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Understanding K-12 STEM Education: a Framework for Developing STEM Literacy


In recent years, arguments have signalled the value of STEM education for building discipline knowledge and an array of capabilities, skills and dispositions, aligned with the needs of young people functioning productively and ethically in dynamic, complex and challenging future work, social and political environments. This combination has been termed STEM literacy and positioned as a desired outcome from STEM education programs. However, knowledge is limited on ways this can be developed in K-12 schools. This article introduces a framework that conceptualises the integrated nature of the characteristics of STEM education. It identifies and maps key characteristics of STEM education, recognising different entry points, curriculum designs and pedagogical strategies for school programs. The framework provides practical guidance for planning and implementing STEM education in schools.

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Fig. 1


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    Detailed explanations of the continuum can be found in Vasquez et al. (2013), p. 73–74, and at

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    See Cessnock Academy of STEM Excellence (


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Correspondence to Garry Falloon.

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Appendix 1

Table 1 Databases and keywords used in scoping review

Appendix 2

Table 2 Reviewed document summary (first page only)

Appendix 3

Table 3 Concepts, themes and characteristics of K-12 STEM

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Falloon, G., Hatzigianni, M., Bower, M. et al. Understanding K-12 STEM Education: a Framework for Developing STEM Literacy. J Sci Educ Technol 29, 369–385 (2020).

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  • STEM
  • Interdisciplinary
  • Integrated
  • Discipline
  • STEM literacy
  • School, K-12.