Flinders University academics face job uncertainty, union forces halt to restructure

Aidan Cornelius is at the end of his first year of his PhD and about to present his proposal for next year.

He has learnt both his supervisors have been affected and it now worried they may not be staying at the university.

"I've been in discussion with other people who I've identified might be possible alternatives, but it's been pretty turbulent and caused a bit of stress for me and other students who are in a similar boat," Mr Cornelius said.

Learn more about what’s happening at Flinders…

EZProxy Safari App Extension

This morning, with the release of Safari 12, I found my usual academic workflow quite broken.

Having the convenience of a single button for SciHub and EZProxy access is something quickly missed, so I set out to make Safari App Extension versions of these plugins.

After a not insignificant amount of head-banging-against-wall, I figured out what needed to be done. To save you some pain, presuming you’ve stumbled upon this post after realising your traditional Safari Extensions are gone, I’ve uploaded the EZProxy extension for Safari 12+ to my GitHub.

If you’re not programatically-minded you’ll probably appreciate the precompiled binary of the EZProxy extension… instructions follow.

1. Download the app from the releases folder (EZProxy.app.zip is the one you want).

2. Drag the downloaded EZProxy app to your Applications folder.


3. Open the EZProxy App and select 'open' on the downloaded from notice.


4. Set your institutions proxy url (something like proxy.library.adelaide.edu.au or ezproxy.flinders.edu.au...). This step is important, if you don't set this it won't work.


5. Open Safari and go to the Preferences.


6. Go to the extensions tab, and enable the EZProxy extension.


7. Installation is done! You can now use the EZProxy button on any web page - provided your library supports it.


Some thoughts on the 'drivers' of STEM education

Importantly STEM education is arguably the undeniable result of neoliberalism. STEM education is self-professed as emerging from the demands of industry, and the economy, the growing investment in STEM education is the result of increasing market economy pressures on education (e.g. Finkel, 2018; Prinsley & Baranyai, 2015). Put simply, neoliberalism refers to a colonisation of other fields by economics (Fairclough, 2002), anecdotally, this is the perfect framing for STEM education. Notably, under neoliberalism, trade is represented as ‘with all’ and free of political restriction; by way of deregulation, elimination of taxation and monetary and social policy developments that favour business economic de-regulation over individuals (Brown, 2003). Neoliberalism is achieved through the installation of mostly invisible practices and policies towards these ends (Connell, 2013). It is with this context we must assess STEM education policy.

The voice of politicians and policymakers is growing louder, our students are failing to achieve the results that show our competitiveness on a global scale. In addition, our leaders highlight that our economy is suffering from our lack of competitive test scores and super-capable graduates in STEM-related fields. In the sight of a 20-year decline in maths and science results on international test scores the Australian government is calling for change (Education Council, 2015; Finkel, 2018; Gonski et al., 2018; Koziol, 2018; Markson & Harris, 2018; Norman, 2016).

Policy is now focussing on prioritising skills in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) as a collection of dominant areas for students’ learning. This has policy, and other successive effects. From early childhood, where new pressures emphasise young people’s development of literacy and numeracy, through primary school, where students’ interest, curiosity and creativity are to be fostered in STEM (only), secondary school, where teachers are being held to account for students uptake of STEM subjects (See aims of: Chubb, 2014; Education Council, 2015), and into tertiary education, where STEM degrees receive increasingly more attention. Coupled with increasing neoliberal accountability measures and managerialism throughout the education sector (Connell, 2013). This collection of STEM policy is unmistakably neoliberal. Recently a push towards neoliberal education reform has arisen, with passing mention of innovative pedagogy for the teaching of skills and knowledge, particularly when it comes to STEM (Education Council, 2015; Gonski et al., 2018). The Gonski reforms see further accountability for teachers and school leaders to get students across the metaphorical ‘line’ of standardised tests.

