At Good News Lutheran School students are increasingly being given opportunities to learn about their world through STEM and PBL, but what are these things?
STEM refers to the subjects of Science, Technology (as in Digital Technologies), Engineering (known as Design and Technologies) and Mathematics being taught in an integrated manner. This way of learning about these important subjects reflects “the real world” more closely than teaching content and skills for different subjects in isolation.
In a STEM project or unit, students are usually trying to solve a problem that is connected to a real-world issue. They see themselves as young scientists or future engineers as they work together to discover and create solutions.
During STEM, students still need to be taught specific content and skills for specific subjects; however, instead of learning content by rote, they develop a deeper understanding of concepts through investigations and problem solving. The style of learning activities may change from more teacher directed to student centred as the investigation progresses and students moving from simply understanding content to applying this knowledge in context.
PBL stands for Problem Based Learning. PBL can incorporate STEM subjects, but might be based on another key learning area, such as Geography, Drama or English.
Like STEM, PBL experiences allow students to develop deeper understandings about content and to apply skills in meaningful contexts.
Various ways of thinking about problem solving are used in PBL depending on the main subjects being explored. All investigations follow a general pattern of exploring issues and identifying problems, posing questions, investigating, developing and testing solutions and explanations, and sharing the learning. In the early years, this process can be simplified into three main steps of “explore, create and share”, while older students will use different structures to scaffold their thinking depending on the project.
Digital technologies and other traditional tools are used by students for exploring, creating and sharing their learning throughout the problem-solving process.
Both STEM and PBL tap into students’ curiosity and allow them to develop the essential skills of creativity, communication, collaboration and critical thinking.