Skip to main content

Ideas About STEM Among Australian Early Childhood Professionals: How Important is STEM in Early Childhood Education?

Abstract

Early childhood professionals have an important role in supporting young children’s interest and engagement in STEM education. This study explores conceptualisations of STEM and beliefs about its importance in early childhood held by early childhood professionals. The Early Childhood STEM Habits of Mind Framework, described in this paper, was used as the key analytical lens for the analyses of data from 117 early childhood professionals who completed a written survey before engagement in a STEM professional learning workshop. Results show that conceptualisations of STEM education held by the early childhood professionals related to its constituent disciplines; play-based and/or hands-on learning experiences; and the development of habits of mind. STEM was perceived to be important in early childhood, albeit ranking behind children’s social–emotional development. This study highlights the potential utility of the Early Childhood STEM Habits of Mind Framework in supporting: (a) planning for integrated STEM learning experiences and (b) more holistic understandings and a shared language, among early childhood educators, parents and children, concerning STEM education.

Résumé

Les professionnels de la petite enfance ont un rôle important à jouer pour soutenir l’intérêt et l’engagement des jeunes enfants vis-à-vis de l’éducation aux STIM (Sciences, Technologie, Ingénierie et Mathématiques). Cette étude explore les conceptualisations des STIM et les croyances sur leur importance en petite enfance chez les professionnels de la petite enfance. Le Cadre des habitudes intellectuelles relatives aux STIM en petite enfance, décrit dans cet article, a servi de perspective analytique clé pour les analyses des données d’un sondage effectué par écrit auprès de 117 professionnels de la petite enfance avant leur participation à un atelier de perfectionnement professionnel sur les STIM. Les résultats montrent que les conceptualisations de l’éducation aux STIM des professionnels de la petite enfance sont liées aux disciplines qui la composent, aux expériences d’apprentissage par le jeu et/ou à la pratique, ainsi qu’au développement des habitudes intellectuelles. Les STIM sont perçues comme importantes en petite enfance, bien qu’elles soient classées après le développement socio émotionnel des enfants. Cette étude souligne l’utilité potentielle du Cadre des habitudes intellectuelles relatives aux STIM en petite enfance pour appuyer : a) la planification d’expériences intégrées d’apprentissage des STIM, et b) une compréhension plus holistique ainsi qu’un langage commun aux éducateurs de la petite enfance, aux parents et aux enfants, concernant l’éducation aux STIM.

Resumen

Los profesionales de educación preescolar juegan un papel importante en el apoyo de los intereses de los niños pequeños y su entusiasmo en la educación STEM [abreviatura en inglés por Ciencia, Tecnología, Ingeniería y Matemáticas). Esta investigación explora los conceptos de STEM y las opiniones de los profesionales de educación preescolar acerca de su importancia en la educación temprana. El Esquema de Hábitos Mentales STEM en la Etapa Preescolar, descrito en esta investigación, se utilizó como lente analítico clave para el análisis de datos de 117 profesionales de educación preescolar que completaron una encuesta por escrito antes de participar en un taller profesional de aprendizaje STEM. Los resultados muestran que las conceptualizaciones de la educación STEM de los profesionales de la educación infantil se relacionan con sus respectivas disciplinas; experiencias de aprendizaje basadas en el juego y/o manualidades; y el desarrollo de hábitos mentales. STEM es considerado importante en la educación temprana, aunque figura por debajo del desarrollo socio-emocional de los niños. Esta investigación resalta el potencial del Esquema de Hábitos Mentales STEM en la Etapa Preescolar para apoyar: a) la planeación de experiencias integradas de aprendizaje STEM; y b) comprensión más holística y lenguaje común entre los educadores de preescolar, padres y niños, en lo que respecta a la educación STEM.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

References

  • Altan, S., Lane, J., & Dottin, E. (2017). Using habits of mind, intelligent behaviors, and educational theories to create a conceptual framework for developing effective teaching dispositions. Journal of Teacher Education, 0022487117736024.

  • Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. (2009). Belonging, being and becoming: The early years learning framework for Australia. Retrieved from https://www.education.gov.au/early-years-learning-framework-0. Accessed 23 Jan 2018.

  • Australian Government Department of Education and Training. (2018). Through growth to achievement: Report of the review to achieve educational excellence in Australian schools. Retrieved from https://docs.education.gov.au/node/50516. Accessed 7 Apr 2018.

  • Australian Industry Group. (2013). Lifting our science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills. Sydney: Australian Industry Group.

    Google Scholar 

  • Breiner, J., Harkness, S., Johnson, C., & Koehler, C. (2012). What is STEM? A discussion about conceptions of STEM in education and partnerships. School Science and Mathematics, 112(1), 3–11.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Brenneman, K. (2011). Assessment for preschool science learning and learning environments. Early Childhood Research & Practice, 13(1). Retrieved from http://ecrp.uiuc.edu/v13n1/brenneman.html. Accessed 8 Dec 2017.

  • Çalik, M., & Coll, R. (2012). Investigating socioscientific issues via scientific habits of mind: Development and validation of the scientific habits of mind survey. International Journal of Science Education, 34(12), 1909–1930.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Campbell, J. (2006). Theorising habits of mind as a framework for learning. Computer and Mathematics Science, 6, 102–109.

