Collaboration in STEM Teaching and Learning

STEM are often disciplines difficult to study and understand for young learners because they require effort and the activation of particular areas of the brain, such as the frontal lobe, which control the ability to make decisions and reasoning and develop from pre-school to even at the age of 25. For this reason, teachers’ role is crucial in developing students’ skills such as ICT and logic practices. Providing them with all the necessary tools and asking them what they need. In an era where often “everything is on the net”, an effort to learn to reason and argue their reasoning can come from perhaps collaborating with their classmates or European peers.

The interdisciplinary approach has always been essential in education and this way of dealing with problems is even more relevant today, in an increasingly interconnected society. For this reason, it is particularly important to underline how crucial it is to carry out cross-curricular projects related to STEM to develop students’ scientific thinking and skills. Collaborating with foreign partners allows pupils to combine the development of scientific reasoning skills with the effective learning of a language other than their mother tongue.

So how can scientific projects be carried out to collaborate with partners from other European countries?

One essential feature to look at is the integration of the project into the students’ curriculum. However, if you have a few hours available, it is also very important to find connections between your subject and the others. A simple example can be done with English or another foreign language: if the target project’s language is not the students’ mother tongue, then it is possible to create educational alliances with the language teacher. However, students need to be engaged with stimulating problems that make learning based on fun and that their curiosity is tickled: all this requires creativity and, therefore, exactly how you can find new ways of using well-known software tools. You can approach new didactic paths by sharing ideas with school colleagues and project partners.

Teachers can use eTwinning to carry out their projects creating close-knit teams and learning together to overcome the difficulties that arise to develop the planned activities.

Examples for teaching Math

Let’s have a look at some possibilities to teach Math using a cross-curricular approach.

Teachers can use storytelling. This requires preparing the stories that will serve as a backdrop for virtual escape rooms, it can celebrate symbolic dates for Mathematics like Pi Day by asking students to collaboratively compose triplets or can ask them to collaboratively write a short story using different languages studied by the partner students.

Another idea can be seen in the project “Numb3rs”, involving Math, History, and English: the students, split into international teams, had to deepen the numbering system of a civilization, create a presentation and a test with questions related to their topics to be submitted to the members of the other groups. Obviously, the teachers carried out a tutoring action in order to avoid them copying from online resources; also the reworking and the integration of material from different sources is certainly an important cross-curricular ability that students must acquire. Eventually, all the teams shared the material and all the students involved learned the reasons why the different numbering systems evolved their strengths and weaknesses. The activity ended with an offline debate (made with Padlet – Columns option) in which students’ teams had to deepen the work done by other mates by supporting a different point of view from their own. This was useful for learning how to argue and to understand the others’ reasons.

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