Re-Imaging The ‘E’ In Stem Education

Year: 2015

Author: Blackley, Susanne, Sheffield, Rachel

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Since its inception in the 1990s the STEM acronym has traditionally stood for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. In Australia, the national curriculum has prompted some rethinking about the teaching of mathematics and science in light of the general capabilities that support the use of technology in these subject areas; however, engineering is not incorporated in the most recent iteration of the Australian Curriculum, nor does it hold a place in initial teacher education programs. This presentation proposes that the E in STEM could actually be more useful and feasible if it was re-imaged in forms that would result in more successful opportunities for integrated science, mathematics, and technology education in the school setting. For consideration are three E scenarios: E as in “enquiry”, E as in “ethics”, and E as in “environment” and how each could be implemented in a holistic way in the classroom. The notion of “enquiry”, as a practice or process is fostered in a number of subject areas including a separate strand in the science curriculum; the “environment” could be considered under the cross-curricular priority of sustainability (one of three cross-curricular priorities that intertwine with the entire Australian Curriculum); and “ethics” could be linked to ethical understanding (one of the seven general capabilities that overarch the subject areas of the Australian Curriculum). Each E scenario is accompanied by suggestions for enactment, and E for enquiry is supported by a reflection on and data gathered from implementation in secondary classrooms in Western Australia. The example demonstrates authentic integration of science and technology using on-line open scaffolded enquiry: students work in a predominately on-line space employing technology tools and mathematical skills as required to investigate and report on a science-based problem. Students define, plan and execute the enquiry that is scaffolded to help students work through the stages of the enquiry supported by their teacher and the materials provided.