STEM - Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in Education

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26 & 27 November 2010 - Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia

Conference Proceedings
editors-reviewers

All papers included in the proceedings went through a double blind review process. Some authors may have submitted revised versions following this process. Copyright of the paper remains with the author(s). Views of the authors may not necessarily be the views of their representative institutes or the STEM committee.
Paper and author information displayed is based on the information available at 31 January 2011. Author details can be found on each paper.


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Title: ACCOMMODATING INDIGENOUS STUDENTS' CULTURAL RESOURCES IN SCIENCE CLASSROOMS: AN APPROACH TO ENHANCE LEARNING AGENCY

Author: Philemon Chigeza

Abstract

This paper reports on a research study conducted with 44 Torres Strait Islander Year 9 students in a wholly Indigenous school in Far North Queensland. Using a socio-cultural lens, the study investigated how students employed their vernacular and formal science language to engage with the concepts of energy and force and documented the cultural resources students drew on to learn and (re)produce knowledge. The large majority of students struggled to understand and represent concepts of force and energy as taught in Standard Australian English (SAE), but when Torres Strait Creole descriptors used for everyday ways of knowing were employed in the classroom, the students were better able to demonstrate their understanding of physical science concepts. Classroom experiences conducted only in SAE do not adequately facilitate all Indigenous students’ negotiations from their everyday ways of knowing to demonstrating conceptual understanding of formal curriculum or science concepts. Teaching and learning frameworks that accommodate the multiple language and cultural dimensions of older and emerging Indigenous cultures was shown to enhance conceptual learning. However, the practice of standardised assessment conducted wholly in SAE remains a significant obstacle to measuring student achievement levels in science. [Back to Top]

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Title: ASSESSING STUDENTS IN SENIOR SCIENCE: AN ANALYSIS OF QUESTIONS IN CONTEXTUALISED CHEMISTRY EXAMS

Author: Dr. Alberto Bellocchi, Dr. Donna King, Prof. Stephen Ritchie

Abstract

This study explores the development of a coding system for analysing test questions in two context-based chemistry exams. We describe our unique analytical procedures before contrasting the data from both tests. Our preliminary findings indicate that when a new curriculum is developed such as a context-based curriculum, teachers are required to combine the previously separate domains of context and concept to develop contextualised assessment. We argue that constructing contextualised assessment items requires teachers to view concepts and context as interconnected rather than as separate entities that may polarise scientific endeavour. Implications for theory, practice, curriculum and assessment-development in context-based courses are proposed. [Back to Top]

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Title: BEING 'STEM-LIKE': ANALYSING SOME ‘STEM-LIKE’ PROGRAMS IN SECONDARY SCHOOLS ACROSS VICTORIA

Author: Dr Mike Brown

Abstract

The combination of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics as STEM is a recent initiative that is growing across all sectors of education and gaining international credence. While STEM programs have not been formally implemented into secondary schools in Victoria, Australia, it is possible to identify and talk about ‘STEM-like’ programs. Subsequently, this research uses descriptive vignettes to illustrate the range of interpretations being developed and implemented by teachers working across different levels of secondary schooling. The data and evidence for this paper is based on the analysis of curriculum documents, teaching resources and student work, along with interviews with twenty Technology teachers and three Year 12 students. One of the emerging challenges is that most secondary teachers are specialists, trained in particular subject areas and who in the past have worked to become expert teachers in their own chosen fields. Initiatives like STEM offer the opportunity for secondary teachers to combine and share expertise with other educators from across other areas of the curriculum. This has the potential for developing new and powerful pedagogies but initially there is a need for teachers to understand and appreciate the knowledge and expertise that is associated with teaching each of the different subjects. The paper is written from a starting point within Technology education with the purpose of explaining some of the big ideas and understandings in this field. The research shows how the Victorian curriculum frameworks encourages and supports teachers to design and develop interesting and engaging inter-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary programs as ‘STEM-like’ programs. The paper begins to describe the sophisticated and unique project-based learning pedagogy that is being developed within these programs. It is suggested that this project-based pedagogy has a high educational value and much potential for application to a larger number of programs. [Back to Top]

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Title: CHILDREN'S BOOKS ABOUT SHAPE: CONFLATING THREE-DIMENSIONAL WITH TWO-DIMENSIONAL SHAPES

Author: Julie Nurnberger-Haag

Abstract

By around age six children's concept of shape are ingrained (Hannibal, 1999b), although the ideas are often incomplete and/or inaccurate (Aslan & Arnas, 2007). The purpose of the study was to determine what young children might learn from trade books that intend to teach children about geometric shapes. The study utilized a mixed methods design to analyze sixty-six children's books about shape. The larger study addressed several research questions. For this paper I present the frequency and ways in which the books conflated three-dimensional shapes with the two-dimensional shape names that the books intended to teach children. Using a conservative coding scheme, approximately one-third of the books that used the terms circles, triangles, and/or squares and one-fourth of the books with rectangles, portrayed them as three-dimensional images. A straight coding scheme, however, resulted in about one-half of the books displaying the errors. The study provides awareness of potential sources of inaccurate information about shapes that might be a source of observed student difficulties. In particular, avoiding confusion between two-dimensional and three-dimensional shapes has implications beyond simple shape recognition tasks. Building on an understanding of shapes and dimensions are required for understanding later STEM topics. This study contributes to mathematics education by critically reviewing the mathematics taught in children's books. [Back to Top]

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Title: A COMPARISON OF LEARNING AND STUDY STRATEGIES BETWEEN SCIENCE, ENGINEERING AND BUSINESS STUDENTS: IMPLICATIONS FOR EFFECTIVE TEACHING PEDAGOGIES

