STEM Studio

Enhancing initial teacher education through professional learning within a community of practice

The STEM Studio is a collaboration space seeking to change the nature of relationships between pre-service science and mathematics secondary teachers, in-service teachers, university academics (science, mathematics and education) and secondary schools allowing participants to unpack the way science is practised and test best practice approaches to STEM education. The aim of the STEM Studio was to enhance university studies and field experience by providing pre-service teachers (PSTs) the opportunity to put their learnings into practice in an authentic, supportive and non-assessed environment.

PSTs worked in collaboration with teacher educators, in-service teachers (ISTs) and experts in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to design, develop and deliver STEM learning experiences to students in grades 7 to 10. The STEM Studio provided PSTs with support, resources and networks to focus on their professional development and teaching identity before reaching the classroom.

View STEM Studio Case Study Example.

  • A safe non-assessed authentic and supportive environment for PSTs to connect theory and practice and trial new teaching approaches
  • Different STEM Studio models trialled at multiple institutions across Queensland
  • Collaboration between disciplinary experts, mentor practising teachers and PSTs.
  • A learning community of emerging mathematics and science (MS) teachers actively engaged in an inter-disciplinary, professional community of practice
  • Connecting maths/science content with pedagogy values and principles
  • Developing the professional identity of STEM teachers.
img_quotation-marks-leftThe STEM Studio allows PSTs to work on their development of a specific set of pedagogical skills in a focused manner, that is sometimes not possible in a during a conventional Field Experience. Similarly, by working with schools to develop new or novel learning sequences in school, the university is able to encourage in-service teachers to explore new content and pedagogy that they might not otherwise have the confidence or resources to trial. The program is also beneficial to universities, as it provides a vehicle for universities to engage with and become more deeply aware of the challenges faced by schools in implementing STEM-related curriculum.”

Dr David Nutchey, Teacher Educator at QUT



Different STEM Studio models were trialled at multiple institutions across Queensland, Australia, including QUT, James Cook University (JCU) and Griffith University (GU). Each model shared:

  • STEM Studio principles
  • Interactions between disciplinary experts, mentor practising teachers and novice PSTs in the exploratory third space. They encouraged each PST participant to rethink their disciplinary knowledge, discourse practice and assumptions, in learning from each other to design and deliver innovative STEM curricula
  • A safe non-assessed authentic and supportive environment for PSTs to connect theory and practice, and trial new teaching approaches.

Across the three institutions, the STEM Studio involved six high schools from southeast Queensland, with experienced and innovative teachers in STEM education (14), STEM experts (18), museum educator (1), teacher educators (4), PSTs (47) and over 450 high school students.


  • The STEM Studio developed a framework for collaboration across higher education, high school systems and industry partners in a third space, addressing the roles and benefits to participants
  • STEM-IP – a new inquiry process model proposed for delivering STEM Education. STEM-IP brings together elements of pedagogical theory and practice from across the STEM disciplines, and is aligned to the intentions of the Australian Mathematics, Science and Technologies curricula
  • Resources developed by participating PSTs
  • The Griffith STEM Studio model will be used to design a course for future on inquiry in the STEM fields, with a particular focus on training pre-service teachers to be able to run STEM clubs in their future schools
  • Conceptualising STEM fields of inquiry has allowed those at Griffith to unify the fields under one common process, with variations in response to the nature of high-school students’ projects.
  • Towards the end of 2016 The STEM Studio at Griffith changed it’s name to the STEAM Studio to reflect the use of design processes and to represent the use of creativity in innovation. The STEAM Studio emerged independently from the work undertaken in the STEAM Room project.


A learning community of emerging mathematics and science teachers actively engaged in an inter-disciplinary, professional community of practice

The STEM Studio provided a rich environment for PST engagement and building networks. Participating PSTs:

  • Remained in contact with peers through a Facebook group
  • Remained in contact with the schools (incl. 4 students offered prac at their partnering school)
  • Subsequently took part in other student engagement opportunities including professional development (88%) – see further Step Up PST Engagement details.

Connecting maths/science content with pedagogy, values and principles

The support network created by the STEM Studio (STEM experts, teacher educators and ISTs) helped PSTs connect content and pedagogy and influenced their scientific thinking process. PSTs thought more deeply about their lesson plans and were more invested in what they developed.

Developing the professional identity of STEM teachers

Preliminary data showed positive changes in PST self-efficacy (pre and post testing) after teaching in the STEM Studio, especially in the areas of effective instruction, motivating students, and coping with change in the classroom. Influencing the mindsets of future teachers is critical to overcome doubts and fears about their capability, and developing confidence to teach in the STEM areas.

This will be further explored through qualitative analysis focusing on collaboration between participants, professional identity, support mechanisms, teaching practices and connections between the STEM Studio and Initial Teacher Education (ITE) course.


Discussions are underway around the transition of STEM Studio learnings, and how to translate these into the Bachelor of Education degree.

The STEM Studio involves academics who teach directly into PST courses. Involvement in the project has deepened their understanding of challenges faced by ISTs and PSTs in attempting to improve their MS pedagogical content knowledge and teaching practices.

The STEM Studio adds value to the pre-service Teacher Development Continuum and compliments other Step Up initiatives, by providing a space to trial and practise learnings whilst collaborating with scientists, teacher educators and ISTs in an authentic classroom environment.

img_quotation-marks-left Involvement in the STEM Studio project has been a great opportunity for the students at The Gap State High School. The project incorporates strong collaboration between top scientists, tertiary educators and high school students which has been an excellent way to inspire students interested in the STEM fields. Students deal with real problems that they don’t know the answer to. This engages and encourages students to identify gaps in their knowledge and ways to address these gaps. Many skills are learnt throughout the unit as they problem-solve procedural issues, analyse data and communicate their results. Students work in collaborative teams providing experience to how they will work in the future.”
Russell Pollock, Principal, The Gap State High School


QUT STEM Studio – Brisbane
Professor Les Dawes (Project Leader), Steven Kickbusch (Project Learning Designer), Dr David Nutchey (Teacher Educator), Dr Elizabeth Curtis (Field Experience Officer), Kathy Nickels (Project Coordinator)
Faculty of Education, and the Science and Engineering Faculty, QUT.
Griffith University STEM Studio and STEAM Studio – Gold Coast Region
Dr Harry Kanasa (Teacher Educator and Coordinator), Dr Kate Thompson (Teacher Educator).
School of Education and Professional Studies, Griffith University.
James Cook University STEM Studio – Far North Queensland Region
Dr Tanya Doyle (Teacher Educator and Coordinator), Brett Wass (Project Officer, STEM, Future Students)
College of Arts, Society and Education, Tropical Environments and Societies Division, James Cook University
Libby Pittard (Education Officer, Museum of Tropical Queensland)