About our project

Number of items in the menu (type_1 child assets): Hide menu on homepage: Project homepage assetID (from level 1 landing page): Project homepage assetID (from level 2 page): 2686976 Project homepage assetID (from level 3 page): This is: Level 2 page
Exploring problem-based learning in school-based STEM education

About our project

Our project will generate research-informed principles of practice for a Problem-Based Learning (PBL) model of school-based science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. It will be co-created with the expertise of teachers.

The principles of practice will aim to support and inspire educators to create authentic and challenging STEM experiences in their classrooms, and to foster learners who are active and informed citizens. Together, we can unlock the potential of problem-based approaches in our schools.

What is Problem Based Learning (PBL)?

Problem based learning is a pedagogical approach which actively positions students as central to the learning process. Students engage with complex, non-routine problems derived from real-world contexts. Students often work in small groups, as self-directed, interdependent and independent learners.

As a learner-focused approach, PBL aims to foster students’ intrinsic interest and motivation, promote deep understanding and a sense of ownership of learning.

Our rationale and approach

PBL has been used widely in tertiary education areas, such as engineering and medicine, to effectively support student learning. However, limited research exists about how to effectively use PBL in school based STEM education.

To address this issue, in this project, teachers will be actively positioned as key decision makers who understand their context and are able to critically examine their practice. The project aims to build teacher knowledge, capacity and confidence to design and implement authentic and relevant STEM education. Working closely with teachers, exemplars of practice about PBL will be developed.

These exemplars will support the development of a sustainable pedagogical framework to support school-based STEM education for all.

Key goals

Our project aims to achieve the following three key goals.

Goal 1: Empower and inspire teachers to create authentic, challenging and relevant STEM educational opportunities for learners.

Teachers have a powerful influence on student learning, yet they work within highly complex and busy contexts which can constrain their ability to create authentic, challenging and relevant educational experiences.

#theSTEMproblem project empowers and inspires teachers to build their professional expertise and agency within the learning environment and supports teachers to grow their confidence in recognising and creating exciting learning opportunities for their students.

#theSTEMproblem project values teachers to:

  • Understand their context
  • Be active decision makers in that context
  • Co-construct meaningful learning opportunities with their students

Teachers in #theSTEMproblem will work together to develop their expertise as they co-construct a shared understanding of teaching and learning approaches to support student learning.

Goal 2: Equip learners to be active and informed citizens who can respond meaningfully to challenges.

#theSTEMproblem project is designed to explore and discover optimal learning environments that develop learners’ capabilities and dispositions to:

  • seek and respond to challenges
  • tolerate ambiguity
  • make progress within uncertainty
  • think critically and creatively
  • work collaboratively

These capabilities and dispositions are central to autonomous learning, personal growth and effective citizenship.

Goal 3: Create a shared understanding, and unlock the full potential of, problem-solving approaches for learning.

Unlocking the full potential of problem solving approaches to learning requires:

  • utilizing problems with many possible solutions,
  • challenging learners to engage and explore in areas of meaning to them,
  • pushing the boundaries of learners’ experience and knowledge, and
  • requiring them to work with others to seek such possible solutions.

In order to engage in these kinds of experiences, it is important that learners and their teachers develop a shared understanding of the nature of problems, how they will work together and their expectations of engaging in these processes.

#theSTEMproblem project engages all participants in rich learning experiences and develops capabilities in teachers to create these exciting learning opportunities with their students.

Our timelines

Our project consists of three phases.

Phase 1

Developing an initial framework for PBL in educational practice

Phase 1 will take place in the 1st year of the project, and involves:

  • Extensive literature review of PBL educational practices.
  • Focus groups with national and international tertiary PBL experts from Science and Engineering disciplines to elicit key principles, issues and values associated with PBL practice.
  • Focus groups with school teachers to validate the findings from the tertiary PBL focus groups.
Phase 2

Implementing and refining a PBL framework in line with school-based STEM education

Phase 2 will take place in the 2nd year of the project, and involves:

  • Professional Learning (PL) workshops with teachers in Brisbane and Melbourne to share their current PBL practices and develop action plans to investigate aspects of their PBL practice.
  • Supporting teachers via follow up school visits.
Phase 3

Consolidating a PBL framework for STEM Education

Phase 3 will take place in the 3rd year of the project, and includes:

  • Additional PL teacher workshops in Brisbane and Melbourne to continue sharing insights about PBL practices.
  • Supporting teachers via follow up school visits.
  • Construction and sharing of exemplars of practice.
  • Development of a Pedagogical Framework for PBL in STEM education.