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The world is becoming more complex and requires, among other skills, STEM knowledge and literacy of its learners, community members, and societies alike. Thus, an extensive advocacy for quality early STEM Education is needed. This publication* by six IDoS peers outlines how impact networks (formed to address complex social or environmental issues) can promote the development and professionalisation of early STEM Education. It aims to support field-developing institutions to increase the impact of their work for a better and easily accessible education worldwide.

IDoS learning paper on "impact networks"

Download the full paper in different languages: 

English version (original) (pdf, 766 Kb)
"How can networks help encourage the development and professionalisation of innovative early STEM Education in a changing world?" 

Deutsche Fassung (German) (pdf, 783 Kb)
"Wie können Netzwerke die Entwicklung und Professionalisierung einer innovativen, frühen MINT-Bildung in einer sich wandelnden Welt fördern?" 

Version française (French) (pdf, 1.56 Mb)
"Comment les réseaux peuvent-ils contribuer à encourager le développement et la professionnalisation d'un enseignement précoce innovant des STIM dans un monde en mutation ?" 

Versión española (Spanish) (pdf, 687 Kb)
"¿Cómo pueden las redes ayudar a fomentar el desarrollo y la profesionalización de una innovadora educación STEM temprana en un mundo cambiante?"

Six pioneering STEM organisations on successful network collaborations

The organisations contributing to the learning paper titled "How can networks help encourage the development and professionalisation of innovative early STEM Education in a changing world?" draw from years of experience of working in the field of STEM Education. They all face the growing complexity of STEM Education. Not only do STEM disciplines become more intertwined as sustainable development goals evolve, but the environments in which they are being taught is changing as well, as they come to include digital tools like Open Educational Resources (OER), blended- or hybrid learning, and online learning. Organisations that specialise in teachers’ training and in the provision of pedagogical resources need to be able to adapt to these new environments.

That is why the contributing organisations have invested extensively in building and maintaining effective network collaborations with global and local partners and formed IDoS – a "Learning Network" operating in the domain of early STEM Education.

Kinderhände verteilen Holzspielsteine auf einem Netzwerkbild

© Christoph Wehrer / Stiftung Kinder forschen / The learning paper argues that network collaborations have an impact to promote and enhance early STEM Education. Case studies show how networks function in practice.

Networks with an impact to promote and enhance early STEM Education

To achieve their objectives, the IDoS peers initiated widespread impact networks that support them in their missions. Using definitions of network types based on Slaughter (2017) and Ehrlichmann (2021)* the paper links these five types of networks (Resilience Networks, Scale Networks, Action Networks, Movement Networks, and Learning Networks) to each IDoS organisation to better describe their work approach and impact. It becomes clear that all networks presented are – in one way or another – contributing to the common goal of enhancing STEM Education.

Table listing five network types and their purpose

© IDoS/Stiftung Kinder forschen / Network types based on Slaughter (2017) and Ehrlichmann (2021)

As a groundwork for this paper, each IDoS peer has also contributed a case study of one of its most long-standing networks (see Part I of the paper for short profiles) and each case study draws attention to both opportunities as well as challenges along the networks path.

Success factors of networks identified

In the paper at hand, the IDoS peers draw on what they have learned working within networks for many years and present their findings. They identify several criteria that determine the success of a network. These include: a good strategy and stewardship of the network (1), sufficient resources and funding (2), high motivation and commitment of network members (3), the application of effective practices of monitoring, evaluation, accountability, and learning (MEAL) (4), as well as the network’s ability to adapt to the context and complexity it is faced with (5) (see Figure).

A table showing success factors of network collaborations

© IDoS/Stiftung Kinder forschen / Success factors of networks

For precise examples for these factors, based on the peer networks’ cases, see the learning paper from page 16.

Networks as agents of change

Members of IDoS are convinced that global developments and the demands for quality education arising thereof can best be tackled in association with others, sharing experiences across borders and learning from each other. The systematic and regular exchange of globally available knowledge and practices on the topic of early STEM Education in a changing world and collective learning is critical to achieving impact. IDoS peers pave the way for networks to become 'education ecosystems': supporting and impacting national education policies, increasing the capacity of teachers and educators, and improving access to STEM Education worldwide. IDoS peers share a common vision of educational innovation, whereby STEM Education concepts are developed, professionalised, and effectively implemented in networks of different countries in a way that is tailored to local needs on the ground.

The authors of the paper conclude that impact networks designed to support early STEM Education – such as those described by the IDoS peers – play an important role in advancing childrens’ understanding of and actions towards the complex, rapidly changing conditions of the world. If successful, such networks can create a culture of sustainability – meeting the critical needs of the present on both a local and global scale, without compromising the needs of the future.

*For reference: Lundell, J., Borde, B., Filtzinger, B., Hansen, H., Henke, N., Oberthür, J., O’Donnell, C., Pahnke, J., Pasquinelli, E., Sadadou, D., & Vogel, A.-C. (2023). Miten verkostot auttavat kannustamaan innovatiivisen varhaisen STEM-koulutuksen kehittämistä ja ammattimaistumista muuttuvassa maailmassa?. LUMAT-B: International Journal on Math, Science and Technology Education, 8(1), 60–95.

The full paper was originally published in June 2023 on LUMA Centre Finland's website.

Do you have questions or comments regarding this paper?
Please refer to the Scientific Director at Stiftung Kinder forschen, Dr Janna Pahnke

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