Problem-based Learning with Industry Partners the what, the why and the how - Film series

The 'what' ...

You might be asking yourself, "what exactly is problem-based learning with an industry partner ... and how does that look in a classroom?" This series of films explores how teachers and students from four South Australian primary schools stepped right out of their comfort zones, to participate in this semester-long problem-based learning program. Students describe this style of learning as challenging, in a fun way that builds up their skills for their whole life. Teachers talk about their fear of going where the students led them … and of the resulting success, not only in themselves, what they learned and the way they taught … but also the success of their students, which at the end of the day is what you want as a teacher. They reflect positively on their experiences working with industry partners who presented authentic problems to their students and asked them to help solve their problems … and talk about how student engagement levels rose ‘ten-fold’ because they could see the relevance of what they were learning.

In Part 1: The Teacher's Journey, participants take on a new way of teaching … one they were never taught at university, but one which enables authentic learning opportunities for their students. In this video, they share their thoughts, fears, challenges and successes following their participation in this semester-long problem-based learning program. One of the teachers explains it as not teaching content for the sake of it … but actually teaching students the skills they will need to be able to solve real problems.

The 'why' ...

You might ask yourself, "Why should I enter into this new way of teaching?" It's a big adjustment and teachers involved in this project asked the very same question as they began this journey. In the following three films, students teachers and industry partners answer this question.

Why problem-based learning?

In Part 2: Engaging Students, we hear how working with someone from industry empowers students in their learning and makes them feel good … and, when they feel good, they deliver. Students say that when it’s a ‘real problem’, they try harder to find a real answer. They add that it’s more motivating and it drives them to do the work at a higher level. Engaging learning also means less behaviour problems, which benefits all in the learning environment.

In Part 3: Industry Partners Benefit Too, we hear another perspective. It’s easy to think that it’s all about the school … but the response from the industry partners has been both reaffirming and positive. They are pleased to be contributing to the education of young people by making a human connection and asking students to help them solve genuine problems.

In Part 4: Reflections of Teachers and Industry Partners, the teachers and industry partners, involved in the Problem Based Learning program, share their reflections about the program. The industry partners were blown away with the problem-solving skills of the students and teachers reflected on how important it was to ride out the little humps at the beginning because, at the end of the day, it’s worth it when you see how much the students get out of this pedagogical approach to learning.

Background to 'why' ...

In December 2015, all Australian Education Ministers agreed to ensure: all students finish school with strong foundational knowledge in STEM and related skills; and that students are inspired to take on more challenging STEM subjects. The South Australian Department for Education STEM Learning Strategy has three key areas for action:

  • build expertise in STEM teaching and learning across all years of public education
  • engage students at all year levels in STEM education
  • develop systemic excellence in STEM education.

One element of the South Australian STEM Learning Strategy is the STEM Works Leaders' Support project (through which the Problem-based Learning project was funded) includes the aim that Leaders and teachers demonstrate efficacy, agency and expertise in designing and delivering STEM learning, with an aim they will:

  • have a better understanding of what a STEM lesson or learning looks like
  • understand the effective use of innovative learning spaces to enhance teaching and learning and are able to implement it at their site
  • understand successful learning experiences addressing STEM curriculum, pedagogies and assessment and are able to implement this at their site
  • have more confidence in delivering STEM teaching and learning across R - 12
  • have a greater understanding, with regards the Learning Design process, in relation to STEM learning

Want to see the story of Problem-based Learning with an Industry Partner as an entire video? Visit our YouTube Playlist at https://bit.ly/2k4IDCe

The 'how' ...

This series of videos, focusses on 'how' you can bring problem-based learning, with an industry partner, into your classroom. You'll discover where to start, what you should be looking for in an industry partner, how to find an industry partner that your can work with and a little about why industry partners want to support education in schools.

An Introduction to Problem-based Learning

Find out how you can bring problem-based learning into your classroom. Students and teachers are engaging in, and really enjoying, this type of learning . Sue and Christie have almost as much experience inside the classroom as they’ve had outside of the classroom … and they’re getting great results with this pedagogical approach to learning.

Getting Started with Problem-based Learning

Problem-based learning is a totally different approach to teaching and learning, than what is taught to education students in universities. So, where do you start and whom should you work with? Trust and relationship … with a critical friend, is really important. Having someone challenge your thinking, helps you improve your thinking, and this is an important component in ensuring successful problem-based learning occurs in your classrooms.

What to Look for in an Industry Partner

There are five main things to look for in an industry partner. In this video, Sue and Christie share what they see as most important to look for when seeking out an industry partner. Finding the right curriculum connection is most important … and it may be more than one connection that you’re looking for.

Where to Find an Industry Partner

Where to find an industry partner is a key question for schools exploring this pedagogical approach to teaching and learning. Sue and Christie, in this video, share their experience about locating industry partners to work with your students, in your classrooms, in your context.

Industry Partners Benefit Too

All industry partners value education, for a number of reasons. For example, they have a social responsibility to give back to the community. More importantly, they are keen to enthuse young people and help them to understand what engineers actually do, because they see it as a way to sustain this much-needed profession through the 21st Century, into the 22nd Century and beyond.


Sue Gaardboe and Christie Evans have spent the last five years teaching STEM problem-based learning, in partnership with industry, and the results they are achieving are extraordinary. This way of teaching increases student engagement because they are encouraged to apply what they are learning, to solve meaningful problems.

Sue's passion for science and teaching have been recognised by her roles as textile conservator and lecturer in object conservation, primary school teacher, science specialist teacher and assistant principal. She has won the South Australian Science Excellence Award for Science Teacher of the Year and been invited to present at local and national conferences, speaking on STEM Problem-based Learning (PBL) and digital technologies. Sue challenges conventional teaching methods in the pursuit of excellence and is currently researching positive effects of STEM PBL on critical and creative thinking.

Christie Evans is an exemplary teacher and leader in STEM learning. Her role as both STEM Coordinator and Year 6/7 teacher has enabled her to not only provide professional development for teachers, but also model problem-based learning in her own classroom. She has contributed to the pedagogical shift from content to skills focus, through her work with the Department for Education, in analysing science assessment, general capabilities, evaluating STEM programs and the generation of educational videos. Christie is a passionate advocate for STEM problem-based learning, in partnership with industry, and has presented at conferences nationwide, with a clear vision to make education meaningful for all students.


Brighton Primary School:

  • Leader: Sue Gaardboe
  • Teachers: Courtney Elliott, Candice Mangan & Aaron Lindsay

Forbes Primary School

  • Leader: Teagan Sargent
  • Teacher: Tamsin Petzer

Seaview Downs Primary School

  • Leader: Christie Evans
  • Teachers: Andrew Seyfang & Christine Pearson

St Leonards Primary School

  • Leader: Kathy Baker
  • Teachers: Stevo Jurkovic & Sarah Hartley

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