How does STEM work?

The STEM Framework guides STEM approaches by describing the principles which underpin quality STEM education for Tasmanian Government school learners from the Early Years through to Year 12.  It supports school leaders and teachers as well as community partners who collaborate with schools around STEM education.

The STEM Framework is based on research into international best practice STEM education models and local consultation. The framework’s goals, objectives and principles align with the National STEM School Education Strategy and are relevant to the Tasmanian context.

STEM education is based on the following principles:

Quality and Rigour

By reflecting the intellectual integrity of the disciplines and curriculum frameworks approved for each phase of schooling.

Relevance and Authenticity

By using real-world challenges that are relevant to learners requiring them to apply and integrate the knowledge from each of the STEM learning areas

Learner Agency, Capabilities and Dispositions

By enabling students to develop as self-directed and lifelong learners

Inclusive and Accessible

By providing challenge for all learners whilst building resilience and aspiration

Learning Pathways

Inspiring learners about possible futures in STEM related fields and making connections between their current and future learning and potential career pathways.The STEM framework supports the phased implementation of the Australian Curriculum in Tasmania Government schools and complements learning from the Early Years Learning Framework through to accredited learning for learners in Years 11 and 12.

A STEM approach in Tasmania

STEM approaches require learners to tackle real world problem/s taking learning opportunities from the three Australian Curriculum learning areas of Science, Technologies and Mathematics.

STEM learning is contextualised to the students, their school and their community. Learners tackle challenges related to major themes such as environment and sustainability, cause and effect and how to optimise the human experience.

Some examples of STEM Unit ideas are captured in the STEM Previews.

STEM, Creativity and Innovation

How does STEM relate to technologies in the Australian Curriculum?

Tasmanian Government schools are committed to ensuring that all learners can access their ‘entitlement’ to the knowledge, skills and understandings that provide a foundation for successful and lifelong learning described in the learning areas of the Australian Curriculum.

In Tasmanian Government schools STEM refers to the definition described in the STEM Framework which is the planned intentional interdisciplinary approach to learning where links between the content and skills from Science, Technologies and Mathematics are made apparent

Learners develop STEM literacy by investigating real world questions and issues through project based learning. In the broader community, the terms ‘STEM’ and ‘Digital Technologies’ are often used inter-changeably. ‘STEM’ is sometimes used to refer to activities which focus on programming, data representation and computational thinking which typifies the content of the Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies. 

Our STEM approach is broader than Digital Technologies. STEM approaches support the implementation of the Australian Curriculum: Technologies which includes two distinct but related subjects:

  • Design and Technologies which involves learners in generating and producing designed solutions for needs and opportunities.
  • Digital Technologies which develops computational thinking and programming skills to devise digital solutions.

Of course, in an increasingly technological world, problems are often solved using digital skills and thinking. Therefore, in the context of a STEM challenge, digital technologies might well be integrated with Science, Mathematics and Technologies generally.

Digital technologies pedagogies which align with the principles of the stem framework

Digital Technologies lends itself to the use of some specific pedagogical approaches which align with the principles in the STEM framework, particularly in relation to the programming component of the subject.

  • Active use of failure as a path to learning
  • Encouragement of a growth mindset learning
  • Pair programming
  • Building from concrete to abstract

Why is digital technologies important for all students?

The subject is designed to help develop transferable and long-term management, thinking and problem-solving skills which contribute to creating a better future for individuals and society, rather than as a preparation for specialist computer careers.

What transferrable skills will students learn through digital technologies?

Students learn transferable skills in project management and systems, design and computational thinking which have relevance in problem solving in diverse contexts and are imperative in the 21st century. Read more about key ideas in the Australian Curriculum.

Is digital technologies different to the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) general capability?

  • The ICT general capability is taught within all curriculum areas for learners in years Prep – 10 and ICT supports them to be effective users of technology.
  • Digital Technologies is a new subject for Prep – 10 (optional in 9-10) learners with new and unique skills and content, moving them from technology consumers to creators.

This infographic provides more detail about the key differences.

STEM, design thinking and critical and creative thinking

Responding to the challenges of the complex environmental, social and economic pressures of this century requires young people to be creative, innovative, enterprising and adaptable, with the motivation, confidence and skills to use critical and creative thinking purposefully.

Across the Australian Curriculum, learners develop capability in critical and creative thinking as they learn to generate and evaluate knowledge, clarify concepts and ideas, seek possibilities, consider alternatives and solve problems. Critical and creative thinking are integral to activities that require learners to think broadly and deeply using skills, behaviours and dispositions such as reason, logic, resourcefulness, imagination and innovation in all learning areas at school and in their lives beyond school. (Australian Curriculum)

Design thinking is a key approach in Australian Curriculum: Technologies which provides opportunities for design and creativity. Learners use strategies for understanding design problems and opportunities, visualising and generating creative and innovative ideas, and analysing and evaluating those ideas that best meet the criteria for success and planning through the process. Essentially it involves:

  • investigating and defining
  • generating and designing
  • producing and implementing
  • evaluating
  • collaborating and managing to create a designed solution that considers social, cultural and environmental factors.

A design approach is applied through many learning experiences in Years K – 10.

The Technologies curriculum also fosters the development of the critical and creative thinking general capability as learners imagine, generate, develop and critically evaluate ideas. They develop reasoning and the capacity for abstraction through challenging problems that do not have straightforward solutions. Learners analyse problems, refine concepts and reflect on the decision-making process by engaging in systems, design and computational thinking. They identify, explore and clarify information and use that knowledge in a range of situations.

Learners think critically and creatively about possible, probable and preferred futures. They consider how data, information, systems, materials, tools and equipment (past and present) impact on our lives, and how these elements might be better designed and managed. Experimenting, drawing, modelling, designing and working with digital tools, equipment and software helps learners to build their visual and spatial thinking and to create solutions, products, services and environments Australian Curriculum

Design thinking, problem solving and inquiry are key ways that STEM challenges are addressed through an iterative cycle to develop, test and refine solutions. Design solutions may be in the form of a product, service or an environment.

STEAM design thinking and artistic process

Integration of the ‘Arts’ in a STEM approach provides further opportunity to guide student enquiry, dialogue and critical thinking. Creativity, as exemplified in the Arts, fosters divergent thinking, experimental processes and a reflective and critical framing of content.

The key ideas of The Arts curriculum reflect the interrelated strands of making and responding. Making in each arts subject engages students’ cognition, imagination, senses and emotions in conceptual and practical ways and involves them thinking kinesthetically, critically and creatively. Students develop knowledge, understanding and skills to design, produce, present and perform artworks. (Australian Curriculum)

The aligning of artistic process to design thinking also fosters curiosity, conceptual and divergent thinking, playfulness, risk-taking, imagination and open-ended thinking. Involving the Arts allows for the dimensions of creativity, audience, communication, critical reflection and collaboration to be implicitly and explicitly incorporated.

Learners congruently use both artistic and STEM skills as they navigate the 21st century. A STEAM approach can equip learners with rigorous STEM skills and understandings as they become critical, creative and reflective artists and communicators.

Whilst it is recognised that Tasmania’s creative economy capitalises on STEM or STEAM knowledge, the units in the following collection have focussed on STEM to:

  • develop teacher practice in rigorous integration of the STEM curriculum areas
  • support the goals of the National STEM School Education Strategy.

Next page: What does STEM look like?