Furthering the neoliberal narrative, it is worth looking at the origins of STEM education policy in Australia. The imperative for STEM education is born from the ideology that ‘Australia’s future is dependent on STEM’ (Lit. 'Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics: Australia’s Future': Chubb, 2014). A PricewaterhouseCoopers (2015 [PwC]) report resulted in a government crisis, and the production of the Education Council (2015) National STEM School Education Strategy, 2016 – 2026. The PwC report emphasised that three-quarters of Australia’s GDP originates in, and that fastest growing jobs will be based around, science, technology, engineering and maths. Furthermore, the 2015 report by PwC highlighted that Australia’s GDP could be boosted by $57.4 billion by shifting 1 per cent of the workforce in to STEM (and adjacent) roles. The resultant policy creation push has not ended. Recently economic imperatives have been followed up with discussion of, and early plans for, compulsory maths and science subjects until school completion nationally by the Turnbull Liberal government (Norman, 2016). The economic rationale for increasing focus on STEM education in Australian schools has remained a forefront, seemingly irrefutably logical issue to the incumbent Australian government, across multiple election terms. 

On the global stage, STEM has been receiving equal, recently unparalleled interest. The resultant STEM education policy highlights the interest in improving international competitiveness in school performance from countries around the world (Marginson et al., 2013). A further push towards accountability measures, school competitiveness locally and globally, and culminating in increasing pressures on students to perform well on standardised measures (e.g. PISA and TIMSS). Recent education policy developments in the United Kingdom, United States, New Zealand, Canada, and many other countries tell similar economically driven STEM education reform stories. 

In Australia, there are further works underway to reform education. STEM education however has, for the most part, remained absent from these reforms beyond mention of its necessity for our students. Most recently, the Review to Achieve Educational Excellence (colloquially “Gonski 2.0”) in Australian schools has highlighted the efforts of the National STEM school education strategy to develop students’ problem solving and critical analysis skills, lauding the efforts of STEM education policy to prioritise the teaching of ‘future skills’ like those in the General Capabilities of the Australian Curriculum (Gonski et al., 2018). The report alludes to the need for General Capabilities to be viewed as a continuum, the implication being that STEM education practitioners are inherently doing this, or should be, based on the language of the National STEM school education strategy(Gonski et al., 2018). Still absent is a cohesive picture of what curriculum might inform STEM from the Australian Government’s perspective, beyond a handful of examples of STEM lessons from DE NSW, and ACARA.

The absence of direction for teachers, in terms of curriculum particularly, but also in terms of detailing a pedagogic approach, in STEM education policy provides a unique opportunity. The only clear stipulation of STEM education policy in Australia is a heavy focus on: project-based learning as the pedagogic approach with little more detail than the name (Education Council, 2015, p. 8); and a focus on the skills and dispositions of the general capabilities as a key competency for students (Education Council, 2015; Gonski et al., 2018). In this regard, STEM education becomes both the burden of individual teachers, and a possibility for their agency. Thus, there are two areas to explore in regard to STEM education: first, the content in disciplines of STEM, and the pedagogy adopted to teach it; second, the work of teachers in response to STEM policy.

As highlighted, the STEM education push should not be taken unproblematically. By forcing an economically-driven arbitrary focus on particular disciplines the STEM education push unfairly prioritises some content. However, anecdotally, teacher responses to this prioritisation is seen as priority in title only. As a result approaches that include multiple integrated learning areas are gaining in popularity: Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM); Empathy or Economics, Science, Technology, Arts, Engineering, Mathematics, Medicine (ESTEAMM); and various other configurations. Under the guise of STEM education policy that highlights a priority on integrated curriculum this adoption of wholly integrated curriculum works as a form of professional resistance, or pragmatic radicalism, to learning area privileging. Harnessing policy, in light of the teachers context, to achieve a positive end regardless of the driver of the priority.  

Some perspectives on STEM education policy suggest an inherent focus on social issues and alternative framing of STEM challenges is necessary to broaden the horizons of students (Weinstein, Blades, & Gleason, 2016), and arguably hold the tide of neoliberal policy in education. However, nearly all perspectives on STEM education policy agree: STEM is politically and ideologically saturated with agendas and approaches from different perspectives, globally and locally – for the most part, a resoundingly neoliberal policy push (Carter, 2017; Weinstein et al., 2016).

