Introducing #theSTEMproblem - Our research project

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Exploring problem-based learning in school-based STEM education

Introducing #theSTEMproblem - Our research project

A new ARC Linkage project aimed at supporting teachers to use STEM to unlock the power of problem-solving approaches for learning is underway.

The project is funded by an Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage grant and is a collaborative endeavour involving staff from Monash University, the University of Queensland, staff and teachers from schools located in the Melbourne Archdiocese Catholic Schools (MACS) and Brisbane Catholic Education (BCE) dioceses.

The innovative project aims to:

  1. Empower and inspire teachers to create authentic, challenging and relevant STEM educational opportunities for learners.
  2. Equip learners to be active and informed citizens who can respond meaningfully to challenges.
  3. Create a shared understanding, and unlock the full potential of, problem-solving approaches for learning

By positioning teachers as active and key decision makers, the project intends to build teacher knowledge, capacity and confidence to design and implement authentic and relevant STEM education.

“Teachers will work as co- researchers collaborating with academic researchers over 3 years to explore problem-based learning (PBL) in STEM education. Together these groups will engage in 5 professional learning days designed to assist teachers to build their expertise. Teachers will be supported to design and implement action plans within their schools to further understand how PBL can be effectively translated into school based settings to enhance STEM learning," explains Dr Kathy Smith, project lead.

The project will explore and discover optimal classroom environments that develop learners’ capabilities to seek and respond to challenges, think critically and creatively, and work collaboratively - all central to future personal and professional success, and effective citizenship in the modern world. The collective wisdom developed over the course of the project will be used to build a pedagogical framework for problem-based learning approaches in STEM education.

I am sure the middle-school students participating in the research will have great fun exploring STEM subjects through problem-based learning,” says Dr Doug Ashleigh, Deputy Executive Director at BCE.

By explicitly focusing on further enhancing the quality of STEM learning and teaching across our system, this project aligns with our strategic intent to support the full flourishing of all learners”, shares Dr Paul Sharkey, MACS Acting Executive Director.

The first of five Professional Learning days have been conducted with teachers from 12 MACS schools, and with teachers from 7 BCE schools.

Teachers found the professional learning experience valuable, as highlighted by a participant:

“This has been such a wonderful opportunity to reflect on our current practice and how to map out a way forward.”

See more information on the participating MACS schools and BCE schools.