Dan James: Daniel.firstname.lastname@example.org
Institute of Reading
The case study will describe a TLEP (Teaching and Learning Enhancement Project) to develop STEM teaching and learning. Over 400 Reading Partnership student teachers (RPTs) have received some training, which was well received in university sessions. This case study will also describe how the programmable Lego kits were used successfully with 60 children who visited the university during their science week, as well as discussing future plans.
The aims for the TLEP were:
- To provide the students the skills, resources and confidence within university to deliver cross-curricular STEM activities whilst on their school placement, either in lessons and / or as an after-school club.
- To promote and model cross-curricular working within a module and collaborative working within the community.
- To maximise the use of expensive resources and to demonstrate ‘proof-of-concept’ that lending of resources to partnership schools is viable.
The majority of the incoming primary teaching ITT (Initial Teacher Training) students do not take STEM A-levels and lack confidence teaching STEM in schools. Over the course of the teacher training programme, knowledge in the individual subjects improves. However, due to the siloed nature of university module teaching, students do not always see the cross-curricular opportunities to teach the subjects, nor have the confidence to deliver STEM initiatives, especially design and engineering challenges to children. With an ever-increasing shortage of a skilled STEM workforce, promoting STEM skills in children from a primary age is important for the future of Britain’s economy (ASPIRES project, 2013). One major barrier to achieving this goal is schools having the finances to purchase equipment. Even if schools have access to the necessary resources, they can often be used once and then lost in the back of the store cupboard. Further barriers include teachers having the necessary skills and confidence to deliver these sessions.
By modelling working in a cross-curricular fashion and exposing students to carrying out the activity experientially, the aim was to upskill the RPTs (Reading Partnership student teachers) in their skills and confidence to deliver these types of STEM projects in their training placements and in their future schools.
Funding from the TLEP was used to purchase 10 Lego Spike Prime kits which provided sufficient resources for a class set both for use in university science teaching sessions, and with schools, where class numbers are approximately 30 children. By the university purchasing the resources and making them available for lending through the Learning Hub at London Road, the barrier in terms of resource cost to schools using these kits (~£300 per box new) was therefore eliminated.
The ambition was that after the workshop session as part of their university course, the Reading Partnership Teachers (student teachers) would then be inspired to borrow the kits and use with their own classes. However, the use of practical resources was severely hampered by covid-19, so the anticipated impact was reduced, and the timescale delayed.
But as part of a ‘Science Week’ in May 2022, a partnership school was invited to the science teaching labs on the London Road Campus. The children from a years 5 and 6, took part in a session to build 2 different motorizable grabber arms, and evaluated which was the best grabber to pick up different plastics in a plastic recycling sorting facility.
Aim 1: The university session provided the students the skills, resources and confidence, as evidenced by module reviews and overhearing many of the university students saying, “that was really fun!”. It also gave them the chance to work together and problem-solve groups, developing relationships amongst the cohort.
Aim 2: By inviting a school into the university’s science teaching lab, we met the aim of working collaboratively with the local community, meeting the aims of the Community, Engagement and Sustainability strands of the University Strategy. The children very much enjoyed this with them rating the session 9 or 10, out of 10.
Aim 3: This aim was to maximise the use of expensive resources and demonstrate that this is an option when working in partnership with schools. The fact that this work has already been used by 400 university children and 50 children, the means that the cost per participant is now down to approximately £5, based on the purchase cost of £2500. As further students and children, use these resources this cost per participant will further reduce.
This was a good first good start to supporting delivery of these cross-curricular STEM sessions with a physical computing component. Part of this aim was also to model cross-curricular working within a module with the computing training happening in computing sessions. Due to covid-19 disrupting the delivery of both the science and computing sessions, this was not as well implemented as initially hoped.
Further confidence and awareness in how these kits can be used would be beneficial to support increased implementation in schools, both for the trainee teachers and for experienced teachers mentoring them.
I am aiming to train experienced teachers in using the kits, to ensure even greater impact and support for our RPTs on school placements.