The STEM Garden: Replacing the leaky pipeline [metaphor]

RGarden not pipelineebecca Varney, PhD candidate, and Kaleb Heinrich, assistant professor of biology education, have published an article in The Teaching Professor – a journal intended to help college faculty improve their teaching, share best practices, and stay current on the latest pedagogical research.

The classic “leaky pipeline” has been justifiably criticized, but now more than ever before this metaphor is failing our students. We cannot solve our problems by “plugging holes”, and STEM was never a pipeline to begin with- there are no fixed entry and exit, no optimal flow rate, and students who struggle should not be doomed to leak away and be lost.

Blossoming from a discussion in BSC 695 – Pedagogy in the Biological Sciences, Rebecca and Kaleb propose a new metaphor for the STEM classroom: a garden in which each student is a plant, and the instructor’s job is to grow them all in view of their different growth requirements. This metaphor is useful for instructors to talk to administrators about class sizes and student needs, but more importantly as a way to encourage students to self-identify their differing learning conditions.

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