US Teens Confident In Their Inventiveness; Hands-on, Project-based Learning Needed

American teens are confident they can invent solutions to some of the world’s pressing challenges, such as protecting and restoring the natural environment, but more than half feel unprepared for careers in technology and engineering, the Lemelson-MIT Invention Index has found this year. The Lemelson-MIT Invention Index, which gauges Americans’ attitudes toward invention and innovation, also found there is an important need for more project-based learning in high schools.

Survey graphic

This is from the press release from the Lemelson-MIT Program, which celebrates inventors and inventions. The program also supports young people to explore their creativity through invention.

We often see American teens portrayed as self-absorbed slackers determined to skate through school by learning the minimum possible. Most of us who work with kids know this isn’t true, and can cite endless stories of kids who are committed citizens, scholars, and activists. It’s nice to have some research to back that up. It’s especially heartening to hear that students want to have opportunities to learn the tools and skills they know they need to change the world.

The Lemelson-MIT Invention Index found that 59% of American teens believe their high school is NOT preparing them adequately for a career in technology and engineering. Now, this is not just kids who are already interested in an engineering career, this is out of all the survey respondents.

The students also connected their ability to invent to “learning by doing” and project-based learning. It’s not a difficult connection to make, but seems to be a difficult teaching strategy to implement for many schools. It’s one of those, “we know what to do, why aren’t we doing it?” kinds of questions.

But the voices of students are tellling us that project-based learning isn’t just a pedagogical luxury, something to try out only in the most comfortable circumstances. It’s an imperative for the future of the world.

One Reply to “US Teens Confident In Their Inventiveness; Hands-on, Project-based Learning Needed”

  1. I agree that project-based and problem / issue driven pedagogies should be driving our curriculum. Unfortunately, the “standards” drive, coupled with punative testing requirements have reinforced fact-based instruction and pigeon-holing content. Our students need to be encouraged to synthesize information and be inventive…hopefully we can get there soon!

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