Achieving Purpose, Creativity and Impact through Load Reduction Instruction
Sue Floro – Head of Knox Grammar Preparatory School
Ian Fairhurst – Team Leader of Innovation
One area where we have been particularly successful is in our approach to STEM and eSTEAM education. Over the last five years, we have developed a scaffolded approach to mastery in STEM that allows our students to achieve a deep level of understanding by the time they reach Grade 6. This approach has been developed through a long-term strategic investment in STEAM spaces, resources, and professional development, as well as a focus on personalised student STEM resources and leveraging student agency for deeper learning.
Our approach is grounded in authentic investigative inquiry units, which purposefully integrate the use of technology to deepen student understanding and connect them to real-world global issues they will be responsible for solving. We promote a growth mindset amongst our students and encourage them to explore and apply themselves at a level appropriate to their stage of development.
One of the keys to our success has been the development of a student-centred, competencies-based continuum of learning, which moves novice learners through a process from explicit instruction to independent problem-solving. This approach uses deliberate strategies and learning experiences designed to reduce the cognitive load for learners, giving them the opportunity to practice and achieve mastery.
Our eSTEAM units are developed using the principles underpinning Load Reduction Instruction, which has been shown to be effective in reducing cognitive load for learners and promoting deep conceptual understanding. This is essential in order to honour the wide range of existing skills that students bring to the innovation space, in all curriculum areas.
Our approach to STEM and eSTEAM education is future-focused and provides educational experiences relevant to our students’ diverse learning needs through engaging and personally relevant inquiries that seek to address authentic global problems. We focus on the connected nature of learning, ensuring deep conceptual understanding, rather than rote memorisation of facts and disconnected learning experiences.
As a result of this approach, our students are achieving great things in STEM and eSTEAM. They are able to tackle complex problems, think critically and creatively, and work collaboratively to achieve their goals. They are developing a love of learning that will stay with them for life and are well-equipped to succeed in the world they will live in and lead.
From the inception of planning our conceptual framework, we have also recognised the importance of aligning our work in STEM and eSTEAM with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs). The UNSDGs are a set of 17 goals aimed at ending poverty, protecting the planet, and ensuring prosperity for all. It is critical that our students understand the importance of these goals and are equipped with the skills and knowledge to contribute to their achievement.
Through our inquiry-based approach, we challenge our students to investigate real-world problems and come up with innovative solutions that align with the UNSDGs. By doing so, we are empowering our students to be agents of change and prepare them for the challenges and opportunities of a rapidly changing world.
We invite you to explore our approach to STEM and eSTEAM education by listening to our STEM | ED Podcast, reading our STEM |ED Magazine, and exploring some of the examples of student learning we have shared. We are proud of what our students have achieved, and we look forward to continuing to push the boundaries of what is possible in STEM and eSTEAM education.
Links to practical application or research
STEM | ED Podcast – STEM Culture with Knox Grammar (Episode 1 of 2)
STEM |ED Magazine Issue 2 – Article on a whole school approach using STEAM
Year 2 – Empathy Mapping Project Article
Year 2 Tinkering Towards Tomorrow – Global Cardboard Challenge
During 2021 students from across Years 2-6 ran live workshops for global participants in extended reality platforms at events run by the Immersive Learning Research Network, EduTech, ISTE
Multiuser XR Frame Example – An immersive gallery of student works in a Virtual Space – Synchronous (Use Google Chrome for best experience)