Author: Lucia Wai Mun Yeung, Tak S. Ha

Abstract

This research explores the learning and study strategies of science, engineering and business students to offer some insights on effective teaching pedagogies for these students. The research questions are: 1) What is the pattern of usage of various learning and study strategies by science and engineering students? 2) Are there any differences between the science, engineering and business students in their usage of learning and study strategies? 3) What are the implications of students’ use of learning strategies on teaching pedagogies. A random sample of 311 science, engineering and business students from a local university in Hong Kong were surveyed on their learning and study strategies by using the LASSI (Learning And Study Strategies Inventory) (Weinstein, Schulte, & Palmer, 1987), Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire (MSLQ) (Pintrich, Smith, Garcia, & McKeachie, 1991), and Achievement Goal Orientations questionnaires (Hayamizu & Weiner, 1991; Elliot & McGregor, 2001). ANOVA and Multiple Regressions are used to analyse the similarities and differences in the learning and study strategies scales of these students. Results show that there are significant differences in some of the scales (e.g. anxiety, attitude, self-tesing, selecting main ideas and test strategies) among these three groups after controlling their pre-university intake academic results. Implications of these results on teaching pedagogies will be discussed. [Back to Top]

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Title: CLASSROOM IN YOUR POCKET

Author: Kathy Stewart, Debbie Evans, Andreas Utomo-Kuswara, Cate Fredrickson, Jenny Madsen & John Willis

Abstract

This is a report on the work-in-progress of a project aiming to contribute to building a science and environmentally literate citizenry, by supporting teaching and learning located in the local environment. Social constructivist theory and authentic pedagogical approaches provide project educators with frameworks for approaching learning and teaching that immerse and engage students in science in their middle years of schooling. Project research demonstrates that multi-age groups of students can conduct fieldwork that could make a meaningful contribution to community biodiversity monitoring. The LEP (Local Ecostudy Project) aims to develop more student-directed approaches that support students as they frame their own inquiries into their local environment. Our project incorporates the use of mobile devices and collaborative technologies to provide students with tools and the capabilities to use these to maximize the learning potential of their access to the local community and their environment. Mobile mentors, mobile monitors, mobile learners. [Back to Top]

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Title: CONTEXTUALISING THE TEACHING AND LEARNING OF MEASUREMENT IN TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER SCHOOLS

Author: Bronwyn Ewing, Tom Cooper, Annette Baturo, Vicky Sun & Chris Matthews

Abstract

This paper reports on a mathematics project conducted with six Torres Strait Islander schools and communities by the research team at the YuMi Deadly Centre at QUT. Data collected is from a small focus group of six teachers and two teacher aides. We investigated how measurement is taught and learned by students, their teachers and teacher aides in the community schools. A key focus of the project was that the teaching and learning of measurement be contextualised to the students’ culture, community and home languages. A significant finding from the project was that the teachers had differing levels of knowledge and understanding about how to contextualise measurement to support student learning. For example, an Indigenous teacher identified that mathematics and the environment are relational, that is, they are not discrete and in isolation from one another, rather they mesh together, thus affording the articulation and interchange among and between mathematics and Torres Strait Islander culture. [Back to Top]

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Title: DEFINING AND MAPPING TEACHER PRACTICE IN TECHNOLOGY CLASSROOMS

Author: Margaret Lloyd, Bjorn-Tore Esjeholm

Abstract

The indecision surrounding the definition of Technology extends to the classroom as not knowing what a subject “is” affects how it is taught. Similarly, its relative newness – and consequent lack of habitus in school settings - means that it is still struggling to find its own place in the curriculum as well as resolve its relationship with more established subject domains, particularly Science and Mathematics. The guidance from syllabus documents points to open-ended student-directed projects where extant studies indicate a more common experience of teacher –directed activities and an emphasis on product over process. There are issues too for researchers in documenting classroom observations and in analysing teacher practice in new learning environments. This paper presents a framework for defining and mapping classroom practice and for attempting to describe the social practice in the Technology classroom. The framework is a bricolage which draws on contemporary research. More formally, the development of the framework is consonant with the aim of design-based research to develop a flexible, adaptive and generalisable theory to better understanding a teaching domain where promise is not seen to match current reality. The framework may also inform emergent approaches to STEM (Science, Technology, Education and Mathematics) in education. [Back to Top]

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Title: DISCUSSIONS ON CONCEPTUAL KNOWLEDGE AND THE USE OF BLOGS

Author: Liv Byrkjeflot, Margaret Lloyd, Dag Atle Lysne

Abstract

In both Australia and Norway and through a number of Technology projects conducted since 2007, the authors – together and with other collaborators - have attempted to create positive learning environments supported by Web 2.0 communication tools. Through protected public sites and the oz-Teachernet [http://www.otn.edu.au], we have consistently chosen to use blogs to support the social construction of knowledge, that is, to allow students the opportunity to discuss, share and collaborate on their classroom activities and engagement with Technology artefacts and processes. Through comparisons with findings from a small-scale project in Norway and a large-scale project in Australia, this paper will argue for the potential of discussion through blogs but recommend that the purposeful use of scientific language in student communication will not occur without teacher intervention and scaffolding. [Back to Top]

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Title: EARLY CHILDHOOD TEACHERS' MATHEMATICAL CONTENT KNOWLEDGE

Author: Jillian Fox, Sue Grieshaber & Carmel M. Diezmann

Abstract

The process of becoming numerate begins in the early years. According to Vygotskian theory (1978), teachers are More Knowledgeable Others who provide and support learning experiences that influence children's mathematical learning. This paper reports on research that investigates three early childhood teachers mathematics content knowledge. An exploratory, single case study utilised data collected from interviews, and email correspondence to investigate the teachers' mathematics content knowledge. The data was reviewed according to three analytical strategies: content analysis, pattern matching, and comparative analysis. Findings indicated there was variation in teachers' content knowledge across the five mathematical strands and that teachers might not demonstrate the depth of content knowledge that is expected of four year specially trained early years' teachers. A significant factor that appeared to influence these teachers' content knowledge was their teaching experience. Therefore, an avenue for future research is the investigation of factors that influence teachers' content numeracy knowledge. [Back to Top]