Alternatively, offering a new framing of STEM that challenges the naive assumption that STEM is politically and ideologically neutral in agenda and approach may allow for a focus on STEM as a way to highlight market pressures in education (Weinstein et al., 2016). Using STEM as a way to focus on the social issues, bring in multiple perspectives, and explore neoliberal moves in a basic sense, could see a neoliberal policy harnessed to defeat itself in some sense. Weinstein et al. (2016) suggest that teachers and administrators not adopt STEM education with a blind faith that it will lead to great things. They suggest targets of STEM education policy be critical and offer multiple perspectives to students harnessing STEM. In spite of this, increasingly STEM is being framed as negative (Carter, 2017; Smith, 2018). With STEM education policy seen as something to be refuted and ignored. However, arguably, the metaphorical bull has already left the gate, and now it is up to teachers, and researchers alike, to appropriate the STEM education movement to redefine it as a collection of subjects that work together to encourage innovative pedagogy, emancipation, and student centrality.

More thoughts to come...

Student Partnerships

I have written here before on the ‘set up’ of a PBL classroom. However, I want to go some way towards explaining the process of negotiation and explicitness required in order to successfully set learners up, the classroom, and the context by way of a philosophical elaboration.

First, let me describe, or perhaps re-describe, the teacher in the context of ‘my’ PBL classroom. You will get the impression, if you engage with me in conversation or read a significant portion of my writing, that on teaching philosophy I view teachers as negotiators, coaches and facilitators of learning. These teachers are as capable of establishing a learning culture, in development of expectations, partnerships, etc., as they are about understanding and being critical of the context and constraints in which they work. 

Lately, I have taken to adopting Garth Boomer’s view that the teacher must be a ‘pragmatic radical’: an expert navigator of systems and structures, capable of self-regulation and reflection and the support of their colleagues. Without digressing, I think this quote captures well some of the key features of the ‘committed pragmatic radical’ teacher:

a new kind of toughened fighter for a better deal for the disadvantaged, who has dispelled the worst effects of soft edged romanticism while keeping alive sharp visions of a better society based on hard-won principle: “The radical teacher must be a hard-nosed pragmatist keeping alive principles and long-term goals; but having a canny sense of what is achievable, what is not worth the energy and what, however slight, might constitute strategic gain. The radical teacher must also seek out networks of support. Alone, even the pragmatic radical is at risk. … Pragmatism is not synonymous with capitulation or weakness. It is about knowing when to act and when not to act: knowing what is possible and what is doomed; weighing consequences and benefits; deciding what to say and what not to say; taking out insurance; having safety nets; not driving oneself insane with mocking images of unreachable utopias. To be pragmatic is to place the emphasis on effective action without denying the power of imagination and dreaming of better worlds: on the achieved and achievable rather than on the chronicles of failure. The quest for pragmatism is a kind of warfare on illusion. … To know 'what is going on', or even to wonder what might be going on, means having an all-encompassing fish-eye-lens taking in the backgrounds, capabilities and aspirations of the learners and their parents, knowing the structures, habits and values of the school, reading the wider politics of the system and society (particularly its economics), and understanding the ebb and flow of interactions and struggles in the arenas of gender, race, ethnicity and class. It also means having a good sense of history, and an understanding of the antecedents of the status quo.

Adopting this background, without having written further on it first hand in this space, I set the expectation of teacher-student partnerships in the classroom.

There is something even more practical to be taken away here. The process, perhaps a metaphorical step one, in a negotiation journey with our learners. The establishment of a ‘new regime’, but a pragmatic radical regime, where teacher re-theorises and contextualises for their context. Be that on arrival of a new class at the beginning of the academic year, or the re-negotiation of expectations with your current class. Returning back to the PBL classroom setup, it is absolutely critical, in my view, to make explicit the goals and aims of the classroom that learners are to be faced with. This process involves, in no small way, bringing the learners on the journey toward the relatively new structures, expectations, and even the physical layout of the classroom. 

If expectations are not made clear, if the frames of teaching and learning, for the learner, remain unchanged, there will often be some resistance. By taking small steps towards crafting a teacher-student partnership - indeed a learner-learner partnership, where teacher and student play both roles of learner and teacher - many potential pitfalls may be overcome. Without such a partnership young people may, drawing from their experience of learning ‘so far’, use their best powers of resistance - often through parents - to retain what they know of learning and the comfort they have from building a picture of the 'rules' - in light of the experiences they have had in the classroom already.

