ACSA Symposium – STEM, STEAM or HASS? Interrogating models of curriculum integration

The Australian Curriculum Studies Association (ACSA) held its symposium in Sydney on the 13th and 14th of October. It’s title was ‘STEM, STEAM or HASS? Interrogating models of curriculum integration‘. It seems that educators everywhere, particularly those in Secondary Schools, continue to grapple with a system that has taught subjects in silos for as long as formal education has been on offer. As we face the challenges of changing workplace scenarios and expectations, and endeavour to develop in our students what the Foundation for Young Australians terms ‘Enterprise skills’, many schools are looking to find ways to use models like Project Based Learning to bring disciplines together to work in tandem to develop skills and address knowledge acquisition.

enterprise-skills                                Foundation for Young Australians: The New Basics

I was very keen to attend as there were a number of people within my network who were presenting and I’ve been following what they have been doing for some time. Case in point, Gavin Hays, now Assistant Principal at Parramatta Marist High in New South Wales. I’ve been watching the Project Based Learning journey of Parramatta Marist since 2008. Gavin’s presentation shared the commitment this school has made to PBL and provided concrete examples demonstrating the effect this kind of curriculum structure has made to their community of learners. Impressive work indeed.

Other notable presentations were from Jane Hunter, Bianca Hewes, Lee Hewes, Jake Plaskett, Nicole Mockler and Steve Collis. There would have been others I’m sure, but you can only be in one place at a time at a conference!

As is my custom at conferences, I try to tweet as much as I can so that I can share what I am learning with those who aren’t able to attend. I’ve put together a Storify of the tweets I posted over the two days and where possible, I’ve added photos and links that will take you to resources mentioned within the sessions. Click here to take a read.

What I think was apparent from the schools who had successfully developed integrated curriculum models was that a whole school approach had been taken and programs had been developed over successive years. This is no easy task. To be successful requires the development of a school culture that can embrace change and place value on collaborative learning. It requires shared vision, strong school management, leadership from many facets of the school, trust in your teachers, a willingness to rethink the structure of the timetable, respectful relationships and close communication with your parent and student body. No easy task, but without a doubt, worth it.

Graphic notes from Rachel Dight – lucky me!


Earlier this year I presented at the AIS ICT Leadership Conference in Canberra. My session was about Deploying Google Apps, and I was thrilled when I saw Rachel Dight walk in the room with a whiteboard!

Rachel was creating visual representations of speaker’s talks and I’d been impressed with the work she had done of Jane Hunter’s Keynote (see a pic of Jane and I and her board at the bottom of this post). I love seeing how great graphic artists interpret a speaker’s words and to have a visual artifact of what I said meant a lot to me. I was completely immersed in delivering the presentation and wasn’t concentrating on what Rachel was doing during the session, so I was really surprised to look at it at the end and see her interpretation. It’s a fabulous representation of what I was saying and I think it’s easy for someone who wasn’t in the room to gain comprehension of my words.


I have no idea how an artist like Rachel does this. She needs to listen intently to subject matter that is not within the realm of her normal life and come up with creative ways of representing these ideas. It’s no mean feat. It’s certainly a gift I don’t possess!

If you’re looking for a great graphic artist to attend your conference and create lasting artifacts of a presenter’s words, then take a look at Rachel’s website. There’s an array of examples from presentations she has recorded as graphic notes- I’m sure you will agree that she is one very talented lady.