Delivering a joint-STEM challenge remotely

Our School of Education and the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Pune have strengthened our joint commitment to the development of teachers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by jointly delivering a STEM challenge project.

Between October and December 2021, a group of 14 teachers from India and Scotland collaborated remotely on a STEM challenge. Over the course of three workshops, the participants planned and built a sustainable model house complete with renewable energy sources, subsequently developing learning plans to support their own students to carry out a similar challenge.

Working across curricula, policies and cultural priorities

Participant in the STEM challenge presenting her model houseThe workshops were developed and delivered by Dr Gabriella Rodolico (Glasgow) and Dr Neeraja Dashaputre (IISER Pune) and were designed to fit both Scottish and Indian educational contexts. Resources were relevant for the local environments and the workshops stimulated a wider understanding of renewable energy, benefitting the curricula in both countries. Participants acknowledged that they used to teach sustainability as a passive concept but, through this project, they had found ways to embed it into a real context of learning.

Drawing on different approaches and knowledge sources also made a small contribution towards a shared understanding of what is meant by de-colonising the curriculum.

Taking the STEM Challenge to the classrooms

The building of a model house with renewable energy was a great example of how to teach about sustainability in a real learning context and it had sparked many more ideas and increased participants' own awareness of the issues. They shared their ideas for how they planned to take their learnings to the classroom in both countries.

"I'm so impressed by how much of your teaching and ideas have already filtered into my teaching style", said one participant. "The combination of teaching, discussion and hands on activities is fantastic. The content taught was very relevant".

"The workshops greatly expanded my understanding of the subject and gave me an understanding of how it can be used in the classroom", explained another participant. "It helped me to centre myself better as a teacher through many techniques and hands on activities".

"It was great to see how teachers in Scotland and India started to comment on and question each other’s plans", said Dr Rodolico. "Every time a teacher completed their energy circuit, they would post a video of the circuit working. The models of the sustainable house they came up with were amazing!"

The role of social media and digital spaces

The tutors promoted active learning through a problem-based approach and set up a buddy system between participants. This involved connecting through both social media and digital learning platforms. Reflecting on their experiences, the group co-authored a paper for the Social Media for Learning in Higher Education Conference hosted by the Universities of Glasgow and Strathclyde in December 2021.

The teams explored the development of possible third spaces to allow access to learning material for both institutions in a regulated and protected environment where intellectual property rights were assigned to each author. Material has been deposited in the Figshare database with access granted to all participants and intellectual property assigned in an ethical way.

British Council Going Global Exploratory Grant

Based on this project, Dr Rodolico and Dr Deshpande have been awarded a British Council Going Global Exploratory Grant to develop the workshops into a full course. As well as the hands-on STEM challenge, the course will integrate language and gender in a holistic approach to STEM teacher education. The teams will explore how best to embed it into ongoing courses such as the Master of Education (MEDuc) ITE programme at Glasgow, to ensure sustainability and scale-up impact.

Future plans for the partnership

The University of Glasgow’s School of Education and IISER Pune have a vision to establish an international virtual hub, a centre for STEM Education and Social Justice. The Hub will serve as a platform to bring together educators and researchers from a range of disciplines to strengthen approaches to inclusive, evidence-based, transformational teaching and learning.

Women in STEM
The collaboration sought to include a strong representation of women in STEM, with female STEM professionals among the tutors from both institutions. Guest experts engaging with workshop participants included Lorna Bennet, a mechanical engineer at ORE Catapult who specialises in wind energy and the impact it has in Scotland; Anujna Nutan Dnyaneshwar, architect and founder, Maatimol; and Dr Daniela Castro Camilo, a lecturer in statistics at the University of Glasgow.

An invaluable contribution was also made by Michael Kilpatrick, civil engineer and associate director at Goodson Associates; Professor Iain McLeod, structural engineer at IESIS; and Professor Ogale, director of the research institute for sustainable energy at IISER Pune. The team felt that successful teamwork is based on knowledge exchange and mutual respect across genders.