It is my goal to impress the importance of dually working as negotiator (in partnership with the students) for the design of the classroom, curriculum, and learning within the school context, and with those parties that may resist, and in equal part on negotiating with students on the expectations and requirements for learning. After all, even seemingly compliant docile students will have, perhaps after some encouragement, voices to share. Beginning the conversation is a way to engage all learners - negating the risk of “strike action” in our classrooms. 

Then for the teacher, as pragmatic radical who is, or is becoming, an expert negotiator of classroom, curriculum, culture, and society (within its bounds) – and indeed negotiator of expectations within each of these circumstances – may be able to, in some way, avoid becoming a victim of circumstance, or a docile bystander and acceptor unproblematically of new decontextualised regimes. In this way, perhaps it will be possible to harness the contradictions of  policies and testing, the constraints, and to employ our agency to make a real difference for our young people.

The point? We mustn’t watch as possibilities to learn, facilitate, coach and engage, indeed improve our learning and teaching theories, pass us by. We must seize every opportunity to use the contradictions and frames that are set up before us, traps to the uninitiated, as a vehicle for good teaching and learning in our systems. 


Boomer, R. G. (1991). Pragmatic-Radical Teaching and the Disadvantaged Schools Program. In B. Green (Ed.), Designs on Learning: Essays on Curriculum and Teaching by Garth Boomer (1999). Deakin West, ACT: Australian Curriculum Studies Association Inc.

Simplifying Rubrics

If you've looked at the resources in previous posts, you may have noticed that the rubrics I have constructed have seemed almost empty. This isn't a mistake, it's a deliberate omission. By dropping the levels from the rubric, I'm taking the cap off student achievement.

Let's look at some of the reasons you might want to follow suit:

1. It's significantly less up-front work...

I know sometimes it can take hours pondering the specific words to choose for your hand-crafted rubric. By dropping all but one level, you're almost taking the language level route: "barely", "average", "well", "exceptionally" - but keeping it simple, just one item per criteria.

2. It allows you to tailor feedback for students...

Because the rubric is, for the most part, blank - you have the opportunity to write feedback specific to the student's work or skills. Adding this to a routine of giving students point-of-need feedback on their work can be an effective way to track progress.  

3. It enables you to ask students for self and peer-assessment...

Using student friendly language when you create the rubric means that you can give multiple copies to different parties. Depending where your students are up to, you might ask them to give themselves a comment on their progress. Or to exchange rubrics with a peer and comment on their work, or skills.  

4. See where students are at with a glance...

With two of three columns blank, it's easy to see which students are excelling, and which students are struggling. This can be significant when you compare feedback from multiple sources - for example, you might notice a student who has given themselves harsh feedback where their peers and you are providing high level feedback, giving you the opportunity to talk to the student about their opinion of their work.

5. Come report time...

Stick with the simplified single-point rubric for a whole term and ask students to keep them in a folder, or hold on to them yourself. When report writing comes up, take comments that you, students, and their peers gave their work and skills to create a more authentic, EASIER report!

6. Stretch?

Co-construct the criteria for the single-point rubric with your students. Make sure that the criteria on the rubric are clear, and if you're using them, align with your learning intentions for the workshop or whole unit.

For an extra challenge, create rubrics that encompass learning goals (even based directly on content descriptions from the curriculum) WITH General Capabilities AND the 4C's. 

Combining simplified single-point rubrics as one assessment strategy, with formative assessments will help make assessment easier and more rewarding for you and your students. Couple this with other management strategies like eduScrum for cohesive visual management of classroom activities!

As always, best wishes,

Aidan. 🐙

P.S. Don't just take it from me, stacks of other people have written about single-point rubrics and their variations.

Fluckiger, J. (2010). Single point rubric: A tool for responsible student self-assessment. The Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin76(4), 18.

