Dr Simon Leonard, STEM Education Research Centre, University of Canberra

STEM X Academy is designed to promote teacher professional learning. It offers teacher learning with significant connection to both their professional needs and the world at large, and it fosters an enacted approach to learning through a process of co-design.

The educational benefits of ‘significance’ are well known by most teachers. We know people learn better when they see a point to the learning beyond passing the next test: when it has authentic real-world application.

The STEM X Academy achieves this in a couple of ways. Firstly, it connects educators with STEM practitioners and communicators.

Secondly, it makes these connections in ways that genuinely combine the disciplines that make up STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics. STEM is more than just a convenient way to group some school subjects. In public discussion and government policy it is the combination of the STEM disciplines that is increasingly seen as the basis for future innovation and prosperity. This is changing the very purpose of education in each of the disciplines.

STEM X Academy does more than give participating teachers a few new ideas for the classroom; it provides a method and structure to support the more fundamental curriculum changes that STEM is bringing.

The traditional curriculum, particularly in science and mathematics, has focused heavily on the development of basic concepts within each subject. STEM, in contrast, calls for the application of skills and concepts from the different subjects as a basis of creativity, innovation and problem-solving.

Problem-solving pedagogies in themselves are not new, but STEM calls for a deeper change in the way we think about curriculum and what we are trying to achieve with students. Changes such as this are hard to make, but they are easier to make when the learning is ‘enacted’ through engaging in real collaborative design and this is what STEM X Academy offers both during the residential period and beyond.

STEM X Academy provides teachers with access to new ideas and new ways to think. It then provides the even more powerful professional learning of engaging in the ongoing co-design of the STEM curriculum.