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17th June 2022

Somerset College Life Sciences Educator, Nokubonga Mpinga recently added to her post-graduate qualifications by completing her STEM Honours.   Here she explains why and how she implements her STEM qualification in teaching at Somerset College.

Reason for doing STEM

I have decided to enrol for STEM Honours because education is evolving and the way we teach will have to also evolve. I wanted to be equipped with the knowledge of what a teacher in the 21st century looks like and have a chance to reflect on my own classroom practices.

Course summary

The STEM honours’ foundation is based on education theories that have existed for a very long time such as the constructivist theory that states students are active participants in creating their own knowledge. The role of the teacher is to facilitate learning, identify sources of misconceptions, and help students to deconstruct and reconstruct concepts. The course aims to highlight multiple available ways that teachers can use to help students build their own concepts such as (Inquiry-based learning, project-based learning, STEM, The use of digital tools, technology, etc.)

There is an increase in interest in integrating technology and digital tools in teaching and learning, and one of the key aspects of STEM honours is to equip teachers with the knowledge of how to successfully integrate technology into teaching and learning. TPACK (Technological pedagogical and content knowledge) focuses on choosing the right technology/digital tools to support teaching and learning by focusing on the learning objectives and then exploring the available digital tools. The interest in STEM has also increased globally and as part of the Honours programme, there was also a focus on STEM education on how it has been implemented and its effect in the countries that have successfully implemented it. 

South Africa has one of the lowest performances in Mathematics and Science. There are many issues that contribute to poor performance. One of the modules was on current issues in science education, which enlightened some of the issues that Science teachers and students face such as language barrier, Science concepts being abstract and many others. Science has its own language that is derived from another language which makes learning it much more difficult. 

The students have to be prepared for career paths that do not exist yet and STEM education aims to develop the skills that will ensure that students remain competitive globally and are creative and can collaborate with others. 

How I will implement what I learnt

I use KAHOOT in my class on a regular basis because of its fun and competitive element. Students pick their own nicknames and in the process, there is a lot of learning that occurs. It caters even the shy students who would not normally participate in class, they can play the KAHOOT. It also provides instant feedback which is very important in learning.  I always think of relatable examples for abstract concepts to ensure that students can form a good understanding and where possible show animations so that the students can visualise the concepts.

 For my research project, my focus was on the effect of digital tools on the academic performance of grade 8 and 9 Natural Sciences learners. The overall data collected showed that students’ performances, motivation and interest improve when digital tools are used. It has also highlighted issues that arise when digital tools are used such as easy distractions. This then requires the reflection of TPACK to ensure that they supplement and not replace student-teacher interaction.