    Google Scholar 

  • Clarke, B., Cheeseman, J., & Clarke, D. (2006). The mathematical knowledge and understanding young children bring to school. Mathematics Education Research Journal, 18(1), 78–102.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Commonwealth of Australia. (2017). National innovation and science agenda. Australian Government.

  • Creswell, J. (2009). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative and mixed method approaches (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cuoco, A., Goldenberg, E., & Mark, J. (1996). Habits of mind: An organizing principle for mathematics curricula. The Journal of Mathematical Behavior, 15(4), 375–402.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dockett, S., & Perry, B. (2004). Starting school: Perspectives of Australian children, parents and educators. Journal of Early Childhood Research, 2(2), 171–189.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Early Childhood STEM Working Group. (2017). Early STEM matters: Providing high-quality STEM experiences for all young learners. Chicago: University of Chicago STEM Education/Erikson Institute.

    Google Scholar 

  • Education Council. (2015). National STEM School Education Strategy 20162026. Canberra: Australian Government. Retrieved from http://www.educationcouncil.edu.au/site/DefaultSite/filesystem/documents/National%20STEM%20School%20Education%20Strategy.pdf. Accessed 12 Feb 2018.

  • Furner, J., & Kumar, D. (2007). The mathematics and science integration argument: A stand for teacher education. Eurasia Journal of Mathematics, Science & Technology education, 3(3), 185–189.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Handelsman, J., & Smith, M. (2016, February 11). STEM for all. The WHITEHOUSE President Barak Obama. Retrieved from https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2016/02/11/stem-all. Accessed 21 Nov 2017.

  • Helm, J., & Katz, L. (2016). Young investigators: The project approach in the early years. New York: Teachers College Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jamil, F., Linder, S., & Stegelin, D. (2017). Early childhood teacher beliefs about STEAM education after a professional development conference. Early Childhood Education Journal, 46, 1–9.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kelley, T. R., & Knowles, J. G. (2016). A conceptual framework for integrated STEM education. International Journal of STEM Education, 3(1), 1–11.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lee, J. (2006). Preschool teachers’ shared beliefs about appropriate pedagogy for 4-year-olds. Early Childhood Education Journal, 33(6), 433–441.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lucas, B., & Hanson, J. (2014). Thinking like an engineer: Using engineering habits of mind and signature pedagogies to redesign engineering education. International Journal of Engineering Pedagogy, 6(2), 4–13.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • McClure, E., Guernsey, L., Clements, D., Bales, S., Nichols, J., Kendall-Taylor, N., et al. (2017). STEM starts early: Grounding science, technology, engineering, and math education in early childhood. New York: The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop.

    Google Scholar 

  • Moomaw, S., & Davis, J. (2010). STEM comes to preschool. Young Children, 65(5), 12–18.

    Google Scholar 

  • Moore, T., Stohlman, M., Wang, H., Tank, K., Glancy, A., & Roehrig, G. (2014). Implementation and integration of engineering in K–12 STEM education. In S. Purzer, J. Strobel, & M. Cardella (Eds.), Engineering in precollege settings: Synthesizing research, policy and practices. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • O’Neill, M. (2017). Artificial intelligence and automation are coming, so what will we all do for work? ABC News. Retrieved from http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-08-09/artificial-intelligence-automation-jobs-of-the-future/8786962. Accessed 9 Dec 2017.

  • Office of the Chief Scientist. (2014). Science, technology, engineering and mathematics: Australia’s future. Canberra: Australian Government. Retrieved from http://www.chiefscientist.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/STEM_AustraliasFuture_Sept2014_Web.pdf. Accessed 24 Nov 2017.

  • Pajares, M. (1992). Teachers’ beliefs and educational research: Cleaning up a messy construct. Review of Educational Research, 62(3), 307–332.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Park, M., Dimitrov, D., Patterson, L., & Park, D. (2016). Early childhood teachers’ beliefs about readiness for teaching science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Journal of Early Childhood Research, 15(3), 275–291.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Plowman, L., & McPake, J. (2013). Seven myths about young children and technology. Childhood Education, 89(1), 27–33.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ring, E., Dare, E., Crotty, E., & Roehrig, G. (2017). The evolution of teacher conceptions of STEM education throughout an intensive professional development experience. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 28(5), 444–467.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sanders, M. (2009). Integrative STEM education primer. The Technology Teacher, 68(4), 20–26.

    Google Scholar 

  • Stohlmann, M., Moore, T., & Roehrig, G. (2012). Considerations for teaching integrated STEM education. Journal of Pre-College Engineering Education Research (J-PEER), 2(1), 28–34.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sylva, K., Melhuish, E., Sammons, P., Siraj-Blatchford, I., & Taggart, B. (2004). The effective provision of preschool education (EPPE) project: Findings from pre-school to end of key stage 1. Nottingham, United Kingdom: Department for Education and Skills.

    Google Scholar 

  • Vartuli, S. (2005). Beliefs: The heart of teaching. Young Children, 60(5), 76–86.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wang, H., Moore, T., Roehrig, G., & Park, M. (2011). STEM integration: Teacher perceptions and practice. Journal of Pre-College Engineering Education Research, 1(2), 1–12.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Kym Simoncini.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Simoncini, K., Lasen, M. Ideas About STEM Among Australian Early Childhood Professionals: How Important is STEM in Early Childhood Education?. IJEC 50, 353–369 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13158-018-0229-5

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13158-018-0229-5

Keywords

  • STEM
  • Early childhood education
  • Teacher beliefs
  • Habits of mind
  • Integrated learning