The STEAM-Active (Project Number: 2021-1-ES01-KA220-HED-000032107) project is funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Education and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA). Neither the European Union nor EACEA can be held responsible for them.

How does STEM context-based learning work: what we know and what we still do not know

Partners' Institution
Fundacion para la Formacion Tecnica en Maquina-Herramienta
Year of publication
Educational stage
University Level
Journal name
Thematic Area
STEAM intervention (teaching strategies, evaluation...)
Context-based learning (CBL) has influenced teaching and learning science in many countries over the past decades. Twelve years ago, a special issue on CBL was published in this Journal, focusing on CBL curriculum development. Seven papers in this current special issue on CBL now address the question of how a context influences the learning process. The papers focus on the stimulation of learning STEM subjects within contexts, how the learning process occurs and is enhanced, and the application of contexts in different settings. The approaches, results, and implications of the papers are located in a larger view that considers the question of what must be the case if a student not only engages in the tasks of learning but also succeeds at them. Concerning willingness and effort by learners, the papers draw conclusions about which STEM-related interests of students endure and are ephemeral across a decade, design criteria for maximizing students' situational interest, and students' engagement with content and context simultaneously. Focusing on the opportunity to teach and learn, the papers reveal how a professional development approach functions to support STEM teachers to develop CBL materials, and how specific scaffolding acts in teaching bring students to more complex reasoning. Regarding good teaching, insights are offered on how metacognitive prompts improve teaching. Centering on the social surround that supports teaching and learning, a comparison of two contexts for teaching the same content reveals which aspects of the contexts move student learning forward. From this mapping, paths toward future research are projected.
Relevance for Complex Systems Knowledge
- The stimulation of STEM content is explored through context-based learning and therefore all disciplines are worked on. The type of integration is interdisciplinary
- This is a classroom intervention. The development of a curriculum for context-based learning takes place. It is studied how the context influences the learning process in a successful way by applying this learning model in the STEM field.
- An evaluation method is not applied because this is a review of articles where the approaches, findings and implications of the work are placed in a broader view that considers the question of what needs to happen for a student to not only engage with learning tasks but also to succeed in them.
- The conclusions the articles draw are that students' interests in STEM disciplines are enduring and what design criteria should be taken into account to maintain or increase student situational interest
as well as student engagement with the content and context of learning simultaneously. Focusing on the opportunity to teach and learn, the articles reveal how a professional development approach works to support STEM teachers in developing Context-Based Learning (CBL) materials, and how specific acts of scaffolding in teaching lead students to more complex reasoning. In terms of good teaching, information is provided on how metacognitive prompts enhance teaching. Focusing on the social environment that supports teaching and learning, a comparison of two teaching contexts for the same content reveals which aspects of the contexts advance students' learning. From this mapping, avenues for future research are projected

This article does not focus on students' difficulties, gender inequality or curricular economics; it is a study of students' motivation towards science, technology, engineering and mathematics through Context-Based Learning (CBL)
Point of Strength
Reviewing articles on context-based learning and how it can be applied to STEM education to increase students' interest in these learning disciplines.
Context based-learning, Learning environments, learning outcomes, learning tasks
Creative Commons License
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