A Perspective On Our Headlong Rush To STEM World
With my background as STEM advocate, teacher and even one time science researcher you might think I would be a powerful advocate for this massive new initiative and investment of funding that is STEMWORKS. $250 million over next three years – who knew we had that much money in education!
So here goes – basically the “works” part appears to be a building program – or in fact a refurbishment program – in secondary education we have already lived through some similar big facilities spends in the STEM arena – the Trade Training Centres being built , the Commonwealth investment in early twenty-first century to upgrade science labs – have they made a real difference to either student outcomes or the teaching and learning that goes on in these spaces -mmmmmmm?!?
Architects are already engaged and secondary principals now looking at how to best utilize this opportunity in the short turn around timelines they have been given. I would suggest to all those in the process they take a deep breath and as leaders (with or without a touch of rebel) they look at some of the current (well actually most of it now nearly twenty years old ) thinking on design and space – e-visit Learning Places and Spaces – for the thinking and work of Stephen Heppell, or look at the design for learning at Northern Beaches Christian School most easily accessed via the blog of Stephen Harris. Or take a moment to visit colleagues in SA both public and private (Immanuel College). If possible buy yourselves some time!
These new age spaces need to be much more than some low seating (bright colors) – some write on tables- a bit of open space and then a few 3 D printers if we are really going to be able to use the built environment to support the transformation of learning.
Next piece of the puzzle – or background information -I think would be pretty useful to know – is how many of your current exiting kids are going to STEM “career paths” – at MOC when we did the analysis over 60% of our students going to Uni went to STEM pathways- until we did the count we had no idea! Where are the kids going now – many got to STEM pathways.
I don’t think the pathways or even STEM are the key issue – it is student engagement with a curriculum that they see as increasingly irrelevant to their lives. Simplistically phones, iPads – all digital devices just turn on and do it – you don’t need to know how or why.
That bring me to the last point in this ramble we must be able to use the STEM professional development funding to support the transformation of learning from Reception through Year 12- through building teacher capacity to not only engage with the core curriculum but become immersed and expert in project based learning and deeper inquiry. It is only through the integration of maths, science technology with the Arts,Humanities and all other disciplines will students from a young age see their worth and relevance and they will have a better chance to continuously develop on those skills and interests as scientists, explorers, engineers and problem solvers they have all showed at kindergarten!
Otherwise lets just admit its like the BER funding and it helps the construction industry and schools get a nice or nicer building but nothing fundamentally changes inside the school and system!