Since there is a shortage in higher educated individuals in STEM all over Europe, and society requires a general literacy in STEM, more attention should be paid to this issue from early school years on. Consequently, in many EU-countries STEM is prioritized at the educational agenda. Although many European nations have an increased focus on STEM-education in elementary schools, the nature of such learning experiences and how these might be integrated within the curriculum remain open to debate. There is a threshold amongst teachers to really use the STEM-didactics in the classroom.
Some European projects have already focused on specific aspects of STEM, e.g. inquiry-based science education, but the integrated aspect and its possibilities remain often neglected. Furthermore, the potential for STEM-integration in advancing math learning is still less apparent than for science, technology or engineering. Reasons for this are the difficulties to contextualize math contents and let them encompass real-world problem-based learning. Nevertheless, this is important, as in contemporary classrooms mathematics remains mostly abstract and insufficiently connected to the real-world, and as a consequence, it is often not easily understood by the children.
Indeed, studies have shown that an interdisciplinary approach fosters positive attitudes, motivation and problem-solving skills as well as the learning of concepts (Van Houte et al., 2013; Cotabish et al. 2013). Moreover, positive attitudes result in an increase of interest in STEM-disciplines and a growth of competence in an ever-changing global world (Moore et al., 2014). Without doubt, STEM-skills are important for children to obtain 21st century skills.
As a result, in this project, we put forward an approach of integrated STEM-education and its value for math learning. This is not an isolated problem, since all partners experience the same issue. So it certainly needs to be tackled on an international level, and therefore this partnership will work on following outcomes:
- a didactical model will be designed in order to implement integrated STEM-didactics
- 20 good practices based on an interdisciplinary learning approach will be developed. A difference will be made between 2 age groups, as children in the last years of primary school are in particular vulnerable to a drop of their attitude to STEM (De Meyere, 2013). Therefore, in the project 10 STEM-good practices will be developed for 9-12 years old, and subsequently, 10 for the age group of 6-8 years old.
- 2 international Joint staff training events will be organized amongst teachers who tested the activities. For the age group 9-12 years old in Segovia, Spain (November 2017) and for the age group 6-9 years old in Brugge, Belgium (January 2019)
- National training events for teachers organized by the partners
- an educational design based research in which the activities are test by pilot teachers and the effectivity of the activities will be measured through questionnaires and interviews with teachers and students.