Grant will boost STELR in Australian schools

The Academy’s STELR initiative, already taking innovative science education to nearly 400 secondary schools around Australia, will be a key element of a new $1.6 million, two-year collaborative program to encourage student participation in maths and science in Years 11 and 12.

The Inspiring Science & Mathematics Education (ISME) project is a collaboration between Southern Cross University, the University of Wollongong, Charles Darwin University and the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE).

The consortium received $996,500 through the Australian Maths and Science Partnerships Program Competitive Grant Round, announced by Education Minister Christopher Pyne. The consortium participants will provide the balance of the project funding in cash or kind.

Inspiring Science & Mathematics Education (ISME) will enhance teaching and learning of the science and maths curriculum in Years 7 to 10 and involves the development of at least five authentic, multidisciplinary classroom modules which use cutting-edge science and engineering contexts and the latest educational theory from the partner universities and other research institutions to excite and engage students.

ISME modules will be delivered through a web-based platform  and are designed to increase both the enthusiasm and engagement of secondary school students for STEM subjects and careers and to increase the number of students choosing maths and science courses at tertiary level.

ISME will use the expertise of University Science, Engineering and Education faculties and other research institutions to develop multidisciplinary modules that engage secondary students through relevant contexts. The modules will involve hands-on, inquiry-based science and mathematics activities supported by background information and career profiles of recent graduates working in the relevant industries.

All Australian schools will ultimately benefit. The modules will be trialled at schools nominated by each university. They will be evaluated, rewritten where necessary and then published through ATSE’s STELR website.

Teachers will be supported through the provision of comprehensive multidisciplinary modules that include student activities and worksheets, and teacher resources.  Professional learning workshops will be delivered by the partner universities for all teachers in the ISME program.

All modules will:

  •  be aligned with the Australian Curriculum;
  • be modelled on ATSE’s highly successful STELR program that is currently being used in nearly 400 schools across Australia;
  • be taught within the school curriculum so that all students, not just the science “whiz kids”, will develop their science literacy and life-long active learning skills;
  • be written with the inexperienced teacher, or the teacher teaching out of field, in mind;
  • be flexible to allow each school to individualise its science programs as well as provide an effective tool for teacher support, regardless of their existing skill set;
  • appeal to boys and girls equally;
  • appeal to indigenous students and non-indigenous students alike;
  • be available to students and teachers regardless of location (rural, metropolitan, remote) or sector (government, independent, Catholic);
  • make the nationally field-tested, highly successful STELR Renewable Energy Program available to more Australian secondary schools; and
  • expand the range of STELR curriculum modules to more broadly cover the science curricula across school years 7-10

The modules will be delivered using iSTELR, the web-based version of STELR that uses the Stile delivery system. Modules will have embedded videos and animations where practical. Stile operates on all platforms including Windows, Apple, iPad, Android tablets and smart phones.

The program aims to address concerns that:

  • Secondary school science and maths participation rates have declined over the past two decades and have settled at a low level;
  • Students do not see the relevance of science to their lives; and
  • Too many science and mathematics teachers are teaching out of field. 

Australia risks falling behind in its global competitiveness unless it can harness technological innovation to boost productivity, create skilled jobs and provide economic, social and environmental benefits. Technological innovation depends on a world-class education system that values science and mathematics.

The Office of the Chief Scientist has reported that a declining percentage of Year 12 students participate in STEM and that 30 per cent of our students score below OECD levels of minimal competency in STEM subjects. Our education system is fragmented – most STEM students are concentrated in schools with a high socio-economic status. In general there is a poor understanding of career opportunities in STEM industries by careers teachers, students and their families.

ISME will develop modules using contexts that will show students that science and maths are highly relevant to their lives. Career profiles and case studies will show study pathways that lead to careers in the relevant industries. Hands-on, inquiry-based activities are proven to engage students. Support materials will be produced that support teachers teaching out of field.

ATSE will lead the development of ISME, including management of new curriculum development, management of the digital content development, equipment production and delivery, and coordinate teacher professional training. ATSE will provide the secretariat services to the Consortium and day- to-day project management. ATSE brings the existing STELR curriculum and STELR equipment supply chain, a network of existing STELR schools, the Stile partnership, expertise and experience in developing and delivering ISME-like programs, corporate sponsors, private benefactors, and the networks and support of the 800 ATSE Fellows.

Southern Cross University is the lead university and will be accountable for the delivery of the overall project. The university participants will:

  • Develop curriculum into new areas/disciplines/subjects according to their particular areas of research and teaching expertise;
  • Develop course content and classroom practical/experiment activities which are based on the latest scientific research methods;
  • Provide advice on development of new classroom equipment;
  • Develop teacher professional training for schools in their region; and
  • Develop the model and help provide undergraduate students mentors to schools

Southern Cross University will also provide capability and expertise on sustainability education and environmental geochemistry within the context of water and food security.

Charles Darwin University will provide capability and expertise in online course delivery, including rural/remote areas. CDU will adapt materials for use in indigenous communities.

The University of Wollongong will provide expertise in the modules on sustainable housing, human health issues and mathematics curriculum content.

Issued by

Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE) Melbourne


Bill Mackey, Deputy CEO  or (03) 9864 0902 / 0418 923 370Peter Pentland, ATSE STELR Project Manager (03) 9864 0906 / 0424428 330