My research focuses on children’s mathematical and scientific reasoning in the context of schooling, with a special emphasis on tools and notations for developing thought. There are two major strands to this program. The first focuses on the design of learning environments that foster the growth and development of model-based reasoning about mathematics and science. This research, conducted with Leona Schauble, involves collaboration with teachers in local schools to reform mathematics and science so that students can invent and revise models as forms of mathematical and scientific explanation. We work with teachers to design a cumulative science education centered about modeling practices. In a related reform effort, I collaborate with teachers to redesign elementary-grade mathematics to include systematic investigation of space and geometry. We investigate children’s understanding of the mathematics of space when mathematics education is grounded in children’s everyday experiences. I also examine the inscriptions and notations children invent as tools for mathematical exploration and argument. My research in mathematics education includes work with teachers and children in urban schools (Phoenix, AZ) and with Yup’ik children and their teachers in Alaska.
A second strand of research, connected in principle to the first by its focus on student inquiry and the semiotics of inscription, considers students as software authors and designers. This research has included examination of Logo, Lego Logo, and hypermedia as design tools for students in the elementary and secondary grades. I’ve been especially interested in the growth of critical standards about design when students are provided prolonged opportunities to author in electronic environments. Current research focuses on design and development of case-based hypermedia tools for teachers, with attention to the role that dynamic tools like these can play in fostering community and continued professional development.
Presentation Title and Abstract:
Perspectives on Elementary STE(A)M Education: Silos, Stews, and Bridges
Although there is widespread agreement about the need for STEM education (and in some circles, a STEAM education), there is little consensus about how children might be profitably introduced to this enterprise. The traditional response has been to do so by creating silos– the school day is partitioned into disciplinary segments, most often, mathematics and science, with an occasional serving of technology. An alternative perspective, which is attracting an increasingly powerful constituency, advocates an integrated STEM education. For instance, projects in engineering design include forays into science, mathematics, and technology. These forms of integration are intuitively appealing because they seem “relevant,” but as implemented, they often obscure valuable distinctions in disciplinary ways of knowing, and thus result in an epistemic stew. I suggest, instead, an approach that preserves disciplinary ways of knowing, but establishes bridges among STEAM disciplines in ways that amplify children’s perspectives on possible ways of knowing. STEAM bridges are illustrated in children’s classroom activity.
Dr Linda Hobbs is an educator and researcher from Deakin University, teaching science education within in the Bachelor of Education. Linda leads the professional development program called Successful Students-STEM Program involving Geelong schools. Other research interests include school-university partnerships, and issues relating to teaching out-of-field in mathematics and science.
Presentation Title and Abstract:
Building STEM teaching capability in schools: Case study of the Successful Students-STEM Program
While Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) are disciplines in their own right, their synergies championed under the “STEM” banner are igniting a flurry of political and industry discussion, and this raises significant implications for education. The objective of this presentation is to articulate how schools can develop a comprehensive, multi-faceted and coherent STEM vision that addresses the subtle and complex challenge of preparing “twenty-first century” citizens within the constraints of a traditional school system and curriculum. For STEM education to be incorporated effectively and sustainably in schools, a STEM vision needs to be more than discrete STEM-related activities slotted into an already bulging curriculum: what is needed is a vision that is inclusive and interdisciplinary, underpinned by a set of pedagogies and practices appropriate for STEM curriculum and learning, cognizant of the learning needs of teachers, and infused by industry links. In order to illustrate how schools can develop a STEM vision, this presentation will report on the learning journey of secondary teachers participating in a professional development program where they are developing STEM programs and building teaching capacity.
Julian Williams is Professor of Mathematics Education at The University of Manchester, where he led a series of ESRC-funded “Transmaths” (www.transmaths.org) research projects that investigated mathematics education in the post-compulsory transitions from school to university.
He has a longstanding interest in curriculum, pedagogy and assessment in mathematics and across STEM, in mathematical modelling, and in links with vocational and outside-school mathematics. This work has led to interests in social theory and the political economy of education, explored recently in his Fielden lecture available form the MIE website here.
Presentation Title and Abstract:
Becoming un-Disciplined by Science and Mathematics: the life and death of STEM
STEM, if it is to be more than a political arrangement of convenience aiming to corall industry-government funding and marginalize the others¹, seems to imply inter-disciplinarity in the service of problem-solving that speaks to real¹ concerns of humanity. Exploring the historical and cultural roots of disciplines and inter-, trans-, and un-disciplinary dialectically, I propose a theoretical perspective that draws (pace Foucault) on power-knowledge in discourses, and (pace Bourdieu and Activity Theory from Vygotsky and Bakhtin) on theories of field, activity, and identity. I will illustrate these ideas with some critiques of policies and practices such as numeracy across the curriculum’ etc. The main substantive conclusion is that in the disciplinary landscape of academe, the problem-solving Subject is not only disciplined¹ but can also better be un-disciplined¹, and self-consciously so. Thus not only the disciplines of STEM¹, but also STEM itself is negated by its practice outside school¹, addressing interests that might challenge the STEM-elites.