Educators’ response to STEM in the Foundation year: Identifying current educator practice and perceptions

Emily Ashcroft

Research output: Contribution to conference (non-published works)Abstractpeer-review

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Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) innovation is widely agreed upon as critical to a country’s success in the 21st century (Australian Industry Group, 2017; Office of the Chief Scientist, 2013; Timms et al., 2018). However, this success cannot be achieved without the strong foundations in STEM education. Recent literature on STEM in education has demonstrated a shift away from a description of STEM as four related, yet distinct, subjects towards an understanding of STEM as a reform initiative to improve education and innovation (Lowrie, Leonard & Fitzgerald, 2018). This includes conceptualising STEM as more than subject specific content and encompasses educational elements such as ideas, methods and values of STEM practitioners. However, it is not yet clear if this repositioning of STEM has transferred to early childhood educators’ practice in the classroom. Due to the inconsistent understanding of STEM, many approaches to STEM education in early childhood contexts are reliant on toys, tools and resources (Bers, Flannery, Kazakoff, & Sullivan, 2014; Kermani & Aldemir, 2015; Newcombe & Frick, 2010), lacking a deeper and authentic STEM experience. Further, a review of the literature reveals that teachers within the context of the Australian Curriculum struggle to identify STEM in a meaningful way within the national curriculum, without attaching to the individual subjects of the acronym itself (ACARA, 2016). Research is needed in this area to support educators to implement developmentally appropriate pedagogies designed to address STEM engagement and learning. In line with the sub-theme for this conference Future Innovations: Methods and initiatives in teacher education research, this study captures educators’ understandings of STEM in education in early years contexts, beyond toys and tools. Early Learning STEM Australia (ELSA) is an evidence-based program that seeks to increase student engagement with STEM in early years settings: both in the year before and the Foundation year of formal schooling. To fully understand the impact of this program, it is vital to understand the educators' beliefs and perceptions of STEM in education prior to participating in the program. This study examines Foundation year educators’ practice and perceptions of STEM in education. The sample includes 80 Foundation year educators who implemented the ELSA program. Ethics was attained at the start of this study. Prior to interacting with the program, the educators completed a survey regarding their practices and perceptions of teaching STEM in the Foundation year of school. Results of this study revealed that while most educators’ practices align with a traditional interdisciplinary understanding of STEM, data suggests some educators’ practices demonstrate an approach to STEM education that challenges conventional understandings of subject content.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages2
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jul 2021
EventAustralian Teacher Education Association Conference 2021 - Online, Brisbane, Australia
Duration: 7 Jul 20219 Jul 2021
Conference number: 2021


ConferenceAustralian Teacher Education Association Conference 2021
Abbreviated titleATEA Conference 2021
Internet address


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