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Title: ENHANCING STUDENTS INTEREST MATHEMATICS THROUGH INVOLVEMENT IN A MATHEMATICAL MODELLING CHALLENGE

Author: Trevor Redmond, Raymond Brown, Joanne Sheehy

Abstract

While mathematics is dynamic and enriched by conjecture, exploration and proof, the experience of many students is one limited to the study of closed problems found in a text book. In 2004, representatives from A.B. Paterson College and Griffith University established a two day event the A.B. Paterson College Mathematical Modelling Challenge. Academics from universities in Queensland and Victoria along with secondary school teachers challenged 80 Years 4 to 11 students from south-east Queensland schools to engage in a variety of mathematical modelling tasks. In 2009, 320 students from south-east Queensland and Singapore attended a weeklong event comprised of a Mathematical Modelling Forum and Modelling Challenge. This paper will consider the development of this event and explore a number of tasks offered to students over that time and evaluate the responses students developed. Data analysis of the tasks set for students and the perceptions of students in the form of a survey will be presented in this paper. The data will show that given the appropriate opportunities, students are able to engage with these meaningful mathematical tasks and demonstrate sophisticated understandings. [Back to Top]

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Title: ENGAGING MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENTS IN CONTEXT- BASED SCIENCE: ONE TEACHER’S APPROACH

Author: Dr. Donna King, Mr. Evan Winner, Dr. Ian Ginns

Abstract

In Australia, there is a crisis in science education with students becoming disengaged with canonical science in the middle years of schooling. One recent initiative that aims to improve student interest and motivation without diminishing conceptual understanding is the context-based approach. Contextual units that connect the canonical science with the students’ real world of their local community have been used in the senior years but are new in the middle years. This ethnographic study explored the learning transactions that occurred in one 9th grade science class studying an Environmental Science unit for 11 weeks. Data were derived from field notes, audio and video recorded conversations, interviews, student journals and classroom documents with a particular focus on two selected groups of students. Data were analysed qualitatively through coding for emergent themes. This paper presents an outline of the program and discussion of three assertions derived from the preliminary analysis of the data. Firstly, an integrated, coherent sequence of learning experiences that included weekly visits to a creek adjacent to the school enabled the teacher to contextualise the science in the students’ local community. Secondly, content was predominantly taught on a need-to-know basis and thirdly, the lesson sequence aligned with a model for context-based teaching. Research, teaching and policy implications of these results for promoting the context-based teaching of science in the middle years are discussed. [Back to Top]

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Title: EXPERT SCIENCE TEACHERS’ NOTIONS OF SCIENTIFIC LITERACY

Author: Deborah Corrigan, Rebecca Cooper, Stephen Keast, Donna King

Abstract

This paper will report on the way expert science teachers’ conceive of scientific literacy in their classrooms, the values related to scientific literacy they hold and how this conception and the underpinning values affect their teaching practice. Three perceived expert science teachers who teach both at senior and middle school levels and across the range of sub-disciplines (one senior biology, one senior chemistry and one senior physics) were interviewed about their understanding of scientific literacy and how this influenced their teaching practice. The three teachers were video recorded teaching a junior science class and a senior science class. The data were analysed to identify values that underpin their conceptions of science and science education. The analysis focussed on the matching of the verbalised conceptions and values with their practice of teaching science. This paper will report on these data. [Back to Top]

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Title: ENGAGING PARENTS IN STEM: COTEACHING AND COGENERATIVE DIALOGUING IN A QUEENSLAND HIGH SCHOOL

Author: Linda-Dianne Willis

Abstract

Diminished student interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is recognised by educators, researchers and public policy makers as a concerning global trend. Inviting stakeholders like scientists and industry specialists to discuss their work is one means schools use to facilitate student engagement in the sciences. However, these visits generally comprise one-off sessions with minimal relevance to students’ particular and ongoing learning needs. This case study investigated coteaching and cogenerative dialoguing with parents in teaching a Year-8 multidisciplinary unit with science and technology foci. Two parents cotaught alongside the resident teacher and researcher over eight months. This paper concentrates on one parent, a medical scientist by profession. Data sources included video and audio recordings of cogenerative dialogues and classroom interactions, student work samples and journal entries. Data were interrogated using the sociological constructs of fields and capitals and the dialectic of structure|agency. The findings reveal how (a) the parent’s science and technology knowledge was tailored to the students’ needs initially and continually and (b) student-generated data indicated enhanced engagement in science and technology. The research speaks to schools and governments about enhancing STEM education by furthering collaborative relationships with relevant stakeholders. [Back to Top]

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Title: EMULATING THE BEST TECHNOLGY IN TEACHING AND LEARNING MATHEMATICS: CHALLENGES FACING LIBYAN HIGHER EDUCATION

Author: Bothaina Bukhatowa, Anne Porter & Mark Nelson

Abstract

The aim of this research is to identify ways to emulate and implement the best of western technology in developing countries given the limited infrastructure, funding and expertise available. Qualitative methodology has involved analysis of the Libyan education system from an experiential and documentary perspective and then to juxtapose this with what is possible in a mathematics department at an Australian University. Three of the most notable differences are: internet access, the use of e-Learning systems and the variety of mathematics and statistical software available. The challenge is to identify the components of these systems which can be made available to support student learning, and in particular mathematics learning, when there is little or no internet access. Possible solutions are identified through an exploration of the components and functionalities of the technologies. These include the use of open source software and of components of the internet, for example html and web browsers, which allow the reshaping of how educational materials are organised and made available to students. It is apparent that professional development will be a key part of the solution.[Back to Top]

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Title: ENHANCING YEAR 9 PERFORMANCE AND ENGAGEMENT IN SCIENCE

