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Enhancing student learning through Project Based Learning (PBL) in a secondary school integrative STEM course

27th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education : AAEE 2016

Abstract: Context: Parramatta Marist High, a Catholic systemic comprehensive boys school in Western Sydney, has utilised Project Based Learning (PBL) in all Key Learning Areas in Years 7-10 for almost a decade. Following the development of an integrative Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (iSTEM) syllabus and its subsequent endorsement by the New South Wales Board of Studies, Teaching, and Educational Standards (BOSTES), it was deemed an opportune course to introduce and deliver utilising a fully PBL approach. The primary aim of the course's introduction in 2015 was to increase engagement and to help improve the communication skills of students as they progress into senior Science and Mathematics courses. Moreover, given constructivist based approaches to learning (like PBL) are growing in popularity within engineering faculties, this also became an opportunity to educate potential young engineers in a way they are likely to encounter at university.

Purpose: To illustrate how utilising a PBL approach in the delivery of the iSTEM course can enhance student learning.

Approach: To engage students, the NSW BOSTES endorsed course, iSTEM, was packaged into engaging authentic projects utilising the PBL pedagogy. The course was delivered as an elective course in Year 9. Students worked in groups to solve a variety of engineering-based problems in units centred on aerodynamics, coding, mechatronics, hydraulics and pneumatics. In groups, students were involved in the design, testing, fabrication and reporting processes. Emphasis was also placed on kinaesthetic learning with the school investing in a fabrication laboratory (FabLab) containing equipment such as a CNC mill, a laser cutter, vacuum former and 3D printers. Further emphasis was placed on engaging experts and the use of real-world scenarios. To gain some insights into the impact of iSTEM's implementation, students were surveyed and interviewed regarding their levels of engagement and their modes of learning at the midway point of the 2016 course. Teacher observations were also recorded regarding the suitability of iSTEM and PBL and student participation.

Results: An analysis of student surveys, recorded interviews and teacher observations indicate students are engaged with the mode of learning and that the iSTEM course is well suited to a PBL approach. Some reported benefits of the PBL approach include peer-coaching within groups and development of the ability to grapple with and articulate more complex material to peers in more readily understandable terms. One area requiring attention is the development of Maths and Science resources to complement this approach to learning. Additionally, if the course were to be accommodated into year 10 in the future, there would need to be greater emphasis on material science and other content and skills that may complement the preliminary HSC courses.

Conclusions: The iSTEM course is very well suited to PBL but its effect can be maximised by utilising a fully PBL approach in its delivery. Student engagement and satisfaction with iSTEM is very high and there are perceived benefits to students in other related disciplines.

To cite this article: Hendry, Adam; Hays, Gavin; Lynch, Daniel and Challinor, Kurt. Enhancing student learning through Project Based Learning (PBL) in a secondary school integrative STEM course [online]. In: 27th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education : AAEE 2016. Lismore, NSW: Southern Cross University, 2016: 337-348. Availability: <http://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=683493095918889;res=IELENG> ISBN: 9780994152039. [cited 23 Jun 17].

Personal Author: Hendry, Adam; Hays, Gavin; Lynch, Daniel; Challinor, Kurt; Source: In: 27th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education : AAEE 2016. Lismore, NSW: Southern Cross University, 2016: 337-348. DOI: Document Type: Conference Paper ISBN: 9780994152039 Subject: Project method in teaching; Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education Society; Education--Standards; Engineering design--Study and teaching (Higher); Materials science--Study and teaching; Peer Reviewed: Yes Affiliation: (1) Parramatta Marist High School, email: ahendry@parra.catholic.edu.au
(2) Parramatta Marist High School
(3) Parramatta Marist High School
(4) Parramatta Marist High School

Database: Engineering Collection