Teacher partnerships with STEM professionals

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Category: In class learning, out of school learning, teacher professional learning

Suitable ages: Primary and secondary


Partnerships between teachers and STEM professionals can be an excellent way to improve student enthusiasm for STEM learning, knowledge of STEM applications in the real world, and attitudes towards careers in STEM. Partnerships centre on a professional relationship between a STEM professional and a teacher, who work together to improve STEM learning opportunities for students. This may happen through:

  • Teacher professional learning
  • Mentoring and one-on-one tutoring
  • Career talks and presentations
  • Provision of curriculum related resources
  • Hands-on demonstrations
  • Site visits and field trips
  • Online engagement.

Examples of programs include:

  • CSIRO STEM Professionals in Schools, a national program that facilitates partnerships between teachers and STEM professionals.
  • STEM X Academy, a five-day residential teacher professional learning program run in partnership with the Australian Science Teachers Association (ASTA), Questacon and CSIRO. Teachers experience a diverse range of presentations by scientists and researchers and explore current research in collaboration with STEM Professionals. Completing teachers become members of an alumni-led STEM X network.
Benefits Limitations
Enhanced student enthusiasm for STEM learning Strong reliance on relationship between teacher and STEM professional. Smart matching is important, as is clear articulation of roles and expectations.
Links STEM learning to real-world challenges and careers
Valuable teacher professional development
Low cost


There is evidence that this initiative type has a positive impact on student STEM engagement or achievement.

Evidence from programs including CSIRO STEM Professionals in Schools and STEM X Academy suggests partnerships between teachers and STEM professionals can have positive impacts for student engagement, student achievement and teacher practice. There is also evidence of benefits for STEM professionals.


  • Building Productive Partnerships for STEM Education: Evaluating the model & outcomes of the Scientists and Mathematicians in Schools program 2015 by Professor Russell Tytler et al., Deakin University. This independent evaluation of the CSIRO STEM Professionals in Schools program (formerly known as Scientists and Mathematicians in Schools) finds it is a cost-effective means to improve student enthusiasm, increase student knowledge and develop STEM teachers. STEM professionals reported that they enjoyed sharing their knowledge and gained increased confidence in promoting public understandings of STEM.
  • STEM X Academy: Empowering teaching – Issue Two. Teachers who have participated in a STEM X Academy program were surveyed about their experience in 2017. 95% said STEM X has significantly benefited their teaching practice. 87% said STEM X most definitely improved their capacity to engage students, while the remaining 13% said it somewhat improved their capacity. 95% said they have enthusiastically shared their STEM X experience with peers.


The CSIRO STEM Professionals in Schools program is a successful and accessible nationwide teacher-STEM professional partnership program. It is usually easier for schools and organisations to join this program than to start their own.

Schools or organisations interested in the CSIRO STEM Professionals in Schools program can register online on the CSIRO website. The program matches teachers and STEM professionals and provides administrative support. It is funded by the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment.

Implementation tips:

  • Clarify roles and expectations from the outset. This ensures that the scope and purpose of the partnership are clearly understood.
  • Focus on student needs in the local context.
  • Nurture the relationship. Participating STEM professionals and teachers have emphasised the importance of being willing to be flexible, to understand each other’s perspective, and to develop a shared view of how the partnership will serve students.

Industry involvement

If you are a business interested in supporting teacher-STEM professional partnerships, the CSIRO STEM Professionals in Schools program is a good place to start. STEM professionals say that getting involved in STEM learning gives them more enthusiasm for their work and improves their communication skills. The program helps businesses to get involved by providing guidance and administrative support.

Case study: CSIRO STEM Professionals in Schools

CSIRO STEM Professionals in Schools is a national program that facilitates partnerships between teachers and STEM professionals. Volunteer STEM professionals are matched with teachers based on their needs, interests, and location. Partners work together to bring real-world STEM into the classroom, drawing on the STEM professional’s expertise. Activities are designed for the local context. They often include teacher development, mentoring, one-on-one tutoring, site visits, career talks and hands-on learning experiences. The program now supports 2,000 partnerships in Australia, involving approximately 300 industry groups and benefits over 300,000 students. It has been shown to be a cost-effective means to increase student enthusiasm and knowledge, and to develop STEM teachers.