Author: Clifford Jackson, Michelle Lasen, Robert Callin & Komla Tsey

Abstract

This paper presents findings from an action research project designed to enhance Year 9 student performance and engagement in science at a regional secondary school. The project was initiated in response to poor performance of Northern High's Year 9 cohort on the 2009 Queensland Comparable Assessment Task (QCAT). The incoming 2010 Year 9 cohort (N=148) was baseline tested and surveyed using items from the 2006 Programme for International Student Assessment (OECD, 2007) and the 2009 QCAT (QSA, 2009c). The mean test score for students was below a 50% pass mark (4.4/10; SD±2.0). Attitudes towards science were largely positive, with just under three fifths of students perceiving science to be very relevant to them. Regression analysis revealed that personal relevance of science explained 8.2% of the variance in test scores (p<.0005). In focus group interviews, students (n=12) reported little exposure to science in the primary school, variable interest in their secondary science education, and no science career aspirations. The Head of Department (HOD) identified the need for greater engagement with the science ways of working and criterion-based assessment, as presented in the Queensland Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting (QCAR) framework (QSA, 2007a), in the faculty's 2010 program. A marked improvement in performance on the 2010 QCAT suggests important links to the faculty's implementation of the QCAR framework, curriculum leadership provided by the HOD, and external support for curriculum reform through collaboration and data sharing with researchers. [Back to Top]

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Title: FOSTERING PEDAGOGICAL PROFICIENCY FOR AN ALL INCLUSIVE SCIENCE CLASS: A CASE OF THE INDIAN CLASSROOM

Author: Vandana Saxena

Abstract

With emerging sociopolitical consciousness, the educational scenario in India is all set to change. The implementation of the right to education act, would pack the school classrooms with multifaceted diversity among students. The teachers would be required to play a central role to promote learning, while making informed pedagogic choices, addressing the diversity among the students and focusing simultaneously, upon the fundamental features of the subject. This has direct implications for the pre-service teacher education programs. This paper aims at discussing the issues related with the pre-service program with specific reference to building pedagogical content knowledge among student-teachers in science. Most people agree that an understanding of content, matters for teaching. The continuing appeal of the notion of pedagogical content knowledge is that it bridges content knowledge and the practice of teaching.(Ball, Thames & Phelps, 2008 ). The paper conclude with suggestions to facilitate the development of such a pedagogy that would assist future teachers to reflect upon their own biases and include student voices, authority sharing, school-wide community spirit, and high levels of acceptance and expectations for all students. It also recommends inquiry-based dialogue among scholars and practitioners to more consistently utilize theory in academic research and in classroom instruction. [Back to Top]

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Title: THE HIDDEN EXPERIENCE: MATHEMATICS IN SCIENCE

Author: Kelly E Matthews

Abstract

Many students are entering university science programs with weaker quantitative skills and a very limited understanding of the interdisciplinary connections between science and mathematics. While there is widespread agreement that quantitative skills are essential for graduate competence and preparedness, universities are struggling to adapt science teaching and learning practices accordingly. How are science students’ learning outcomes and beliefs around mathematics in science being shaped by their university education? This paper is reporting on the perceptions of students graduating from a traditional science degree program (prior to undergoing a major curriculum renewal process) from a research-intensive university in Australia. Data were collected from an online survey administered to graduating cohorts in 2008 (n=107) and 2009 (n=163). Results were analysed within the framework of the experienced curriculum and revealed that graduates have little understanding of the interdisciplinary nature of science and mathematics. Implications for interdisciplinary science and mathematics curriculum development in higher education are discussed and areas for further research are identified. [Back to Top]

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Title: KEY FACTORS FOR THE EFFECTIVNES OF A WEB-BASED LEARNING MODE IN IRANIAN UNIVERSITIES: A DELPHI STUDY

Author: Elham Fariborzi & Iraj Janani Mashhadi

Abstract

This paper investigates the views of three groups to determine the key factors that are considered to be crucial to increase the effectiveness of web-based courses in selected Iranian universities. These were included those expressed by instructors, IT staff, and managers. The key factors were identified through the use of a three-round Delphi study. The total number of participants ranged from 13 to 22 depending on the round being conducted. The model of distance education developed by Moore and Kearsley (2005), also Khan's (2001) e-learning framework were used to categorize the identified factors. The result of this study has shown that the different groups of participants have different perceptions towards effectiveness key factors. It may lead to enhanced academic communication between these groups. Despite the variety of their views, the outcomes of this study have factors that may be considered essential for a web-based learning mode in Iran. [Back to Top]

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Title: LEARNING ACROSS THE KEY LEARNING AREAS: WHAT IS POSSIBLE WITH ROBOTICS IN THE CLASSROOM?

Author: Rose-Marie Thrupp

Abstract

Primary teachers are continually distracted by the literacy and numeracy agenda. This challenges their ability to identify the worth of learning in design technology. Design technology provides a key context for learning literacy and numeracy and the important concepts of design technology. It has potential to provide a purposeful means of engaging those most likely of doing poorly on literacy and numeracy tests such as NAPLAN. Furthermore, design technology gives some learners a reason to learn literacy and numeracy. This paper explores the use of a resource frequently associated with design technology. This resource is LEGO NXT robotics. Robotics in this form is often used in schools. However, it is often an extra-curricula activity for gifted learners after school. Furthermore, it is seen as a resource of use for robotics sake, only. In this paper initial data from a pilot study about learning evident when learners work with LEGO NXT robotics, is examined. The purpose of the study, still in progress, is to question the notion of 'robotics for robotics sake' and identify the potential of robotics to enrich learning across key learning areas for a wider population of learners. The study involves a volunteer group of preservice teachers working in the Teaching Robotics Education across the Key Learning Areas (TREK) project at Central Queensland University. These preservice teachers worked with children in classrooms during the school day with LEGO NXT and consequently, created a 'capture' of the work in which they engaged with children. These texts were then analysed to identify elements of learning required in the Queensland syllabuses. The resultant findings provide advice for primary teachers about the worth of robotics as a device to engage learners in deep learning of many aspects of the syllabus in the classroom. It provides an alternate view of how LEGO NXT needs to be promoted to primary teachers. [Back to Top]

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Title: LEGO ROBOTICS: AN AUTHENTIC PROBLEM SOLVING TOOL?

