New DCU report on STEM learning calls for further connection between educators and industry to address inequalities and enhance learner outcomes
A newly published white paper ‘Immersive STEM Learning Experiences to Shape Shared Futures,’ which details insights from the DCU-led STEM Teacher Internship (STInt) Programme, was launched today by the Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris, TD.
Authored by DCU’s Associate Prof Eilish McLoughlin, Prof Deirdre Butler and Dr. Mairéad Hurley, the report stresses the importance of building and deepening teacher-industry connections to enhance learner outcomes. It also highlights that “Our world and educational systems are constantly evolving to address new challenges and demands faced by society. Education must prepare young people to innovate and to address problems that were not even imagined at the dawn of the 21st Century.”
The mission of the STEM Teacher internship programme is to inspire innovative learning by facilitating collaborative STEM partnerships between key stakeholders in schools, Universities and industry. The white paper argues that there are two major challenges to achieving this mission.
- Firstly, we need to address inequities in education, specifically issues of diversity, equity and inclusion in STEM education, which negatively affect diversity and inclusion in STEM professions and careers.
- Secondly, the need for consensus between higher education, policy and practice when it comes to STEM education, and the need for capacity-building measures to support teachers to deliver integrated STEM education in our Irish classrooms.
The white paper proposes two recommendations to address these key challenges:
- build and deepen teachers’ understanding of integrated STEM education through immersive professional experiences in real-world STEM contexts, and
- develop and strengthen connections across and between actors within the STEM learning ecosystem to enhance learner outcomes.
The paper calls attention to the Irish Government’s STEM Education Policy Statement (2017 – 2026) whereby it points out the need for more connection between educators and industry:
“Business and industry will engage in partnerships with schools with a focus on how they can best support STEM education in our schools and provide learners with an insight into how STEM learning can develop into a career in STEM.” (STEM Education Policy Statement 2017-2026, p. 20)
Professor Daire Keogh, DCU President said:
“The STInt model has shown itself to be transformative for the teaching of STEM competencies in primary and post primary schools. It not only advances the attainment of key skills, it also promotes greater diversity and inclusion in STEM, and allows for positive industry engagement in the education of our young people. The programme reflects DCU’s values as Ireland’s ‘University of Enterprise’ and national leadership in Teacher Education. I support the White Paper’s recommendation, that the government invest in scaling up the STInt Programme for nationwide adoption, and, critically, that Teacher Education be included in future calls under the state’s Human Capital Initiative. This would have a hugely positive impact on the future of Irish education and on our wider society.”
Dr Ruth Freeman, Director Science for Society, Science Foundation Ireland, said:
“As we celebrate National Science Week it’s great to see that teachers, who are such a pivotal influence on young people’s future education and career choices, have had the opportunity to gain a greater understanding of careers in industry through the STEM internship programme. I congratulate all concerned and look forward to considering the recommendations.”
Led by Associate Professor Eilish McLoughlin from the School of Physical Sciences and Professor Deirdre Butler from the School of STEM Education, Innovation and Global Studies at Dublin City University, the STInt programme is now in its seventh year and has expanded from just five DCU teacher internships in one host organisation in 2016, to 45 students from from Dublin City University, Maynooth University and University College Dublin, undertaking internships in 25 of Ireland’s leading companies in 2021.
Attendees at launch of this white paper included pre-service teachers who participated in the STInt programme, representatives of STInt host organisations along with STInt strategic partners from Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), Connecting Women in Technology (CWiT), and 30% Club Ireland.
To view or download a copy of this report, please visit www.stemteacherinternships.ie/whitepaper