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Despite our best efforts, most kids go through school with deep-rooted ideas about fundamental concepts that bear little or no relation to our modern understanding about nature and the physical world.

More than fifty years of research shows that attempts by our k-12 education systems and teaching text-books/resources have failed to adequately address and remedy this problem.

Recent research by Dr Derek Muller (University of Sydney) suggests that the conventional, explicit ways that STEM has been taught in NSW schools has similarly failed to correct these fundamental problems / misconceptions.

These workshops are designed for teachers who are looking for, practical solutions to provide their students with a deep, authentic and fun STEAM learning experience and themselves with even greater satisfaction from day-to-day teaching.

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STEAMpunks2017 STEM Workshop Promo

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Hands-on workshops designed to provide practical, take-away models and conceptual frameworks for “how to teach authentic, deep STEAM, especially for teachers who would like to gain confidence in understanding and teaching primary school science and maths”.

The workshop models the hands-on teaching of science in the classroom, based on long-standing teaching research, proven and effective teaching strategies within the context of new technologies.

Who should attend? Teachers - first year out, through 20 or more years of experience in the classroom. Even teachers with high degree of skill may find ways for their teaching to become significantly be more effective.

What will you see? See how students misinterpret even the best-planned lab activities, failing to grasp some of the fundamental ideas. Work with a facilitator to to see how it is possible for students to learn more simply and deeply.

What problem do these workshops address? How to teach scientific principles within a STEAM context directly related to the mandatory Australian curriculum. Putting the authentic science into STEAM to form the foundation for what is taught throughout high school and beyond. Why is it, that even the very best graduates find so many fundamental concepts so difficult?

What teaching strategy does this workshop offer? Both teachers and learners are encouraged to develop new metaphors for their roles in the classroom. Students are urged to see themselves as something other than “sponges” soaking up the teacher's information.

A range of Workshops will appear here soon but are not yet open for registration:

Permission to publish 'Permission to Publish' forms, both for teachers and students, must be completed at time of registration.


Within instructional design, two major instructional frameworks have emerged – objectivism and constructivism. 1) 2)

Simply stated;

  • Objectivism depends on a framework configured by the designer to set the performance objectives and creates a systematic approach to the learning content. The instructor’s role is to teach the students a well-circumscribed body of information within a well-defined learning environment.
  • Constructivism is less content-oriented and more learner-centered; the designer goal is to create an information-object rich, and socially meaningful (i.e. communication and collaboration filled) learning environment. A facilitator aides the learner through the creation of authentic tasks and helps the student integrate other understandings of multiple perspectives through reflection. 3)

It thus follows that, good knowledge of content is most critical when teaching is delivered via an objectivism based instructional framework, but not so important when teaching is delivered via a constructivist framework.

For those reasons, wherever teacher expertise/content knowledge is limited, taking a constructivist approach may provide a more successful learning outcome.


Strike and Posner (1985) argued that in order for conceptual change to take place at all the learner must first be dissatisfied with the current conception. It is this dissatisfaction (that sometimes arises from cognitive conflict) that drives the learner to consider alternative conceptual views. So “telling” has limited value for students, meaningful classroom experiences require much more of teachers. Source: 4). The University of Sydney provides links to recent examples and case studies about the use of constructivism in Australian schools 5)

  • STEAMpunks Science Workshop(s) Promo - https://youtu.be/sCswReodSTk
  • 'Are you convinced' workshop
  • From six minutes in - good overview of constructivism, problems, assessment - http://www.learner.org/vod/vod_window.html?pid=91
  • Adapt lessons to address misconceptions and poor content, re-construct and re-frame conventional questions (as per Dan Meyer)
  • Make an explicit commitment to discover student ideas and remedy at least one student misconception at the start of each topic
  • Implement pre and post semester/unit quizzes
  • Ask 'what I used to think' and 'what I think now' at the end of each session


What is the theme of this workshop?

The theme of these Workshops is “how to teach science if you don't know how” How to teach science by blending long-standing teaching research and effective strategies within the context of new technologies.

Whom do we see in the video? Jim Carter is a veteran high school physics teacher in suburban Boston with over 20 years of experience in the classroom. Even with his high degree of skill, Jim feels the need to be more effective.

What happens in the video? Jim is astonished to see that many students misinterpret his well-planned lab activities, failing to grasp some of the fundamental ideas. Working with teacher/researcher Jim Minstrell, Jim Carter defines a new role for himself as a teacher. Much to his surprise, his students like the “new Jim Carter” and seem to learn in more depth.

What problem does this workshop address? The principles of a simple electrical circuit formed with a battery, wire, and bulb are commonly taught in grade 3, forming the foundation for ideas about electricity taught throughout high school. Why is it, then, that even some Harvard and MIT graduates find a simple circuit so difficult?

What teaching strategy does this workshop offer? Both teachers and learners are encouraged to develop new metaphors for their roles in the classroom. Students are urged to see themselves as something other than “sponges” soaking up the teacher's information.

Maths Workshop

Workshop 1. Following Children's Ideas in Mathematics

An unprecedented long-term study conducted by Rutgers University followed the development of mathematical thinking in a randomly selected group of students for 12 years - from 1st grade through high school - with surprising results. In an overview of the study, we look at some of the conditions that made their math achievement possible. Go to this unit.

Workshop 2. Are You Convinced?

Proof making is one of the key ideas in mathematics. Looking at teachers and students grappling with the same probability problem, we see how two kinds of proof — proof by cases and proof by induction — naturally grow out of the need to justify and convince others.

Workshop 3. Inventing Notations

We learn how to foster and appreciate students' notations for their richness and creativity, and we look at some of the possibilities that early work on problems that engage students in creating notation systems might open up for students as they move on toward algebra.

Workshop 4. Thinking Like a Mathematician

What does a mathematician do? What does it mean to “think like a mathematician”? This program parallels what a mathematician does in real-life with the creative thinking of students.

Workshop 5. Building on Useful Ideas

One of the strands of the Rutgers long-term study was to find out how useful ideas spread through a community of learners and evolve over time. Here, the focus is in on the teacher's role in fostering thoughtful mathematics.

Workshop 6. Possibilities of Real-Life Problems

Students come up with a surprising array of strategies and representations to build their understanding of a real-life calculus problem — before they have ever taken calculus.


“It is safer to accept any chance that offers itself, and extemporize a procedure to fit it, than to get a good plan matured, and wait for a chance of using it.” - Thomas Hardy

A heuristic technique (/hjuːˈrɪstɪk/; Ancient Greek: εὑρίσκω, “find” or “discover”), often called simply a heuristic, is any approach to problem solving, learning, or discovery that employs a practical method not guaranteed to be optimal or perfect, but sufficient for the immediate goals. Where finding an optimal solution is impossible or impractical, heuristic methods can be used to speed up the process of finding a satisfactory solution. Heuristics can be mental shortcuts that ease the cognitive load of making a decision. Examples of this method include using a rule of thumb, an educated guess, an intuitive judgment, guesstimate, stereotyping, profiling, or common sense. 6)

Background references

Science Workshop (Private Universe Project)

This innovative workshop for teachers explores the reasons why teaching science is so difficult and offers practical advice to help you teach more effectively. Each program focuses on one theme and one content area and uses specific examples to show how students' preconceived ideas can create critical barriers to learning. Education experts also review classroom strategies and results and recommend new ways to involve students and approach difficult topics.

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