Theorising innovation in STEM education centres: Insights from the Victorian Tech Schools Evaluation

Year: 2021

Author: Cripps Clark, John

Type of paper: Individual Paper

The Victorian Government, through the Department of Education and Training (DET) has established ten Tech Schools across Victoria, with provision of funding for a 20-year life cycle (2017 – 2037). Tech Schools are hosted by a TAFE or university campus and serving the secondary schools in a local government area and linking them to local industry and community. The purpose-built facilities house provide access to advanced technology, industry programs and exposure to career pathways and deploy design thinking pedagogies collaboratively develop and deliver programs to their partner schools with an aim to equip students with the skills and dispositions to think creatively, work together to solve problems, and prepare them for the future by delivering the advanced education and STEM skills they need to compete in the future job market. They link secondary schools to industry to deliver innovative learning programs that challenge students to solve problems in a real-world context. We present results from the early stages of an evaluation of the Tech Schools Initiative and highlight the educational innovations that are emerging in the early stages of this research. To understand the  seven Categories of Innovation show how innovation is manifested, and for each, certain products of innovation can be expected that are subject to critical success factors. Three concepts of Partnerships, Place and space, and Practice/Pedagogy recur across the Categories and provide a language for theorising innovation in the context of STEM learning centres. This theorisation of innovation extends our understanding of the nature of innovation at STEM learning centres; innovative approaches to STEM education; the conditions needed for innovation to arise; and what might be transferable to other similar initiatives. The unique framework consisting of the categories of innovation and cross-cutting concepts can be used for future evaluation and applied in other contexts.