what would otherwise be abstract – making their experience more engaging and interesting. It pushes students with the challenges in problem-solving and creativity that develop the skills future STEM employers desperately seek. An excellent example is the Formula Student competition in which student engineers acquire hands-on skills that are directly transferable to real-world automotive design.”

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