Designing a Mini-Project

For many students, Project Based Learning is a foreign concept. Introducing students to a new way of learning (inquiry) can be one of the greatest challenges for any teacher starting out with PBL. To address this, we designed a small scale project to get students engaged, and evaluate their prior learning and ability to work together. Before I dive into that, let's examine the context and some challenges...

Getting a foot in the door

The first challenge, at the outset, was the newness of PBL to the current context.  PBL often seems daunting even to experienced teachers, and when colleagues begin to implement new teaching strategies a range of reactions can occur. Be clear, PBL is well established, well researched and internationally recognised. Go for it.

Fortunately, in South Australia, the state mandated pedagogy is permissive, and enables teachers to follow a PBL approach. Coupling this with a respect for the policies and practices that exist in the school (eg. literacy & numeracy agreements) and for what students, parents, and the community bring - teachers have the opportunity to spark centres of innovation in their school.


Scrum Boards

I'll write more significantly on this when I get the opportunity. Scrum boards are a process borrowed from computer science for project management. I heard about these from the fabulous Rox Levett

In essence, students become responsible for managing their projects, you - the teacher - become the "client" for the deliverable product, and you have Scrum meetings daily with students to help keep them on track. Each student - or each group of students - will have a board divided into 3-4 sections, with a "to do", "in progress", "to check/verify", and "done" division. 

Here's some pics of us setting up eduScrums...

Week 1, Term 1 - What first?

I haven't found a definitive answer to 'what do I do first' with PBL, and rightly, much existing writing suggests teachers assessment of their context is paramount to successful beginnings. So the takeaway is there isn't a single band-aid or unit-plan that is going to work for your context, some work is going to be required -- but for most teachers, especially those trying to commence in PBL, a LOT of work is going to be required. The pay-off is students who are self-directed, curious, engaged, capable and hungry.  

Consider your context carefully, what's around your school, who and what can be a resource for your students' learning? Draw on elements of your students' interests, and their needs.

Enough warning - To get the ball rolling, here's what we designed...

Thinking about what our students showed an interest in (hint:  design and tech, construction projects etc.) we designed an initial activity that focussed on:

  • laying initial foundations for the 4C's: Critical Thinking - Collaboration - Communication - Creativity and Innovation
  • starting to build an inquiry learning culture in the classroom
  • helping students feel comfortable in their teams
  • making initial steps towards acclimatising students to project planning, implementation, and reflection
  • and finally introducing the use of Scrum boards as a project management tool -- keeping this part simple!

This mini-project took the form of a 3 lesson (2hrs each) "Tower Design Activity" - cliché I know, but bear with me. It's also worth keeping in mind that because this was a Week 1 activity there were plenty of 'coming and goings' in the classroom!

In the design there were five major parts of the project:

Part 1: Brainstorming

In groups of 5 for the remainder of the mini-project students were to complete:

  • A 'what first' activity, that included: brainstorming some ideas for how we might design the product, and figuring out who in our group is going to be responsible for what parts.
  • This 'what first' activity also included the opportunity for students to add their own items and address these in their first 'play' with the tower design. 

Because we were also introducing Scrum boards at this point, there was a great deal of explicit instruction in the introduction asking each group to put up the same tasks in the 'to do' column.

Part 2: Designing

  • Students were each to produce a draft design based on a set of criteria. The criteria was based partly on the students brainstorming about their designs and joining techniques, in addition to the following:
    • "Your structure will be able to support itself without you helping it for at least two minutes"
    • "Your structure will be at least as tall as your tallest group member (measure yourselves!)"
    • "Your structure will incorporate at least two of the ideas, and joining techniques you brainstormed above"

During this process students remained responsible for managing their progress against the Scrum board tasks. 

Part 3: Collaborating

  • Students were to come up with the ultimate design, incorporating elements of each of team-members' design. This ultimate design was submitted for checking before proceeding to the next step.

Scrum boards, again, played a part in keeping the groups on track - reinforcing the use of the Scrum board to help manage the project.

Part 4: Building & the challenge

  • In their groups, the students were to construct their ULTIMATE DESIGN! Their attention was drawn to the criteria provided on the project brief, and they were reminded about the goals of the activity.
  • Importantly, this task was not considered for 'assessment', the production of the tower was a team building exercise, not a criteria for success. If students' towers had collapsed or failed to meet the construction criteria, this was considered in reflection -- but not in a 'grading'.

