Effective Early Childhood STEM Education: Findings from the Little Scientists Evaluation
This article reports findings from a two-year independent evaluation of the Little Scientists program; a program providing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professional development for early childhood educators across Australia. This article reports on the qualitative data gathered with educators to illustrate early childhood STEM education in practice. Data are analysed using an established framework for effective STEM education in order to demonstrate how the Little Scientists program is supporting best-practice in early childhood STEM education. Findings suggest that educators’ confidence in teaching STEM has increased, and participants are more aware of children’s skills and knowledge in STEM. Educators are fostering communities of STEM inquiry where children and educators learn and research together, with space for children’s self-directed and play-based explorations. It appears that participation in Little Scientists has afforded a range of benefits for participants and, by extension through their practices, for the children with whom they work.
KeywordsEarly childhood STEM education Science education Educators Professional development Evaluation
This work was supported by an external competitive grant provided by FROEBEL Australia Limited.
- Alexander, C., Knezek, G., Christensen, R., Tyler-Wood, T., & Bull, G. (2014). The impact of project-based learning on pre-service teachers’ technology attitudes and skills. Journal of Computers in Mathematics & Science Teaching,33(3), 257–282.Google Scholar
- Atiles, J. T., Jones, J. L., & Anderson, J. A. (2013). More than a read-aloud: Preparing and inspiring early childhood teachers to develop our future scientists. Teacher Education and Practice,26(2), 285–299.Google Scholar
- Bers, M. U., Seddighin, S., & Sullivan, A. (2013). Ready for robotics: Bringing together the T and E of STEM in early childhood teacher education. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education,21(3), 355–377.Google Scholar
- Boyatzis, R. E. (1998). Transforming qualitative information: Thematic analysis and code development. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.Google Scholar
- Bybee, R. W. (2013). The case for STEM education: Challenges and opportunities. Arlington, VA: NSTA Press.Google Scholar
- Eng Tek, O. N. G., Ayob, A., Ibrahim, M. N., Adnan, M., Shariff, J., & Ishak, N. (2016). The effectiveness of an in-service training of early childhood teachers on STEM integration through Project-Based Inquiry Learning (PIL). Journal of Turkish Science Education (TUSED),13, 44–58. https://doi.org/10.12973/tused.10170a.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Fleer, M., March, S., & Gunstone, D. (2006). Investigations into the engagement of preschool and primary aged children in science, engineering and technology. Report by Monash University, Department of Science and Training.Google Scholar
- Johnston, J. (2011). The impact of home and school on early years scientific development. Education in Science,245, 30–31.Google Scholar
- Lai Poh, T., Causo, A., Pei-Wen, T., I-Ming, C., & Yeo, S. H. (2016). A review on the use of robots in education and young children. Journal of Educational Technology and Society,19(2), 148–163.Google Scholar
- McDonald, C. V. (2016). STEM education: A review of the contribution of the disciplines of Science, Technology. Engineering and Mathematics. Science Education International,27(4), 530–569.Google Scholar
- McPhan, G., Morony, W., Pegg, J., Cooksey, R., & Lynch, T. (2008). Maths? Why not?. Canberra: Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.Google Scholar
- Panizzon, D., & Westwell, M. (2009). Engaging students in STEM-related subjects. What does the research evidence say? Retrieved February 8, 2017, from http://www.flinders.edu.au/science_engineering/science-21-files/briefings/Engaging%20students.pdf.
- Prinsley, R., & Baranyai, K. (2015). STEM skills in the workforce. Retrieved February 8, 2017, from http://www.chiefscientist.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/OPS09_02Mar2015_Web.pdf.