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STEM EDUCATION IN QUEENSLAND STATE SCHOOLS


2015-08-22 02:36
by Betty Baram

The Queensland Government is committed to strengthen the state’s knowledge-based economy through the creation of new products, services, jobs and industries, and to improve the teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Education is the key to preparing young people to succeed in a global economy and this success is underpinned by STEM capabilities. The Department of Education and Training (DET) recognises the important role of school education in meeting Queensland’s need for specialist STEM practitioners ? to address the future workforce needs of industry, to strengthen the knowledge-based economy and to support continuing prosperity. To address the Government’s STEM commitments, DET is reviewing existing practices in the teaching of STEM subjects, including a survey of all state schools and an extensive literature review capturing world-wide best practice in STEM education. DET has formed a dedicated STEM team with a focus on ensuring every student is succeeding in STEM. The work of the team will build on a continuing collaboration with the Office of the Queensland Chief Scientist and other key stakeholders in STEM. DET aims to: • build teacher capability in STEM subjects • lift student achievement in STEM subjects • increase student participation in STEM in Years 11- 12 and beyond. To support each school’s decision-making about the best strategies to improve STEM in their school, DET will: • identify and showcase successful teaching practices and school approaches to improving STEM learning • promote and support the broad range of opportunities to optimise student success available through partnerships with STEM practitioners in industry, government and higher education. The DET STEM activities are underpinned by Every student succeeding—the State School Strategy for 2014 to 2018. It promotes a model of collaborative empowerment to scale up improved performance across the system. In the Every student succeeding model, school communities are seen as being best placed to make decisions about the most effective ways to meet STEM challenges in their context and to improve student achievement and participation in STEM subjects. Schools are supported to drive their own STEM improvement agenda tailored to the local context and designed so that student achievement continues to be enhanced over time and innovative practices are ongoing. In this way, sustainability is a key consideration in schools’ decision-making process. To maximise the outcomes for students, the approaches selected need to be evidence-based, use highyield teaching strategies, and meet diverse needs in a targeted way. Schools leaders and teachers are encouraged to work together within and across school communities and with external partners. Principals are recognised as the key drivers of change in schools and are encouraged to lead a wholeschool approach to STEM and promote the value of STEM education to their school community. 2 The recently awarded STEM in Action grants support schools to: • implement their own research-based innovations focussed on improving STEM teaching and learning • collaborate with other schools and community partners and share effective practice. Systematic curriculum delivery is a proven part of improving student achievement and it is important that STEM education maintains the integrity of individual learning areas as described in the Australian Curriculum as well as supporting interdisciplinary approaches to real-world contexts. DET supports school implementation of the Australian Curriculum with comprehensive resources for curriculum planning and delivery. The relevant Australian Curriculum learning areas are Science, Mathematics and Technologies. Digital technologies (including computer programming) and Design and technologies are subjects within the Technologies learning area. DET will continue to improve access to targeted professional development in STEM through a number of initiatives. One example is the How to teach mathematics and How to teach science professional learning online coaching modules that provides Queensland teachers and pre-service teachers with research-validated information and advice to build knowledge, skills and understanding of how to teach Mathematics and Science from Prep to Year 10. A key activity of the STEM work is in establishing and strengthening partnerships. Partners have a role in increasing teacher confidence and competence to teach the STEM subjects and ensuring rigorous and effective approaches used to improve student engagement and achievement. Through the STEM cross-sectoral reference group and ongoing collaboration, DET is strengthening partnerships between the Office of the Queensland Chief Scientist and the wider STEM community to optimise outcomes for students. The current range of partners and collaborators includes: • SPARQ-ed and Wonder of Science collaborations with the University of Queensland Diamantina Institute that bring together quality researchers with science students and their teachers • Scientists in Schools program designed to increase the number of students studying science subjects at university • National Science Week • CSIRO centres and professional development for pre-service teachers • CSIRO’s Lighting pathways for Indigenous students partnership with the BHP Billiton Foundation • The Queensland Museum • professional associations. DET will work to provide clear and coordinated information to schools and to ensure the activity and services of partners aligns with DET’s goals of building teacher expertise; inspiring students to take STEM pathways and fostering improved student achievement.