The new STEM book by Banks and Barlex Well I would be a fan wouldn’t I?

Both Frank Banks and I are delighted with our new publication Teaching STEM in the Secondary School Helping teachers meet the challenge. It took a long time to complete what with changes to the National Curriculum coming and going whilst we were writing but we believe that the end result will be useful to those who teach science, design & technology and mathematics. Central to the book is the idea of professional conversations between teachers of the different STEM disciplines; conversations which acknowledge the legitimate differences between the contributing subjects and enable those subjects to maintain their individuality and integrity in the curriculum relationships that result from the conversations. This is particularly important for design & technology as a relative newcomer without the gatekeeper status of mathematics and science. And engineering is not marginalized having a complete chapter to itself with a significant contribution from Professor Matthew Harrison, until recently Head of Education at the Royal Academy of Engineering. The book has contributions by several other distinguished educators: a foreword by Sir John Holman, input on the links between design & technology and mathematics and science from Professor Celia Hoyles and Torben Steeg and collaborative case study work concerning links between physics and design & technology from Peter Campbell. The international dimension is supported by describing STEM activities in different parts of the world and including the thoughts of educators from Israel, Argentina and Brazil. The final chapter concerns future visions of STEM and returns to the ever-important idea of conversation – between teachers in their own discipline, with colleagues from other disciplines, with senior leaders, with students and their families, in the wider school community and within and across the various professional bodies that represent and engage with STEM education. These conversations alone will be insufficient to implement any vision but without them we believe that however attractive and worthwhile the vision, it will not become a reality.

Looking sideways at what your colleagues are doing and talking to them about what you are doing is vital. Such conversations are the starting point for change.

Find out more the book here




Helping David Didau understand how to teach for creativity

Recently David Didau (I’m a great fan, visit blogged about creativity and the importance of teaching knowledge and having constraints if pupils are somehow to be taught to be creative. A long series of comments ensued with folk both disagreeing and agreeing with David (See . However it seemed to me that a major point had been missed. Something that those who have taught design & technology have been aware of for some time. In collaborating with colleagues in art & design a set of conditions for enabling pupils to produce creative outcomes was identified. The first four conditions are:

  • Teach appropriate knowledge and skill
  • Put the task into a context to which the pupils could relate
  • Provide a stimulus
  • Encourage pupils to reflect on their actions

Initially we thought these would be sufficient but we were wrong. The next two conditions are crucial.

  • The pupils have to take risks – not health and safety risks but intellectual risks in developing their ideas in response to the first four conditions.
  • The teacher has to help the pupil manage the risks they are taking – too much risk and the endeavour flounders; not enough risk and the results are mundane.

Given that both art & design and design & technology teachers like to represent to representing things visually we’ve come up with a diagram that describes these features. It’s in the form of a double AND gate. The first four features have to be in place to give activity which when supported by the next two features results in creative outcomes:

AND gate large png

Third annual Manchester Mini Maker Faire: Call for Makers

The third annual Manchester Mini Maker Faire will take place at the Museum of Science & Industry on 26-27 July this year and I’m pleased to say that the Call for Makers is now open for applications. For further details please see this post.

Please circulate this announcement to your contacts and lists of makers and, of course, make your own submissions….