Author: Alanah-Rei Castledine

Abstract

With the current curriculum focus on correlating classroom problem solving lessons to real-world contexts, are LEGO robotics an effective problem solving tool? This present study was designed to investigate this question and to ascertain what problem solving strategies primary students engaged with when working with LEGO robotics and whether the students were able to effectively relate their problem solving strategies to real-world contexts. The qualitative study involved 23 Grade 6 students participating in robotics activities. The study included data collected from researcher observations of student problem solving discussions, collected software programs, and data from a student completed questionnaire. Results from the study indicated that the robotic activities assisted students to reflect on the problem-solving decisions they made. The study also highlighted that the students were able to relate their problem solving strategies to real-world contexts. The study demonstrated that while LEGO robotics can be considered useful problem solving tools in the classroom, careful teacher scaffolding needs to be implemented in regards to correlating LEGO with authentic problem solving. Further research in regards to how teachers can best embed real-world contexts into effective robotics lessons is recommended. [Back to Top]

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Title: LOOKING BACK: STUDENTS' PERCEPTIONS OF THE RELATIVE ENJOYMENT OF PRIMARY AND SECONDARY SCHOOL SCIENCE

Author: Terry Lyons & Frances Quinn

Abstract

This paper reports and discusses a contentious result from an Australia-wide study of the influences on students' decisions about taking senior science subjects. As part of the Choosing Science study (Lyons and Quinn 2010) 3759 Year 10 students were asked to indicate which stage of their schooling (lower primary, upper primary, lower secondary, middle secondary) they had most enjoyed learning science. Crosstabulations of responses revealed that around 78% of students indicated that they had enjoyed learning science more in secondary than in primary school, and 55% enjoyed it the most during Years 9 and 10. The perception that school science was more enjoyable in high school was also found among students who did not intend taking science in Year 11, though to a lesser extent. These findings are unexpected and significant, challenging the prevailing view that enjoyment of school science steadily declines after primary school. The paper elaborates on the findings and suggests that the different conclusions arrived at by studies in this field may be due to the different methodologies employed. [Back to Top]

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Title: MATERIALS AS AN INTRODUCTION TO SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

Author: Aaron S Blicblau

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to collect data on the preparation of students' knowledge in the area of materials science which is the building block for all engineers. The specific aim for this study is to determine how school science impacts on years 11 and 12 science studies in the areas of materials science, and further tertiary studies. The investigated data were analysed post hoc from public education records. The data were analysed to determine any trends and falling off in enrolments in the final years of high school. The data did reveal a trend in science enrolments falling off as students progressed into the later years of high school. Observations revealed that in advanced years of high school, the student population in science subjects were not well prepared for future studies in materials science at a tertiary level. It is suggested that science subjects be made more popular especially in the areas of materials science by syllabus changes, improving the way subjects are taught, and making materials science an appealing part of the syllabus. [Back to Top]

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Title: MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENTS’ PERCEPTIONS OF ENGINEERING

Author: Professor Lyn D. English, Associate Professor Les Dawes, Dr. Peter Hudson

Abstract

This paper focuses on implementing engineering education in middle school classrooms (grade levels 7-9). One of the aims of the study was to foster students’ and teachers’ knowledge and understanding of engineering in society. Given the increasing importance of engineering in shaping our daily lives, it is imperative that we foster in students an interest and drive to participate in engineering education, increase their awareness of engineering as a career path, and inform them of the links between engineering and the enabling subjects, mathematics, science, and technology. Data for the study are drawn from five classes across three schools. Grade 7 students’ responded to initial whole class discussions on what is an engineer, what is engineering, what characteristics engineers require, engineers (family/friends) that they know, and subjects that may facilitate an engineering career. Students generally viewed engineers as creative, future-oriented, and artistic problem finders and solvers; planners and designers; “seekers” and inventors; and builders of constructions. Students also viewed engineers as adventurous, decisive, community-minded, reliable, and “smart.” In addition to a range of mathematics and science topics, students identified business studies, ICT, graphics, art, and history as facilitating careers in engineering. Although students displayed a broadened awareness of engineering than the existing research suggests, there was limited knowledge of various engineering fields and a strong perception of engineering as large construction. [Back to Top]

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Title: THE POWER OF EDUCATIONAL PODCASTING: USING SHORT-FORMAT PODCASTS TO REINFORCE TERTIARY STUDENT LEARNING EXPERIENCES IN SCIENCE

Author: Perry Hartfield

Abstract

In 2007 I introduced short-format educational podcast resources that reinforced conceptual teaching and learning in an interdisciplinary tertiary science study area (biochemistry). This study aims to determine student attitudes to the perceived usefulness and benefit of short-format educational podcasts, and presents the findings (qualitative and quantitative) from surveys obtained from three offerings of the science teaching unit (2007, 2008 and 2009). Podcasts were recorded (MP3 audio files) separately from the instructive lecture sessions, and subsequent to the weekly lecture, short-format podcasts summarising the key learning objectives were integrated within the resources presented through the students learning management system (Blackboard). The vast majority (>88%) of students utilised the podcast resources, indicating a high level of acceptance and uptake for this portable educational technology. The respondents reported that podcasts focused their attention to core learning concepts and supported their understanding and learning of the lecture material. Furthermore, the data showed that respondents agreed strongly that podcasts assisted with study and revision for examinations and, somewhat surprisingly, there was a perception that podcasts positively impacted on examination performance. Overall, student users perceived that podcasting is as an effective and valuable educational tool that offers convenience and flexibility for their learning and understanding of a tertiary science study area, such as biochemistry. [Back to Top]

