Connecting teachers, students and pre-service teachers to improve STEM pathways in schools

Year: 2017

Author: Lang, Catherine, Powell, Greg, Moore, Nathan, Ibrahim, Fazeela

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In Australia there is a government led strategy to improve the access and delivery of Science Technology Engineering and Maths (STEM) in schools. The Chief Scientist (2013) produced a report outlining how this was in the national interest (Office of the Chief Scientist, 2013) for the countrys' future economic growth. The federal body that determines school curriculum the Australian Curriculum, Reporting and Assessment Authority (ACARA) listened to the Chief Scientist, and a new curriculum was released in 2016 requiring all teachers, regardless of discipline specialisation, from Foundation year to Year 10, to use digital technologies in their teaching (ACARA 2015). While this is a valued and future thinking strategy the flow on effect is that there is a greater impetus for all teachers, not just those that teach Digital Technology subjects, to be not only competent using digital technologies but to also be creative and confident to explore and experiment while doing so.
In this project we present an example of how collaboration between teacher educators, preservice teachers and in-service teachers resulted in curriculum initiatives and growth of student and teacher interest, creativity and confidence in STEM activities in secondary schools. Using a social constructivist approach of shared learning journeys and the pedagogy of computing outreach (author ref) the benefit of close relationships between universities and schools is demonstrated. The approach provides a framework for collaborative learning for school students, teachers and preservice teachers to work side by side to become learners in their own classroom. The university academics were facilitators in the process, managed the external grant application and established professional partnerships for teaching. Specifically the project supported a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Club, with related activities and teacher professional development workshops at a metropolitan and regional school, in collaboration with a grant from the Google CS4HS program.
In the presentation we will demonstrate that the outcomes of the project were that Maker Education and STEM received a higher profile in the school. Students showed a higher level of interest and engagement and participating students began to bring a friend to join in. The Preservice teachers were able to develop programs and build their understanding of ways and options for delivering student centred STEM curriculum. We posit that this model of collaboration between the university and schools is replicable and has a positive impact on preparing preservice teachers to be creative and confident in digital technology education.