Just because STEM is splashed across the curriculum, filtered forcefully though social media feeds and steals the news headlines doesn’t mean that educators have a firm grasp on what the buzzword actually entails.
So to demystify and deepen teachers’ understanding of what STEM means – and how best to harness it in their own school context – Monash University have devised a course worth noting.
The Graduate Certificate of STEM Education, run online via Adobe Connect, is meeting a real need in the sector, according
to senior lecturer Dr Kathy Smith.
“…for schools themselves, I think this is an uncertain area; you know, it’s a big priority but what does it actually look like?” Smith says.
“And how do we meaningfully link these areas in ways that actually go beyond just content knowledge, but ... actually really deepen and enhance learning? What sorts of partnerships, what sorts of resources do schools need?”
While an introductory unit compels all students to be “submerged in general information” about STEM, lecturers encourage participants to draw their own insights from the theory.
“So [we’re] looking at policy documents, looking at international statements around STEM education, seeing where other countries are at, and we wanted that unit to come back to the actual student who then had an opportunity to say ‘well this is the sense that I’m making from STEM education,’” Smith says.
“Because our belief was really that there is no right or wrong answer to this, you have to construct some thinking that is meaningful and contextually relevant to your particular situation and your role.”
The certificate involves more than just the linking of ideas and a run-down on the latest edtech gadgetry; Smith reports that students can expect to tuck into some deep discussion about the critical and creative thinking that STEM ignites.
“We wanted to provide our students with an opportunity to think about how you could apply digital technology to really authentic learning situations, [because] you don’t just do coding per se.
“Coding is a way of making sense of information and organising information and it’s about communication, so we wanted [the course] not just to look at the tools but the thinking that is around that,” she reflects.
Attracting educators from all pockets of the country, Smith says she’s getting “good vibes” – word of mouth is spreading and enrolments are lifting each year.