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Title: QUALITATIVE METHODOLOGIES FOR DUMMIES: ENGINEERS IN INVESTIGATING THE QUALITY OF FINAL YEAR ENGINEERING RESEARCH PROJECT

Author: Steven Goh & Harry Ku

Abstract

This paper discusses the methodology and methods used in an associate learning and teaching fellowship to study the perception, barriers and approaches of students in their final year engineering project, in particular, their literature review. There was a scenario that involved a change of methodologies in research 'style' for engineering education. As most of the research team members are engineers and their respective research experience is in engineering research and technology innovation, the original research methodologies adopted was not particularly suited for engineering education research. It was based on very quantitative approach used in science-based disciplines though questionnaires were to be used as one of the data collection method. A methodology change was made as the research team acknowledged that there will be likely deficiencies and difficulty in the research validity. This instigated a change to a very qualitative approach, involving a series of open-ended surveys, focus groups and intervention workshops. The change in methodology was inspired mostly by Bloom's (1984) taxonomy and Biggs's (1989) 3-P Model of Learning. Based on the preliminary analysis of the data collected, it suggest that the intervention workshops have a positive effect on the learning outcomes of the students but not necessarily in the final output in the form of the dissertation. [Back to Top]

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Title: RE-ENGAGING ADOLESCENT STUDENTS IN SCIENCE: AN EXPERIENCED TEACHERS' CLASSROOM

Author: Warren Copping & James J Watters

Abstract

Adolescents are both aware of and have the impetuous to exploit aspects of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) within their personal lives. Whether they are surfing, cycling, skateboarding or shopping, STEM concepts impact their lives. However science, mathematics, engineering and technology are still treated in the classroom as separate fragmented entities in the educational environment where most classroom talk is seemingly incomprehensible to the adolescent senses.  The aim of this study was to examine the experiences of young adolescents with the aim of transforming school learning at least of science into meaningful experiences that connected with their lives using a self-study approach. Over a 12-month period, the researcher, an experienced secondary-science teacher, designed, implemented and documented a range of pedagogical practices with his Year-7 secondary science class. Data for this case study included video recordings, journals, interviews and surveys of students. By setting an environment empathetic to adolescent needs and understandings, students were able to actively explore phenomena collaboratively through developmentally appropriate experiences. Providing a more contextually relevant environment fostered meta-cognitive practices, encouraged new learning through open dialogue, multi-modal representations and assessments that contributed to building upon, re-affirming, or challenging both the students' prior learning and the teacher’s pedagogical content knowledge. A significant outcome of this study was the transformative experiences of an insider, the teacher as researcher, whose reflections provided an authentic model for reforming pedagogy in STEM classes. [Back to Top]

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Title: THE ROLE OF THE ‘T’ IN STEM: TECHNOLOGY AND THE SCHOOL CURRICULUM

Author: Assoc Prof P John Williams

Abstract

Proposals for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics to be presented in the secondary curriculum in an integrated way have been developed in some countries for at least three decades now, but are recently becoming more common and more significant. Some proposals are now being delivered with high level political clout, for example President Obama’s November 2009 announcement of a range of STEM initiatives, and the UK appointment of a National STEM Director followed by a range of similar initiatives to promote the STEM agenda. In other countries this grouping of subjects is promoted as a coalition but not necessarily as a school curriculum organizer, for example SET (Science, Engineering and Technology) in South Africa (National Science and Technology Forum). [Back to Top]

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Title: SCENARIO BASED THINK ALOUD PROTOCOL FOR PROBING STUDENT PROBLEM SOLVING SKILLS

Author: Benjamin Yu & Wendy K. Adams

Abstract

When interviewing students solving problems, typically researchers either follow a think-aloud protocol or ask students to describe what they are thinking as they solve problems. It is quite common for researchers to have a difficult time learning about the subject's thought processes and problem solving skills during interviews because subjects at times may not adequately verbalize their thoughts and quite often they have difficulty solving the problem – either getting stuck or going down blind alleys. In this paper, we discuss our experiences with adapting a protocol designed as part of the Colorado Assessment of Problem Solving. We used the protocol to assess Computer Science students while solving a problem in their area. This scenario based think-aloud protocol is designed to engage the subject partly as a third party observer, and partly as a problem solver herself. In the process, the subject finds herself less and less conscious of being studied and begins to immerse herself as a participant in the problem solving exercise with her own thoughts and ideas. A number of essential skills required for problem solving were identified through these scenario based think-aloud sessions so instructors may be more informed on what specific topics/skills to teach. [Back to Top]

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Title: SCAFFOLDING DISTANCE LEARNING IN MATHEMATICS FOR ENGINEERING: IDENTIFYING KEY TROUBLESOME KNOWLEDGE

Author: Linda Galligan, Andrew P. Wandel, R. Todd Hartle

Abstract

Mathematics skills are critical in engineering, yet many students enter university without sufficient proficiency. At the University of Southern Queensland (USQ), the Faculty of Engineering and Surveying (FoES) has a large number of external mature age students, many of whom have forgotten or never learnt these skills. We aim to improve students’ completion and satisfaction rates in mathematics-based courses in first year engineering by incorporating more scaffolded learning into the materials. The specific objective of the research related to this paper is to identify forgotten concepts, troublesome knowledge, threshold concepts and “stuck places” (Meyer & Land 2005, 2006) in mathematics. A survey of 31 staff in the Faculty of Engineering and Surveying described the relationships among the key mathematics areas and the USQ FoES courses. A focus group session with 16 mathematics staff identified the topics and concepts that the instructors thought were crucial. Individual interviews with four introductory mathematics instructors confirmed the results of the survey and focus group, and characterized the underlying threshold concepts of select topics. The results of this data will be used to develop learning objects and materials. [Back to Top]

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Title: SOCIOSCIENTIFIC ISSUES IN SCIENCE CLASSROOMS: A ROLE FOR RISK UNDERSTANDING

