Readout: Federal Interagency Working Group on Convergence Webinar
On January 25, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and its National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) Committee on STEM Education (CoSTEM) Federal Interagency Working Group on Convergence (IWGC) welcomed leaders across government and academia to discuss new ways to engage students converging disciplines – one of the four key pathways to achieve the vision and goals of the legislatively mandated 2018 Federal Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education Strategic Plan.
The webinar, entitled Why Convergence Education? Preparing for the Future of STEM, aimed to:
- Showcase the content and resources highlighted in the recently released report, Convergence Education: A Guide to Transdisciplinary STEM Learning and Teaching, developed by the IWGC;
- Explore the transition of convergence education from theory to practice, with presentations from experts in research and practice; and
- Feature examples of best (promising, emerging, and evidence-based) practices in convergence education and transdisciplinary learning.
OSTP’s Dr. Nafeesa Owens, Assistant Director for STEM Education and Workforce and Federal Interagency Working Group (IWGC) co-chair, alongside Dr. Jacqueline Ward, Assistant Director for Community Connected Health, welcomed guests and provided opening remarks. IWGC co-chairs, Dr. Jorge Valdes, Education Program Advisor at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and Mr. Louie Lopez, STEM Director at the Department of Defense (DOD), provided an overview of the recently released IWGC report, and shared as an example how convergence is essential to the work and missions of USPTO and DOD. The event then continued with three panels on different aspects of convergence education.
The first panel, moderated by Mr. Louie Lopez, highlighted current research regarding the importance of convergence education and transdisciplinary learning. For example, panelists discussed how leveraging convergence education can improve learning and content accessibility for students, particularly students underserved and underrepresented in STEM, because it allows them to reference new content in relation to real-world complex phenomena from their own lives and experiences, with content reinforced and re-framed across disciplines.
The second panel, moderated by Dr. Jorge Valdez, provided examples from the field of convergence education implementation. While some presenters have current affiliations with federal agencies, their presentations and perspectives focused on efforts previously implemented in the classroom. Panelists provided insights and examples of how convergence education can be incorporated into classrooms across the K-12 continuum, as well as into educator professional development.
The third panel, moderated by Dr. Nafeesa Owens, provided examples of promising, emerging, and evidence-based practices in convergence education from select federal agencies. Panelists in this session elevated opportunities for funding, resources for development, and opportunities for students and educators to directly engage in convergence education. This session emphasized that federal agencies are invested in providing opportunities for convergence education, and that federal agencies rely on a workforce prepared to tackle complex socio-scientific challenges now and in the future.
In total, more than 100 attendees participated in the event, including representatives from schools and universities across the nation, including land-grant institutions and Historically Black Colleges and Universities, community-based organizations devoted to K-12 learning, and federal agencies from across the national STEM ecosystem. A consistent theme across all discussions was that convergence education is most effective when driven by specific and compelling problems and incorporates significant integration across disciplines.
This webinar provided a comprehensive summary of the research, examples of implementation, and resources and best practices across federal agencies in convergence education. The webinar recording is available to view at: https://youtube/60KA8HIKWvw.