General principles guiding a fresh approach to STEM education

The driving educational priorities we have adopted are:

  1. to engage the learner’s interest and active participation in study
  2. to build the key STEM-relevant skills
  3. to develop and progressively deepen understanding of core ideas, insights, tools and strategies
  4. to explore a wide range of specific applications reinforcing the power, reach and value of the skills and core ideas in a way that provides challenge and attainable achievement

These need to be thought through for tthe particular level of course being designed, and for its context, importantly including the state of knowledge and skills expected of learners at entry, and intended to be in place on completion.

The engagement priority is addressed largely through the choice of topic areas chosen as vehicles for achieving the range of skills, knowledge and understanding across the STEM disciplines at the appropriate level, and in the detailed suggestions on how delivery of the different course units might be approached.  The fourth of the above priorities is addressed alongside "engagement" in this approach to course design.

Here we concern ourselves with ways of documenting the key skills, conceptual understanding, and useful STEM methodologies which are at the root of priorities 2 and 3 on the above list.

We are documenting these here at a level geared to provide a secure platform for entry to a degree course in any STEM discipline.

Big Ideas in Science

Many commentators have stressed the centrality to science education of understanding the implications of what are widely categorised as "the big ideas of science."  However these are very often identified by a simple bulleted list of short phrases.  We believe that it is helpful to describe these in rather fuller detail, and expressed in a waay that is appropriate at a given level of education.

We analysed and documented these in a way that seemed appropriate to us for the entry level to higher education.  We have also described them as "core concepts" and as key "science storylines" as well as "the big ideas" of the sciences.  This compilation can be downloaded as a paper entitled Science Storylines.  We regard a proper grasp of these core ideas and their wide-ranging significance as the key foundation for effective progression towards degree and professional levels of competence.

Key STEM Methodologies

We have documented a list of Key STEM tools and methodologies, which capture key characteristics of mathematics, engineeing & technology, and computing & information sciences.  Also touched upon are some key "ideas about science."

Core STEM Skills

The important STEM-relevant skills required were analysed under nine headings, each supported by carefully defined statements for the relevant SCQF levels concerned.  Full details can be accessed in the our paper: An Analysis of Core STEM skills 


Comments and Suggestions

Comments and suggestions relating to any of the above documents would be most welcome.  Please email