Part 5: Reflection

  • Finally, students were encouraged to reflect on their experience.

Students were asked to: "Have a chat with your group, look at your Scrum board, look at your final plan. Figure out what worked, what didn’t work, what you might change…" they conducted a short self-assessment (single point rubric, check boxes) and wrote a short reflection on the kinds of thinking they did, reflecting on their creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking.

These questions guided their reflection:

  • How were you creative in the design of your tower?
  • How did your brainstorming inform your tower design? How did you think critically about how your design would come together?

What now...

This activity provides an entry point for you to assess your students ability to do a range of things. From working in teams, to thinking critically and creatively. From here, you can make changes to your planned units, adding extra support, or removing certain standards that students are addressing fluently. 

Stay tuned for the feedback and reflection from students on this module, and how we might respond to this as teachers. 

Some Resources

  1. The mini-project brief and rubric for students - these are slightly modified for privacy.
  2. An excerpt from the unit planner for teachers - this is significantly modified because you will need to adapt this one project for your context!

As always, until next time... Best Wishes,

Aidan. 👨‍🏫 

P.S. There are heaps great blog posts written about 'how much', 'is this right', 'how do I' in PBL.

An evolving STEM Australian Curriculum map for 3-4-5-6

Hello friends,

Attached is a basic map of the Australian Curriculum for years 3-4-5-6 combining Science, Design and Technology, Digital Technology, and Mathematics content descriptors into four 'topics'.

This is by no means a lesson plan, more a basic grouping of content that could be taught for any given year level. I find that the Science knowledge descriptors tend to lend well to basic project ideas.

Grab that spreadsheet here!

Let me know what you think!



Beginning of year STEM planning ideas

This morning I've been brainstorming some key elements of STEM planning and implementation. I've been emphasising planning through the Australian Curriculum and implementation through PBL strategies.


  • Consider students prior knowledge and experiences. If you don't yet have a deep understanding of students prior knowledge, try and be general - but incorporate student experience as early as possible -- Ownership!
  • Draw on local resources and materials (* cross-curriculum priorities, 'real world' STEM). Use real 'problems' or 'scenarios' from students' lives or context to inform your topic in a way that links 'real tasks' into the learning experience. Simple things like giving student (teams) role names like 'engineers' can be a start, but try to make these roles significant. Students as members of multiple teams should also be considered. 
    • Team ideas: Leadership team / Problem-solving team / Scientists / Engineers / Mathematicians / Computer scientists.
    • If you're stuck for local resources - try exploring local companies, if you can identify S/T/E/M in these industries you can highlight this for students. There's STEM in everything! Here in Roxby Downs there are abundant STEM jobs: miners, scientists, engineers. Identification, while often seemingly superficial, can be incredibly useful in highlighting the importance of knowledge and skills (from the curriculum). Thinking... "why do I have to learn this?" 
  • Embedded formative assessment. A no brainer for the PBLs, but important to consider. It may also be worth planning links to what we want students to know, do and understand and why. Arguably, if this were a numbered list, this would come first. How are you going to know what your students' know, and track back from there. (Something like the Learning Design framework might come in handy here.)
  • Cross curriculum priorities. Connections with cross curriculum priorities, particularly sustainability, are abundant across the primary Australian Curriculum, and an important consideration for students in their project work. There are so many opportunities to connect 'real world' learning with the cross curriculum priorities.
  • Authentic audience. For project based learning, we must consider presentation of the finished 'product' to an authentic audience, and while this can seem daunting - especially in planning - don't be turned off, there are lots of ways this can happen. In considering the local resources and materials you might draw on, think about the kinds audiences you might use. For example, in the year six science curriculum we have a knowledge descriptor that reads: 'electrical energy can be transferred and transformed in electrical circuits and can be generated from a range of sources' and let's imagine we're planning a unit that focusses on electricity... We might be able to draw on the local energy company, electricians / electrical engineers (think parents!), or even scientists. 
  • Literacy, numeracy, ICT, critical and creative thinking, ethics. Increasingly, we focus on literacy and numeracy in isolation, but there are many opportunities to include them in STEM project work. If you take time to consider the recommended general capabilities against the main curriculum content descriptors you are using for planning, there should be lots of suggested capabilities already. The general capabilities can also form useful starting points for students' self and peer assessments, for example, providing students with a self assessment (single point) rubric that includes the following items could prove valuable in the assessment of the achievement standard.
These capabilities link to interdisciplinary thinking and reflection and evaluation (science). Think about these as possible goals for a workshop, after delving into the scientific method... 

