Education Today Logo


Education Today Cover Browse Issue

Equity needed for STEM innovation in schools

News Image

While policy makers acknowledge the importance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) in schools, Dr Jane Hunter a researcher from the STEM Education Futures Research Centre at the University of Technology of Sydney (UTS) says not enough focus has been placed on teacher learning, resources and infrastructure.

Dr Hunter has been undertaking in-depth research into how this drive to expand STEM teaching and learning is playing out in classrooms. She examined how teachers in Sydney’s south-west build their capacity in the STEM disciplines as they strive to implement government policy to progress enthusiasm for STEM subjects.

“We know that STEM subjects are integral to the jobs of the future,” says Dr Hunter. “But we still have schools that have unreliable WiFi. We have schools where the equipment needed for STEM cannot be purchased and where, for example, students have to disassemble their technology projects at the end of each class, because the next class needs to reuse the same materials even though the work is incomplete.

“Rather than just being able to walk in and pick up where they left off, students spend time getting back to square one each lesson. It’s frustrating for teachers, and it’s frustrating for students,” says Dr Hunter. “It impacts on learning when students feel that they are wasting time.”

Over the course of two years, Dr Hunter’s research found that primary school teachers’ capacity and confidence in teaching STEM subjects increases when they use inquiry processes to create integrated term-long units of work.

“Teachers want the best outcomes for their students, but they are often constrained by too little time for professional learning, aging resources, and poor infrastructure,” says Dr Hunter.

Dr Hunter uses the High Possibility Classrooms (HPC) framework to assist primary school teachers realize the potential of STEM learning with a focus on more creative interdisciplinary processes.

“Learning all of the prescribed syllabus topics covered in STEM is formidable for teachers,” says Dr Hunter. “But giving them a framework supports them to develop their subject matter knowledge as well as their students’ soft skills – things like problem solving, critical thinking and collaboration.”

“Teachers used words like ‘empowered’ in interviews to describe how they felt after being exposed to the HPC framework,” says Dr Hunter. “They reported that they were planning on embedding the framework into the way they taught STEM subjects into the future. They could see better engagement of their students in STEM content they were learning and they felt more confident in their teaching.”

However, the scope of what some schools can do in STEM is often limited by few available resources and a lack of storage space.

Dr Hunter’s research, focused on work with 37 teachers from 8 primary schools involved 980 students – the studies are ongoing, and will form the basis of furthering understanding of the government’s innovation agenda and policies.

22 Feb 2019 | International
AI beating dyslexia News Image

A new piece of AI is helping to identify people with dyslexia so something can be done, the process uses statistics and and machine learning and takes only two minutes. Read More

21 Feb 2019 | Melbourne
Scholarship for exceptional Year 12 students who face financial barriers News Image

The University of Melbourne’s new Hansen Scholarship Program to help talented, determined students achieve their ambitions, regardless of social or economic barriers is the result of a generous $30 million gift. Read More

21 Feb 2019 | Melbourne
Class Clowns National Grand Final News Image

Class clowns finally get the chance to bring their underappreciated talent to the big stage with Melbourne International Comedy Festival having scouted Australia for the funniest secondary schoolers. Read More

21 Feb 2019 | National
Aussie schools need to teach more life skills News Image

Australians are largely positive about the level of education provided to their children but feel more attention should be given to developing students’ life skills in the classroom. Read More

19 Feb 2019 | India
Breakfast and lunch for better learning News Image

Breakfasts at school have had a great effect on learning outcomes and it looks like the same goes for lunch according to an investigation of 120 million Indian students. Read More