Decide what you want to achieve

On this page:

This step identifies a specific objective (or objectives) for your initiative to achieve. This is helpful because:

  • From the start, you will know your end goal and then be able to think through what would best achieve it. This avoids being set on a particular initiative because it sounds interesting or new, but is actually not effective.
  • Specific objectives mean initiatives can more easily measure success. Vague objectives such as “improve STEM education” do not help identify what you could be doing, are difficult to measure and are open to different interpretations.

By the end of this step you will have:

  • Identified the problem you want to resolve or the opportunity you want to realise.
  • Identified what success looks like.

Identify the problem you want to resolve or the opportunity you want to realise

STEM education generally aims to improve student engagement, achievement, or both. The page on what STEM education initiatives try to achieve contains more information about what these terms mean and there are some examples in the table below. Sometimes initiatives aim to resolve existing problems. Sometimes initiatives aim to take up new opportunities.

Examples of objectives

Student Engagement Student achievement
  • Increasing STEM uptake / reducing drop-out rates
  • Getting students passionate about STEM and STEM career pathways
  • Improving students’ and schools’ performance in STEM subjects
  • Applying concepts learned in classroom to real-life examples to strengthen understanding
  • Equipping students with 21st century skills

The first thing you need to do before running a STEM initiative is decide your objective, or what you aim to achieve. It’s much more effective to do this first, then choose an initiative, than to start with a particular initiative in mind then wonder about objectives.

Aim for no more than 2-3 objectives so your initiative remains manageable. You want to ensure your objective is clear, about students and avoids assuming what the initiative should be about. This makes the rest of the design (and evaluation) process much easier.

Case study: Queensland Mineral and Energy Agency

For example, the Queensland Mineral and Energy Academy (QMEA) offers a range of initiatives to schools and students including events, teacher professional learning and industry personnel in schools. QMEA objectives for these initiatives are to:

  • Increase and broaden students’ knowledge and understanding of the sector and attract more students into STEM subjects.
  • Provide pathways for young people in Years 7 to 12 into the resources sector and other STEM-related careers.

The following table provides other examples of objectives, and advice on why some of these are better than others.

Examples of what you want to achieve Is this objective appropriate? Why
I want my initiative to reduce the drop-out rates in STEM subjects. Yes This objective is clear, about students and neutral about the initiative.
I want parents to have the confidence to get involved in their children’s STEM education. No

This objective is not clear about the impact on students.

Next step: Why is it important for students’ parents to be involved? Does it relate to encouraging students to engage more with STEM, or does it help them do better in STEM, or both? Use your answers to these questions to further develop your objective.

I want a school’s voluntary science club to be made compulsory for all students. No

This objective has jumped to a particular initiative before establishing what the problem / opportunity is.

Next step: What does the club offer students that they are currently not getting? Develop your answer into an objective (e.g. if the club allows for more practical applications so students better understand and enjoy concepts – your objective could be to increase opportunities for students to apply scientific conclusions to real-world problems).

I want my initiative to show students potential career paths in STEM to encourage further interest / study in those fields. Yes This objective is clear, about students and neutral about the initiative.
I want my initiative to build a better workforce for the future. No

This objective is too vague.

Next step: What are the specific skills or interests you want students to develop? Use your answer to develop a more specific objective.

What about when I want to improve teaching?

Improving teaching is often a good idea and there is no question that it is important for STEM education. However, the point of changing teaching practice always comes back to improving outcomes for students. Even if you think your initiative is about improving teaching, consider what you are trying to achieve for the students (i.e. engagement, achievement or both) to ensure the initiative will best support these aims.

Identify what success looks like

Imagine that you have run your initiative and it has been successful in achieving the objectives you identified. What impact has the initiative had? For example, are students more engaged? How would you know?

If it helps, think of the particular students who might benefit from the initiative.

Identifying what success looks like helps determine what measures are needed to assess whether the initiative is successful. For now, include measures even if they seem hard to measure.

Examples of measuring success:

Example Engagement Achievement
Short-term success could include
  • Attentive students in class
  • Uptake of STEM subjects for next year
  • Improved results
  • Improved range and quality of skills
Medium-term success could include
  • Increased parent involvement
  • Increased enrolments in Year 11-12 advanced STEM subjects
  • Improved results
  • Wider range of STEM skills and experiences
Long-term success could include
  • Enrolments in STEM at university and TAFE
  • An intelligent, critical society who can meaningfully question and influence scientific policy and news
  • Improved career pathways
  • Increase in STEM employment
  • More skilled STEM workforce