aSTEM: Models and modelling for authentic STEM education

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The centrality of models and modelling in all STEM disciplines serves as a valid premise from which to increase authenticity. The aim of the research is to define and investigate the authentic integration of science and technology as two selected components of STEM education through models and modelling in Sweden.

The last decade has witnessed several concerted movements towards integrated science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. Integrated STEM is typically discussed in relation to education policy, curricula and economic competitiveness, but the acronym has also become associated with skills such as creativity and problem-solving capability. As specific disciplines, science, technology, engineering and mathematics are not necessarily connected in content or pedagogy. However, integrated STEM emulates real practices in innovation and could therefore increase relevance and applicability of these disciplines in a rapidly changing world, thus making STEM more than the sum of its component parts.

Models and modelling increase authenticity

Therefore, a challenge for teachers in STEM subjects is to design classroom activities that integrate two or more of the subjects in their teaching in a relevant way. In essence, to realise and frame any implications of STEM for learning, contemporary scholars argue that STEM education needs to be authentic. In recent years, models and modelling has been argued as a valid premise from which to increase authenticity, relevance and create bridges between the STEM disciplines. This is not only because modelling is central to the disciplines themselves as authentic practice in laboratories and design studios, but modelling is also a fundamental aspect of STEM literacy, which is the ability to identify, apply and integrate knowledge from the STEM disciplines. Through modelling processes in STEM education, the disciplines forge a synergistic relationship, often requiring a learner to transit between the learning areas while engaging scientific, mathematical and technological activities, which often renders them interdependent and thereby facilitate creative and innovative outcomes. Therefore, proposing learning outcomes in STEM education must be based on tested frameworks for authenticity through modelling, in order to stimulate interaction and transfer of knowledge and skills between contexts.

Investigate the authentic integration of science and technology 

Surprisingly, however, very few educational interventions exist for actively creating links between science and technology education. Furthermore, little empirical research has investigated the direct implementation of such links in classroom practice, especially concerning models and modelling as authentic tools for STEM literacy. The overarching purpose of the research project is to define and investigate the authentic integration of science and technology as two selected components of STEM education through models and modelling in Sweden. In turn, this is a basis for developing the notion of a STEM literacy. Within this vision, the research project proposes the following three overall aims in a Swedish upper secondary school context:

  1. To derive a literature- and expert-based definition for authentic learning through models and modelling in the integration of technology and science education as two components of STEM
  2. To design an integrated authentic models and modelling intervention in technology and science education, and investigate its learning outcomes.
  3. To investigate what gender differences or similarities are discernible with respect to the definition, design and implementation of authentic STEM scenarios as well as the learning outcomes.

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