Author: Clare Christensen

Abstract

There is growing interest within the science education community in reform towards the goal of citizenship. Included in this perspective is a focus on socioscientific issues, ‘science-in-the-making’ and decision making where scientific knowledge is associated with varying degrees of uncertainty. In this paper I argue that if we engage learners with uncertain science, in contrast to the ‘certain’ knowledge of traditional school science, then risk understanding has a role to play. I review how risk is commonly conceptualised and how it is represented in the literatures of science education and public understanding of science research. The role of risk in decision making is considered and illustrated through a recent empirical study with young adults and their engagement with the uncertain science of mobile phone safety. The inclusion of risk in some current school science curricula is noted. I outline the value of risk understanding but also acknowledge the challenges it presents to science teachers. The issue of content is considered, leading UK research reported and future research directions suggested. [Back to Top]

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Title: SCIENCE AND MATHEMATICS TEACHERS' PERCEPTION OF CONTINUING PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMMES IN NIGERIA

Author: Mojeed Kolawole Akinsola

Abstract

We live in a time of great change in mathematics and science education. Therefore, there is the need for constant updating of teachers knowledge and skills, especially, with the introduction of new educational technologies in classroom teaching, which were not encountered during initial teacher training by most teachers. This paper investigated the extent to which continuing professional development (CPD) for mathematics and science teachers have been carried out and discuss the gains and identify the pitfalls in CPD programmes. Survey research design was adopted for the study. One hundred and forty-six primary and one hundred and twenty secondary school teachers were involved in the study. One questionnaire, Professional Development Scale (r=0.79) was employed in collecting data for the study. This was complemented with six sessions of Focus Group Discussion (FGDs). Interviews were conducted for randomly selected participants. Five research questions were answered and four hypotheses were tested at 0.05 level of significance. Data were analyzed using frequency counts and t-test. Findings shows that CPD programmes in place are not adequate for mathematics and science teachers in both primary and secondary schools in Nigeria. There was no significance difference between mathematics and science teachers’ perception of the adequacy of CPD. Inadequate access to CPD by teachers has profound effects on students’ mathematics and science achievement. [Back to Top]

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Title: STEM – A TECHNICAL RENAISSANCE?

Author: Damon Cartledge

Abstract

As Australia steps forward into uncharted waters of introducing a national curriculum, many questions are being asked about how to revitalise learning for young Australians as responsible global citizens of the 21st century. STEM in the Australian context looms to reshape the ways in which we understand the world, and sustain its future. But it is a vicarious experience, through the next generation of learners. This paper discusses learning frameworks such as STEM as enhancing the construction and utility of knowledge. STEM curriculum is often conflicted between community and the individual. These issues will be explored with particular focus on the emerging Australian context, including a conceptual model of a STEM corridor through existing and emerging post-compulsory qualification frameworks. [Back to Top]

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Title: SUPPORTING WOMEN IN ENGINEERING, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY: THE GO WEST PROJECT

Author: Aileen Cater-Steel & Jacquie McDonald

Abstract

Australia appears to be lagging countries in North America and Europe regarding the participation of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics courses and careers. This paper reports on a current project undertaken by a regional university to build a mentoring and support network among female Science, Engineering and Technology students, staff and industry professionals. As well as the context and history of the project, the paper describes the activities undertaken and the challenges faced in making the project sustainable. Factors critical to the success of the project are identified and include securing funds and commitment from senior management, having a multi-disciplinary team with strong leadership and effective support, and using information technology to enhance personal networks and to promote activities. The critical success factors identified in this case study may seem obvious in hindsight, but to other universities considering a similar project they may provide useful insights. For new projects, the strategies and activities described here could be adapted to fit with the organizational and legislative contexts of other institutions. [Back to Top]

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Title: TEACHERS' VIEWS ON THEIR INSTRUCTIONAL PRACTICES THAT FACILITATES STUDENTS' NUMBER SENSE FOCUS ON MENTAL COMPUTATION AND ESTIMATION

Author: Munirah Ghazali, Rohana Alias, Abdul Razak Othman & Fatimah Saleh

Abstract

This paper is part of a project which aims to assess young learners' number sense in Malaysia. This paper will report on teachers' instructional practices that support the development of student number sense with respect to mental computation and computational estimation in solving addition, subtraction, multiplication and division problems. Eight primary school mathematics teachers with teaching experience ranges from three to thirty years were interviewed. The objective of the interviews was to identify the instructional strategies and also the different manipulative, concrete materials, representations and other technologies that teachers use to support the development of student's mental computation and computational estimation skills when solving addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems. Teachers' interviews indicated that there are teachers who tried to incorporate mental computation strategies in their classroom even though there is no formal assessment of mental computation. The teachers' instructional strategies to facilitate students' number sense could be categorized as efforts specific to structuring the lessons and efforts specific to the mathematical tasks involved. Furthermore, the mental computation strategies adopted by the teachers' correspond to the teachers' view of mental computation itself. [Back to Top]

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Title: TEACHERS’ CONCEPTIONS OF HOW TO ENGAGE STUDENTS THROUGH INQUIRY LEARNING: FOUNDATIONS FOR STEM

Author: Joseph Ireland, Jim waters, Jo Brownlee, Mandy Lupton

Abstract

The advocacy for inquiry-based learning in contemporary curricula assumes the principle that students learn in their own way by drawing on direct experience fostered by the teacher. That students should be able to discover answers themselves through active engagement with new experiences was central to the thinking of eminent educators such as Pestalozzi, Dewey and Montessori. However, even after many years of research and practice, inquiry learning as a referent for teaching still struggles to find expression in the average teachers’ pedagogy. This study drew on interview data from 20 primary teachers. A phenomenographic analysis revealed three conceptions of teaching that support inquiry learning in science in the primary years of schooling: (a) The Experience-centred conception where teachers focused on providing interesting sensory experiences to students; (b) The Problem-centred conception where teachers focused on challenging students with engaging problems; and (c) The Question-centred conception where teachers focused on helping students to ask and answer their own questions. Understanding teachers’ conceptions of teaching has implications for both the enactment of inquiry teaching in the classroom as well as the uptake of new teaching behaviours during professional development, with enhanced outcomes for engaging students in STEM. [Back to Top]

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Title: TEACHING 'SUSTAINABILITY': VEHICLE OR END-POINT?

