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Edited by Tasos Barkatsas, Nicky Carr and Grant Cooper

The second decade of the 21st century has seen governments and industry globally intensify their focus on the role of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) as a vehicle for future economic prosperity. Economic opportunities for new industries that are emerging from technological advances, such as those emerging from the field of artificial intelligence also require greater capabilities in science, mathematics, engineering and technologies. In response to such opportunities and challenges, government policies that position STEM as a critical driver of economic prosperity have burgeoned in recent years. Common to all these policies are consistent messages that STEM related industries are the key to future international competitiveness, productivity and economic prosperity.
This book presents a contemporary focus on significant issues in STEM teaching, learning and research that are valuable in preparing students for a digital 21st century. The book chapters cover a wide spectrum of issues and topics using a wealth of research methodologies and methods ranging from STEM definitions to virtual reality in the classroom; multiplicative thinking; STEM in pre-school, primary, secondary and tertiary education, opportunities and obstacles in STEM; inquiry-based learning in statistics; values in STEM education and building academic leadership in STEM.
The book is an important representation of some of the work currently being done by research-active academics. It will appeal to academics, researchers, teacher educators, educational administrators, teachers and anyone interested in contemporary STEM Education related research in a rapidly changing globally interconnected world.

Contributors are: Natalie Banks, Anastasios (Tasos) Barkatsas, Amanda Berry, Lisa Borgerding, Nicky Carr, Io Keong Cheong, Grant Cooper, Jan van Driel, Jennifer Earle, Susan Fraser, Noleine Fitzallen, Tricia Forrester, Helen Georgiou, Andrew Gilbert, Ineke Henze, Linda Hobbs, Sarah Howard, Sylvia Sao Leng Ieong, Chunlian Jiang, Kathy Jordan, Belinda Kennedy, Zsolt Lavicza, Tricia Mclaughlin, Wendy Nielsen, Shalveena Prasad, Theodosia Prodromou, Wee Tiong Seah, Dianne Siemon, Li Ping Thong, Tessa E. Vossen and Marc J. de Vries.
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Critical Mathematics Education

Can Democratic Mathematics Education Survive under Neoliberal Regime?

Bülent Avcı

Drawing on rich ethnographic data, Critical Mathematics Education: Can Democratic Mathematics Education Survive under Neoliberal Regime? responds to ongoing discussions on the standardization in curriculum and reconceptualizes Critical Mathematics Education (CME) by arguing that despite obstructive implications of market-driven changes in education, a practice of critical mathematics education to promote critical citizenship could be implemented through open-ended projects that resonate with an inquiry-based collaborative learning and dialogic pedagogy. In doing so, neoliberal hegemony in education can be countered. The book also identifies certain limitations of critical mathematical education and suggests pedagogic and curricular strategies for critical educators to cope with these obstacles.
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Sharon Fraser, Jennifer Earle and Noleine Fitzallen

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In Australia, a National stem School Education Strategy provides guidance for a whole school approach to stem, going so far as to suggest that that new teaching approaches be implemented and evaluated, and that stem be prioritised in teacher professional learning. In recent years, some Australian teachers/schools have enacted stem pedagogies, in the face of a curriculum that remains focussed on the siloed, traditional disciplines of science and mathematics, and more recently digital technologies (implicitly incorporating engineering) but a more consistent and equitable approach is needed. This chapter synthesises what is known about stem as it pertains to primary and secondary teacher practice, leadership in education, and enactment of the Australian curriculum; and summarises the implications for teacher education and professional practice in the future.

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Chunlian Jiang, Wee Tiong Seah, Tasos Barkatsas, Sao Ieong Leng Sylvia and Io Keong Cheong

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Values are of paramount importance in our society and strengthening values in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (stem) education has the potential to weave an interactive pattern between stem and various societal structures so that these are continuously and critically examined. It could be argued that what students value in their mathematics learning steer their decisions and actions throughout the learning process. In this context, the ‘What I Find Important’ (WIFI) Study was designed to identify what students value in mathematics learning. Survey data collected from 612 Grade 8 students were analysed by means of Principal Components Analysis (PCA), showing that Macau students value achievement; relevance; practice; technology; communication and development. In this chapter we analyse and interpret these values in the cultural context of Macau. Differences between Macau students and their peers in the other three greater China regions (i.e., The Chinese Mainland, Hong Kong, and Taiwan) are also discussed.

