Transdisciplinary Thinking in Action

Transdisciplinary Thinking in Action

Rachel Noonan, our Senior School Coordinator of STEM and teacher of Technical and Applied Studies (TAS) is passionate about the importance of STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) in preparing students for the future.

In collaboration with the Senior School Science, Mathematics and TAS Coordinators, Ms Noonan has developed a future-focused Vision for STEM at Loreto Kirribilli, 'To engage students in rigorous and relevant transdisciplinary learning experiences and adopt new ways of thinking to form synergies across and beyond STEM'.

Drawing on her training as a ‘design thinker’, Ms Noonan was well equipped to lead the development of this Vision. “The school was already doing an amazing job with STEM. So we set out to reimagine our vision for STEM, with a forward-facing and future-focused framework detailing the ‘Why’, the ‘What’ and the ‘How’.

“We interviewed key influential stakeholders in the world of STEM. We also drew heavily on The New Work Smarts research paper by the Foundation for Young Australians.

“We highlighted the skills and capabilities that are going to matter most 15 years in the future. A Kindergarten child today will graduate in 2034, when the world is going to look very different. To prepare our young people for this future, we knew we had to urgently shift our understanding of what it will mean to be STEM-literate.”

Three key priorities were identified to achieve this Vision: Curriculum, Teaching and Learning, and Partnerships. Each priority is closely aligned with the Inspiring Educational Excellence pillar of the Loreto Kirribilli Strategic Plan, Inspired Minds, Catalysts for Change.

Ms Noonan then set about implementing a number of new initiatives to support this Vision for STEM.

  • Year 8 joined the NRMA Future of Transport transdisciplinary design competition with one team reaching the finals in their first year.
  • Year 9 STEM students are introduced to the ‘Engineering Design Process’, a recognised platform for transdisciplinary problem solving.
  • Partnerships through the Loreto Academic Mentoring Program (LAMP), led by Gifted & Talented Coordinator K-12, Desi Tate, have been further expanded.
  • A new transdisciplinary Unit of Work, in partnership with the University of Notre Dame, is being introduced this Semester for Year 9.
  • The Future Anything Big Ideas Challenge, a fast-paced day of listening, learning and action, was hosted and facilitated by Loreto Kirribilli, and attended by 136 Year 8 students from seven schools. During the Challenge, students were inspired by local change-makers to develop entrepreneurial thinking and human-centred design skills.

Beyond the school gates, Ms Noonan recently travelled to Brisbane to present a Masterclass at the Innovation in Education Festival, informing educators from around Australia of the future-focused vision for STEM at Loreto Kirribilli.

In addition, Ms Noonan, TAS Coordinator Mrs Michelle Payne, and seven Year 11 Engineering students were invited by Chief Executive Women (CEW) to attend Breakfast with the AUKUS Chief Defence Scientists – an inspiring glimpse into the world of these global influencers – all three roles currently held by women.

“We are about removing the barriers that stand in the way of students achieving STEM success,” Ms Noonan explains. “I think it’s important to be an advocate for STEM around young women, and to model STEM success. STEM is not just coding!

“I’m passionate about the future world of work, in terms of preparing our students. We shouldn’t be asking students, ‘What do you want to be when you leave school?’ We should be asking them, ‘What are you interested in?’ The jobs of the future haven’t been created yet.”