STEM in Education: What's politics got to do with it? Everything! Identifying the positives and challenges that can emanate from a Federal and State government driven initiative.

Year: 2017

Author: Macgegor, Denise, White, Bruce

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This presentation explores the outcomes of an industry-focussed STEM project which provides final year Science, Design and Technology and Mathematics pre-service teachers (PST's) with an industry experience that enables them to work directly with scientists, engineers and technologist. The overall aim of the project, titled Teaching for Tomorrow (TfT): Applying Authentic Contexts in STEM Teacher Education, is to provide an opportunity to prepare and support, Science, Design and Technology and Mathematics pre-service teachers to become effective STEM educators.
There are examples in the research literature of PST's undertaking and Industry experience, and they identified a number of positive outcomes. These included increased awareness of industry by the PST's (Purdy & Gibson, 2008), better connection between the industry and the school curriculum, development of soft skills e.g. communication and teamwork (Gibson, 2013) and an increased commitment to wanting to become a STEM teacher (Buxner, 2014). This project draws upon this research and seeks to add to the evidence base around Industry experience for PST's.
Since the first semester of 2016, fifty pre-service teachers have undertaken an industry experience. Working in cross-disciplinary teams, pre-service teachers had the opportunity to utilise problem-based strategies and industry collaborations as the impetus for planning trans-disciplinary STEM teaching units of work which they taught in their final school placement. Drawing on qualitative data collated from PST's questionnaires, focus group discussions and journal entries, this presentation reports on the impact of the industry experience on PST's understanding of STEM, their ability to design integrated units of work and to effectively teach STEM in their final school placement.
Initial findings suggest that engagement in the TfT project enabled PST's to develop an authentic understanding of the integrated nature of STEM from an industry perspective, they were able to develop an understanding of the knowledge and skills required to work in STEM related fields. Evidence suggests further that working in cross discipline teams enabled PST's to become more cognisant of the relationship or connectedness between each of the STEM curriculum disciplines. However, while the study revealed a number of positives it also identified challenges, many of which are reflective of those found in school sites, such as time constraints, timetabling and resistance to planning and teaching in collaboration.