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Kathy Jordan

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A stem discourse is emerging in Australian national and state school education policies, as governments seek to develop a vision and road map for the future. This official discourse argues in support of a national stem enterprise, so that Australia’s economic growth and way of life will be maintained. Within this discourse, schools are framed as important to increasing the participation and performance of students in stem, and to building a highly-skilled stem workforce. This chapter analyses several recent national and state school education policies to gain greater understanding of this positioning.

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Grant Cooper and Nicky Carr

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The aim of this paper is to examine pre-service teachers’ (PSTs) perceptions of stem education, including their conceptualisations and psychosocial factors associated with teaching it. Methods used to in this study to elicit PSTs’ perceptions included surveys, online responses and drawings. PSTs in this sample commonly conceptualised stem education as involving an integrated approach, placing an emphasis on the relationships between disciplines. PSTs also frequently discussed the importance of developing students’ generic skills, using problem-based learning and inquiry-related pedagogies. Some participants positioned stem education as a way of promoting workforce skills and dispositions in their future students. PSTs generally reported positive attitudes to teaching stem education. They also reported a number of normative influences to teach stem, however there appeared to be limited opportunities to develop their teaching capacity on professional experience in schools. Relatively low levels of self-efficacy to teach particular areas of stem were reported by PSTs, particularly engineering and digital technologies. This paper contributes to debates on calls for reform to teacher education programs and discourses about PSTs perceptions of stem education.

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Andrew Gilbert and Lisa Borgerding

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This case study delves into a five-day STEAM camp at a Reggio Emilia inspired pre-school setting where children explored stem content that included a strong Arts component. The results suggest that integrated STEAM activities helped young children construct understandings for the properties of air and facilitated engagement in argumentation surrounding those concepts. Young children demonstrated rich possibilities and potential for learning across STEAM and this project serves as a reminder that our youngest learners are capable of engagement in stem particularly when explored using the Arts for design, testing and communication of their burgeoning ideas.

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Wendy Nielsen, Helen Georgiou, Sarah Howard and Tricia Forrester

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Recent curriculum and regulatory changes in K-6 education require an integrative focus by primary teachers. Initial teacher education (ITE) responds to these changes with program innovation to support preservice teacher competencies, subject matter knowledge and pedagogical skill. stem as a recent rhetorical focus provides new opportunity and impetus for ITE programs to support preservice primary teachers to integrate the stem disciplines more deliberately. This chapter provides a number of examples of ITE program elements across the stem Key Learning Areas that illustrate how preservice teachers can be positioned to take an integrative approach to science, technology and mathematics.

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Dianne Siemon, Natalie Banks and Shalveena Prasad

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Across the science, technology and engineering fields there is very little of any substance that can be achieved without the capacity to recognise, represent and reason about relationships between quantities, that is, to think multiplicatively. However, recent research has found that at least 25% and up to 55% of Australian Year 8 students are not demonstrating a capacity for multiplicative thinking. This helps explain the decline in the relative performance of Australian students on international assessments of mathematics and the significant decline in the proportion of Year 12 students undertaking the more advanced mathematics courses. But the data also reveal significant inequities in that students from low socioeconomic communities are far more likely to be represented in the 45 to 55% range than students from higher socioeconomic backgrounds who are more likely to be represented in the 25 to 35% range. This situation is untenable where the fastest growing employment opportunities require some form of stem qualification. The chapter presents evidence from two large scale research projects to make a case for focussing on identifying and responding appropriately to students’ learning needs in relation to multiplicative thinking as a key priority in stem education.

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Tasos Barkatsas, Nicky Carr and Grant Cooper