These capabilities link to interdisciplinary thinking and reflection and evaluation (science). Think about these as possible goals for a workshop, after delving into the scientific method... 

  • Links to other learning areas. Though at first linking multiple parts of the curriculum together can seem challenging, consider other areas students may be drawing on in your planned project. If you're only using PBLs for your STEM time, it's worth considering how you might bring other areas of the curriculum together - toward a wholly integrated curriculum. Remember to make explicit the learning students are doing - before they do it, and afterwards through reflection. Make learning visible in the projects students create.
  • Interdisciplinary thinking. In your planning for assessment, consider how students might think about the links between different knowledge, and make sure your assessments include opportunities for students to demonstrate prior learning. As above, interdisciplinary thinking might start with something as simple as identifying the S/T/E/M in a familiar job, and can be further encouraged through asking students to work across different discipline teams.
  • Inquiry skills and project management. Students will need support to develop inquiry skills, depending on your site and context students may have little experience with PBLs and might need extra help. Conversely: some students might flourish with the freedom to inquire. Make sure that you plan division of labour in student groups, this is where you can easily include differentiation. If you have a team of project leaders, help them understand how to re-delegate workload among students, and use visual tracking (stay tuned) strategies so you can see if students are ahead, or behind.   


  • Project Based Learning. By now you've probably noticed I use 'PBLs', but favour project-based learning as the pedagogic strategy for STEM learning. PBL is not as daunting, or airy-fairy as it is sometimes made to look. Critically, during planning, consider (as above): how students will present their work to an authentic audience, and how learning tasks can be related to real contexts; give opportunities for students to submit multiple drafts - the first product is not the final product; use critique and reflection - provide your students with guidance at the point of need, and ask students to conduct self and peer assessment -- but make sure you workshop those skills first! I'll be writing much more on PBL in the future. For now, if you want more take a look at this great guide.
  • Use exemplars, rubrics, learning criteria, and reflections.
    • If you can, use examples of work that has been completed to a high standard -- even if you have to make these examples. Help students understand, in general, what it is they're working towards. But don't make this prescriptive. If you have students who are likely to want to reproduce the exact sample, refrain from showing one. Use your judgement here.
    • As above, use single point rubrics to help students identify where they need to improve - this will also help you understand where students are up-to with a 'glance', if most of the writing is in the left column, students probably need help! Snag an example one I whipped up here.
    • Establish learning criteria with your students. Leave room in your planning to allow the co-development of learning criteria with your students. This helps students feel ownership over over their learning experiences.
    • Use reflections. If you can include curriculum-informed language, do! Reflections are another key element in explicit learning.
  • Peer-assessment. When students work in groups there are many opportunities for them to assess one another. This can be formal, or informal. Consider how you might ask students to assess one another -- and again, workshop this process with students, alongside project-management skills.

Big tip

  • Make project management visual. Take a look at eduSCRUMs, or consider any form of visual project management, not only does this help students keep track of their projects, but it allows you to see who needs help, who's finished, and what's happening around the classroom at a glance -- woo hoo time save!
Source: http://eduscrum.nl/en/

Source: http://eduscrum.nl/en/

Until next time, best wishes.

🚀 Aidan.


Mox adventu

Hello there,

Thank you kindly for visiting my forthcoming website.

Here I hope to share inspiring stories, useful links, and handy hints for primary school STEM teachers. 👩‍🏫 

Pending the publication and finalisation of some research I have been working on, things may start a little slowly. Rest assured, the site is 'mox adventu' - Coming Soon!

I've committed to actually getting a blog running this year, partly by paying for a Squarespace site

Keep in touch,

❤️ Aidan.