The uncertainty of STEM education

Girls in STEM PLC @ASMS– A series of questions for STEM education.

What’s the next shift in STEM pedagogy? What works in schools?

In a world of constant stimulation, what is the strength of classrooms? How do we maintain student engagement in class and make them want to come to school?

How can we best flip learning or content, and keep the exciting stuff for the classroom e.g. simulations, puzzles, problem solving, experiments?

How do we harness automation in content delivery? How do we restructure our role as teachers and educators to develop skills, offer opportunities, and create connections for students?

How do we link teachers with experts for projects e.g. with statisticians or scientists? How do we give benefit to all involved, and meet the limitations of schools and their schedules?

The future of STEM

Girls in STEM PLC @ ASMS– The Future of STEM and how it impacts education

Imagine you’re a 14 year old. How do you know what you want to be when you grow up? Your teacher, doing some course counseling, asks “What do you want to do?”. It’s not a helpful question, especially given the warnings that students we teach now may grow up to have a job that doesn’t exist yet. Speakers from the Flinder’s University New Venture Institute suggest asking “What are you passionate about?”.


The world is changing rapidly. The job market is changing rapidly. We are in the Fourth Industrial Age. If you watch the video from the World Economic Forum above, you might notice that all the revolutions are happening in the STEM space. In fact, most of the innovation is happening at the edges – where disciplines connect and people have careers that cross boundaries. Where science and technology meet to create AI-enhancing medical diagnostics where business and technology meet to create secure blockchain-based supply chains from producer to consumer, or where technology and biology converge to produce cyborg embedded bio-tech.

The future is a rapidly changing one. The instability and uncertainty of the future is anxiety-inducing! Yet, there are great opportunities and it’s claimed that today’s generation are the most powerful students who can quickly transform society for good. That’s a scary thought given what my year 9 class looks like most days, but it’s true that students have access to so much empowering technology. With a few clicks, anyone can create a professional looking design or have a complete website built. Anyone can start a social media movement for good that goes viral overnight, or start online bullying that can bring someone down overnight. The power is immense.

Going back to the idea of a changing job market: NVI says personal branding for people is a skill set that students need to develop. What they know isn’t necessarily going to get them a job – it’s the skills they can demonstrate and bring to a position. It’s likely to become a ‘gig economy’ in some sectors – you sign on for a project, then move on. It will be important to have an ability to blend and work across disciplines.

So, the explicit teaching of transferable skills, and not just content knowledge, is going to be vital for our students. Embedding skills of agile design thinking, entrepreneurship, creativity and critical thinking, collaboration and communication across all subjects is needed. Every other industry is being impacted by technology, and so will education. Technology is already being harnessed for automating content delivery in classrooms – the differentiator for humans is in skill development.

The question remains: as educators, what is the most important thing we must do now?

3 ways for teachers to increase the number of girls in high level maths

A sketchnote for the article “I would rather die: reasons given by 16 year olds for not continuing their study of mathematics”

The article highlights the key role that a teacher can play in the classroom. Teachers have more influence over student decisions to continue in a subject than they think! It is empowering to note that teachers can take action to address the 3 main issues that surround the non-participation in mathematics. Go teachers!

Why do girls pick science?

A sketchnote for the article “I want to be a scientist/a teacher: students’ perceptions of career decision-making in gender-typed non-traditional areas of work”

The article highlights the importance of family support, and positive family role models, in having girls choose to study and continue with science.

The big question remaining is how can we influence parental perceptions of science and technology, to encourage more women to study and participate in these traditionally male-dominated fields?

The barriers to girls doing physics

A sketchnote for the article “Girls and Physics: Continuing barriers on ‘belonging'”

The article raises some interesting points – Physics textbooks and contexts of questions are masculine, which can decrease girls’ sense of ‘belonging’, even within a single sex class or school.

There are many reasons why girls don’t go into Physics – many of which can be actively addressed by teachers in their course and assessment design.

What is STEM?

A working definition for STEM in Education.

From STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths), to STEAM (incorporating arts) STEAMD (plus design) to STEMM (adding medicine) to SMART (science, maths and related disciplines) to just ‘the Sciences’ (as described in the 2017 Australian Government report as science, including medical science, earth science and mathematical sciences, and related disciplines such as engineering, technology). What do they all mean? Is one better than the other? How do you teach it? Why is it important?

“STEM is the teaching of subjects within the STEM umbrella, the integrated teaching between those subjects, and the skills such as collaboration, problem solving, critical thinking and creativity that are taught through those subjects.”

The important things to consider are that:

  1. Students need a solid understanding of basic science and mathematics so participation and excellence in these core subjects should be promoted.
  2. Students need opportunities to be exposed to interdisciplinary approaches in their learning. Connections between subjects should be made and the transfer of knowledge and skills across disciplines encouraged.
  3. Students need opportunities to learn and practice skills of communication, collaboration, project based work and enterprise in order to be successful workers in the future. School needs to provide these experiences, and the STEM lens provides an authentic way to do so.

There is no one way to “do STEM”. Aim for authentic integration of subjects in projects or with driving questions that are relevant to your local context.