Friday 16 January saw 7 postgraduate students and their tutor from Strathclyde University visit St. Joseph’s in Helensburgh to begin their VIP (Vertically Integrated Project) approach, focussing on schools’ Science, Technologies, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects. This new pedagogy, adapted from that which originated in Georgia Institute of Technology in the USA, is an approach used to further students’ authentic STEM study in Higher Education.
For the education students involved, it was clear that the well embedded whole-school project design at St. Joseph’s shared many similar facets to VIP design, a factor which was certainly key in attracting the attention of the school to the University partnership working team.
The post-graduate teaching students , drawn from both Primary and Secondary sectors, were delighted to have the opportunity to see the school’s unique approach in action via Technologies education, thanks to the enthusiasm and commitment of Mrs Catherine McLean. Catherine has a real interest in Technologies and the Head Teacher played to her strengths, thus allowing her sole responsibility for the delivery of Technologies throughout the school. Catherine has already put forward all the children of the school for the STEM leader’s award.
Last term Catherine had decided to take an innovative step to involve the expertise of parents and family members who were engineers to deliver the practical aspect of ‘life as an engineer’ rather than solely involve potential visits from other STEM engineers. Although brilliant work had been done by them in the past using such visits, Catherine was acutely aware of the Parental Partnership aspect of the school’s improvement plan and monopolised this opportunity to incorporate the input of parents for this crucial aspect. This step proved to be both informative and highly motivational for pupils – a fact borne out in the high quality of the results produced. In terms of taking its development even further, it was envisaged that partnership working in 2015 with teaching students from the University of Strathclyde, one of Scotland’s leading Technological and Initial Teacher Education institutions, would add to the depth and scope of the current project.
The post-graduate students were most impressed at the developments St. Joseph’s had made in this area, with one STEM specialist post graduate student commenting ‘I think you have nailed this’. St. Joseph’s will welcome back the students in March to run their own STEM event in conjunction with the school. In the meantime, the students will take time to think about key issues from their preliminary visit and reflect on these. And, as their tutor mentioned, ‘This will help the research the students read about regarding STEM education practice really come to life – the work in the school so far is an outstanding example of what can be achieved with vision, passionate commitment and innovative pedagogy’. St. Joseph’s look forward to welcoming them and their tutor again in March!