Jan 02, 2016

New science teaching for a new generation

A new way of teaching hopes to stem the decline in students taking up science, technology, engineering and maths.

Of the 36 schools involved in the $3.95m Future Makers program to date, seven are hosting a pilot STEM education program and 29 are participating in a ‘Creative Labs’ teacher professional development program. So far, 510 students have been exposed to gaining new skills.

Chinchilla State High is one of those taking part in professional development on the delivery of the science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) program.

Maths and Science Head of Department Jackie Beck said involvement in the program has seen their students thrive in science.

“We have adopted a way of delivering the curriculum which is relevant and engaging to all students, regardless of their academic ability,” she said.

“Students who find the work challenging are finding success and those students who have always enjoyed science are thriving in this new learning environment. “

Future Makers aims to increase the uptake and performance of STEM subjects and careers and be a driving force to innovate STEM education and culture in Queensland and Australia.

Comparing school subject data from the end of semester one showed 46 per cent of students were at a High Achievement or better. Semester two data shows that figure has improved considerably and is now at 64 per cent.

Years six and nine classes in Chinchilla, Brisbane and Gladstone took part in the pilot over the past year.

It focused on earth sciences, in line with the national curriculum, to inject learning strategies to encourage creative thinking, investigation and team work.

Almost 140 teachers have been involved in teaching, providing feedback on how the program is faring.

‘Future Makers’ is a response to evidence showing the number of Australian school students participating in STEM subjects is declining significantly.

An OECD report (2011) found the average time spent on science in Australian schools was 5.7 per cent, below the OECD average of 7.4 per cent.

It also found Australian 15-year-olds have slipped in mathematics by the equivalent of half a year’s schooling in the last 10 years.

The decline in the rate of participation in science subjects across Australia is the lowest in 20 years.

The program is presented by natural gas producer QGC and the Queensland Museum Network.