Author: Matthew Gray, Richard Brown, Evonne Miller, Laurie Buys & Les Dawes

Abstract

In 2006, the Faculty of Built Environment and Engineering introduced the first faculty wide unit dedicated to sustainability at any Australian University. BEB200 Introducing Sustainability has semester enrolments of up to 1500 students. Instruments such as lectures, readings, field visits, group projects and structured tutorial activities are used and have evolved over the last five years in response to student and staff feedback and attempts to better engage students. More than 70 staff had taught in the unit, which is in its final offering in this form in 2010. This paper reflects on the experiences of five academics who have played key roles in the development and teaching of this unit over the last five years. They argue that sustainability is a paradigm that allows students to explore other ways of knowing as they engage with issues in a complex world, not an end in itself. From the students' perspective, grappling with such issues enables them to move towards a context in which they can understand their own discipline and its role in the contradictory and rapidly changing professional world. Insights are offered into how sustainability units may be developed in the future. [Back to Top]

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Title: TRANSITION AND ENGAGEMENT IN THE SCIENCES: FROM SCHOOL TO UNIVERSITY

Author: Bill MacIntyre, Tim Parkinson, Dianne Gardner, Gordon Suddaby & Helen Hughes

Abstract

Considerable evidence exists of a world-wide trend of declining student numbers in school and university sciences. Much of the research evidence relating to student engagement in the sciences has focused on school students, with very little focusing on university students and even less on the transition and engagement of students from school to university science. A recently completed New Zealand research project funded by Ako Aotearoa focused on the transition from studying science at school to studying the sciences at university, students' engagement with science, and how the relationships between university science students, lecturers and science curriculum managers impacted upon this engagement. Data were collected using a mixed-method design, which included a questionnaire, focus groups and interviews. Participants included secondary students, first year university science students, school science teachers and university academic staff teaching in science-based programs. Analysis found five 'teacher efficacy' scales that correlated with three 'student engagement' scales, supported by thematic analysis of the qualitative data. Student engagement and transition were strongly influenced by 'lecturer qualities' and 'meaningful contexts' in the study of science. The findings provide clear evidence that best practice pedagogies and relevant contexts would promote student engagement in the sciences at both secondary and tertiary education levels. [Back to Top]

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Title: THE UNITARY METHOD AND THE EQUATION APPROACH TO TEACHING PERCENTAGES

Author: Bing Hiong Ngu & Stephen Tobias

Abstract

Many year 11 students who have been taught by the unitary method struggle to solve lower secondary mathematical problems related to percentages in every day situations. The unitary method is thought to enhance logical and transparent approaches to mental arithmetic. The draft National Curriculum (ACARA, 2010) promotes the unitary method as the preferred approach for teaching percentages and related topics such as interest, ratio, and fractions. However, there is some research evidence to suggest that the equation approach is more effective. Based on the principles of cognitive load theory, this paper proposes the use of the equation approach rather than the unitary method to enhance year 8 students' learning of percentage tasks. By considering the intrinsic load associated with the percentage problems, the design of the equation approach incorporates prior knowledge such as "percent of a quantity", a schematic diagram to represent real-life problem situations and formulate a possible solution pathway. [Back to Top]

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Title: WILL PRE-SERVICE TEACHERS WHO EXPERIENCE COLLABORATIVE LEARNING AT UNIVERSITY USE IT IN THEIR CLASSROOMS?

Author: Margaret Marshman

Abstract

One of the purposes of teaching mathematics in schools is to have all students make sense of and see the value of mathematics. The preparation of mathematics teachers is a critical part of achieving this purpose. This study focuses on experiences using collaborative learning with senior phase pre-service mathematics teachers in Queensland. Collective Argumentation, a structured approach for students to work collaboratively and participate in mathematical discussions rather than working individually as in a traditional classroom, was used. Qualitative data was collected during tutorials by videoing student interactions and using stimulated recall to determine pre-service teachers' thinking during problem solving. They were interviewed also after their first semester of teaching. The students were given problems to solve in their tutorials to engage them with mathematical concepts in much the same way as their future students would be. Rather than teach students about Collective Argumentation they were given opportunities to experience it. Despite the pressures of being beginning teachers they reported having success applying Collective Argumentation in their own classrooms. This is something that needs further investigation particularly in terms of their ability to ask questions to stimulate discussions and higher order thinking. [Back to Top]

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Title: THE WORLD OF ADOLESCENCE AND THE WORLD OF STEM: ARE THEY IRREVOCABLY SEPARATED?

Author: James J Watters, Carmel M Diezmann

Abstract

Adolescents are indeed bothered by the complexities of the present and future and are concerned with making sense out of the multiple demands of parents, teachers, and peers while trying to develop identities as autonomous individuals. In this confused world, contemporary school science does not fit their view of desirable world as evident in the findings of the ROSE study. However, there are bright spots where teachers, community, parents and youth do engage with STEM. This paper will report on initiatives drawn from a decade of research in schools that have attempted to reconcile the interests of youth and the contemporary world of science. The aim is to identify those factors that do stimulate student interest. These case studies were conducted generally using both qualitative and quantitative data and findings analysed in terms of program outcomes and student engagement. The key finding is that the formation of relationships and partnerships in which students have high degree of autonomy and sense of responsibility is paramount to positive dispositions towards STEM. The findings raise some hope that innovative schools and partnerships can foster innovation and connect youth with the real world. [Back to Top]

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