Instructional Cards Provide Roadmap to 43 Cross-Disciplinary Skills

Madeline Patton

Instructional cards on 43 crosscutting knowledge and skills—that experts advising the Preparing Technicians for the Future of Work project consider essential for STEM technicians to learn in the next decade—are almost ready for prime time.

With guidance from industry representatives and community college educators, project leaders identified these three broad skill areas as cross-disciplinary and essential for STEM technicians:

      • Data Knowledge and Analysis
      • Advanced Digital Literacy
      • Business Knowledge and Processes

The 43 subtopics were identified in 2019 during a Special Interest Group meeting, which the project convened with industry representatives and leaders of the Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program funded by the National Science Foundation. Discussions there focused on what technicians need to know in the next six months to 10 years.

From the hundreds of topics mentioned in the discussions, the assembled group reached consensus on 43 priorities for STEM technical educators to teach and students to understand. These include the internet of things, data visualization, logistical chains, machine learning, and continuous process improvement.

The project then employed subject-matter experts to develop the content for the 8½-by 11-inch, double-sided cards for students and educators.

“The instructional cards cover each of the subtopics within our big three ‘buckets’ of crosscutting skills needed by all STEM technicians as technologies continue advancing. The purpose of the activities is to provide an introduction to the topic, particularly to technical instructors and students who are not in a related discipline,” said Ann-Claire Anderson, Principal Investigator of the project and Vice President, Special Projects, at the Center for Occupational Research and Development (CORD).

Each student card contains a definition of the subtopic; vocabulary words; an explanation of how technicians use the technology, knowledge, or ability now and will likely use it in the future; a workplace example of its use; the skills that technicians who utilize it need to know; information about education sources; trends for current and future career opportunities; and resource links to learn more about the subtopic.

Each educator card contains a definition of the subtopic; workplace scenarios; a list of technician competencies; a list of cross-disciplinary skills necessary for using the technology or applying the knowledge or ability; an instructional activity; links to a case study and other resources that will help educators add content about the subtopic to their curricula.

“We’re focusing on knowledge and skills that will form the new foundational skills needed by all STEM technicians to navigate new technologies, some of which we haven’t even dreamed of yet,” Anderson said.

Technical educators are now reviewing the cards. We’re asking for feedback, and then we will adjust our content and process and probably add material to our website,” Anderson explained.

Two-year college educators interested in collaborating with Preparing Technicians for the Future of Work, which is a project of the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program, should contact Anderson at anderson@cord.org.

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