We live in a society where exposure to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education plays a very important role in all aspects of life. Several initiatives have been undertaken worldwide to increase student interest in STEM fields and in the pursuit of STEM-related careers. It is certainly to the advantage of a society to have scientifically literate citizens and school curricula that are tailored towards designs where practitioners adjust to various interdisciplinary collaborations and are socially responsible. Modern perspectives place more emphasis on student empowerment as learners exercise across a broad range of contexts, their capstone projects being a good example, by enhancing the development of cognitive, practical and transferable skills. Emphasis is also being placed on ideas that increase entrepreneurial awareness and lead to interesting applications, but also improve the job opportunities of young people, connecting graduates with the industry and the workforce in general. Addressing social problems effectively increasingly requires scientifically literate citizens and school curricula investing in innovations that involve basic science research, along with its applications and implications, environmental concerns and technology development. Moreover, innovations in education are also important, inasmuch as education is a significant tool for developing not only well-informed and knowledgeable citizens, but also socially responsible and creative individuals who will ensure continuation of scientific inquiry with sustainable outcomes.
Overall, more ‘studentcentred’ and independent learning with the goal of increasing experiential learning and job opportunities is currently recommended for STEM programs, in STEM courses and STEM capstone (senior thesis) projects. Faculty-mentored STEM courses and capstone projects are a vital component for the provision of high-quality STEM education in modern academic institutions, typically engaging students in personalised learning experiences that provide the culmination of theoretical approaches and applied work practice experiences in the senior year of an undergraduate degree. The new trend focuses on project-based, often team-taught instruction, which takes into consideration interdisciplinary perspectives. A number of STEM courses, including the capstone project in STEM disciplines, typically provide students with the opportunity to apply critical thinking and problem-solving skills while investigating a specialised area of interest. Students synthesise the learning from core courses and STEM elective pathways to solve real-world problems related to their chosen fields. Usually students have the assistance of teachers or mentors, and often of tutors who guide them through their courses and project deliverables. The capstone project especially should serve as a culminating demonstration of students’ active prior academic and technical knowledge and skills acquired, to address complex and authentic social problems. Effective capstone experiences should be tailored to specific disciplinary requirements, be mindful of student cohort size and provide a variety of assessment tasks.
The new perspective helps students integrate and synthesise content, further develop problem-solving and communication skills, and understand the significance of high-quality knowledge adnd critical and practical skills, as well as the process of production and delivery of knowledge. A good number of STEM courses together with capstone projects ensure that graduates will be able to transition successfully to various career pathways and graduate studies or gain employment in the competitive workplace. Recently there are efforts to engage more undergraduates in research and internships, in comparison to the past where the most advanced and highly motivated students participated. As a result, there is a need for STEM curricula revision and for establishing consistency in the way students are mentored and assessed, leading to student empowerment in terms of knowledge gain and transferable skill development.
In this special issue, selected best practices, enhanced with ICTs, for effective teaching of STEM curricula will be considered in terms of applying various active and integrated learning didactical approaches such as active learning, problem solving, technology-driven learning innovation and other teaching strategies. They will be analysed in terms of the following selected dimensions: goals, learning outcomes, pedagogical methods and techniques used. Comparison and analysis of the similarities and differences between selected practices in terms of teaching goals, course learning outcomes and pedagogical methods used are also welcome in order to develop a typology of the best effective active learning strategies for STEM education.
Additional special emphasis is paid to theoretical background in terms of learning theories and didactical/teaching best practices in STEM, and especially capstone, courses and in the preparation of guides by interpreting a number of requirements in STEM capstone projects and the common ways in which capstone experiences are integrated into the curriculum. The notion of a capstone experience is to be explored and discussed in relation to the objectives of methodologies for the effective provision of collaboration, mentoring and learning processes in typical capstone projects, as related to the concepts of integrated knowledge management and development and knowledge transfer.
Key issues will be considered in designing and implementing STEM curricula and capstone projects, and emphasis is put on the interpretation of modern available ICTs guides as recommended technological enabled toolkits with services available to students in STEM courses and in capstone projects.
The objective is to communicate and disseminate recent learning technologies, learning management, internet technology and STEM research and success stories that demonstrate the power of ICTs to improve the learning performance and learning experience with the provision of advanced services for learners and mentors in STEM courses and in capstone projects. We will demonstrate state-of-the art approaches of emerging ICTs and applications and other innovative technologies that have had successful application worldwide and show how new, advanced, user-active learning designs and collaborative learning strategies can expand the sustainability frontiers in advanced technology-enhanced learning towards the smart knowledge society vision.
Suitable topics include, but are not limited, to the following:
- Learning theories best suited for the design of STEM courses and STEM capstone projects (senior thesis)
- Methods used in the development of STEM courses and STEM capstone projects
- Active learning strategies in STEM courses and in STEM capstone projects
- Promoting creative and critical thinking in STEM disciplines
- Action research in STEM courses and capstone projects
- Mentoring in STEM courses and in STEM capstone projects
- Knowledge management, student empowerment and social development in the context of STEM courses and STEM capstone projects
- Technology-enhanced collaboration in STEM capstone projects
- Focused studies for the role of ICTs in STEM capstone projects: virtual reality, collaborative learning spaces, social networks, learning analytics, learning games
- Development of STEM capstone project guides emphasising the role of ICTs
Submission of manuscripts: 15 March, 2017
Notification to authors: 31 May, 2017
Final versions due: 30 July, 2017