STEAM, Technologies and Contemporary Learning Environments: Connecting Disciplines and People in Creative Work

A convergence of pressures to change currently affects teaching and learning settings. Significant questions are raised nationally and internationally regarding the role of schools in learning, innovative and technology-supported pedagogies, interdisciplinary and higher-order thinking skills, and the nature of learning spaces. The complexity of combined change pressures on educational systems becomes conspicuous when considering implementation of STEAM pedagogies and problem-based learning, as these require change across a range of areas to be effective. Because the consequences of these changes are not yet well understood, it is difficult for teachers and school leadership to make decisions about new pedagogies and learning, and to evaluate those decisions.

This symposium presents a project that addresses the complexity of such change in schools. The project comprises university researchers collaborating with a network of eight schools (K-12) in the ACT all undertaking change related to STEAM, digital technologies, and/or contemporary learning environments. The aim of the project is to build schools' capacity for change, and provide researchers with insights into the impact of STEAM, technologies, and contemporary learning environments on teaching and learning. The adoption of the new Technologies Curriculum provides an opportunity for schools to broaden the scope of STEM to support connections to other subjects, including the Arts (STEAM Education). Further, there is an investment in new learning spaces, which influence how we act in ways we may not notice. In addition to change within discipline areas, there are opportunities for schools to support connections between disciplines, between year levels, and across schools. This represents both a significant change and a rare research opportunity at the individual, class, school, and network levels.

The first presentation offers an overview of the research model. The three remaining presentations provide examples of change projects within three of the schools in the network. Principals and teachers from each school present the context and practice of the change project, and researchers describe the theoretical approach to collecting and analysing data. The first describes an innovative approach to in-school professional development for implementation of the new Technologies Curriculum in a primary school. The second describes the design of the new Interdisciplinary Special Project in a senior school. The third describes the coordination of disparate contemporary learning environments within a high school setting, and the development of tools for scaffolding student-led STEAM projects in out-of-school interest groups. In each we outline and interpret the connections between practice and theory.