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Teaching standard STEM topics with a key competence approach

Welcome to STEMkey

STEMkey has been launched to provide solutions to support the EU’s key competence initiative in the scope of STEM education.

STEM education at school traditionally delivers isolated subject knowledge like functions, human anatomy and chemical reactions. Learners’ skills to apply gained knowledge and attitudes to set it in context with their life and societal decision-making processes have not been sufficiently nurtured likewise.

However, research has shown that, only in combination with skills and attitudes, can knowledge be used to its full potential, and can children become responsible citizens and decision-makers.

STEMkey focus on key competences: knowledge, skills and attitudes

The EU-funded project STEMkey (‘Teaching standard STEM topics with a key competence approach’, 2020-2023) will enable future STEM teachers to refrain from teaching with the sole purpose of knowledge-transfer of a single STEM subject. This simply does not measure up to todays and tomorrows challenges anymore. Instead, STEM teachers will learn how to nurture their students’ key competences when delivering standard STEM content, which means to deliver subject knowledge and allow the development of skills and attitudes to use this knowledge in various societal and real-life contexts in equal measure.

A major part hereby is to use an integrated STEM education approach, which means, STEM education across disciplines. Interdisciplinary STEM education! FIND OUT MORE!

Project Aims

One part of the solution is to train future teachers in “being STEM key competent”. They need to understand the relation between knowledge, skills and attitudes, how they affect each other and how they have an effect on their students’ learning experience and personal life.

In this context, interdisciplinary STEM teaching and learning is the way to go, as it demonstrates the linkages between each STEM subject, each STEM topic…and, in the bigger picture, each solution in the context of maths, science, engineering and technology.

Hardly any decision in real life can be made within a box. We must think outside the box and develop an understanding how everything is connected, how systems evolve…and how we can improve systems, how we can improve life…when learning and working across disciplines.

To achieve this objective, we develop teaching modules to be used in Higher Education programmes and training for future STEM teachers, covering all STEM disciplines and exemplarily dealing with topics from each discipline (e.g. light representing physics education, algorithms representing informatics or the periodic system representing chemistry). Each module applies various tested and proven innovative educational approaches, such as inquiry-based learning, digital learning or real-life contextualisation.

A Strategic Partnership

As STEMkey places a strong focus on establishing and nourishing a strong strategic partnership, network options play an important role.

Although responsibility for Higher Education rests within the EU Member States, cooperation in this field is imperative. Fundamental STEM topics across Europe are alike: chemical reactions, functions, anatomy, etc. are taught in each country. Jointly rethinking traditional teaching contents is a challenging process, as decades of teaching tradition have to be examined with impartiality and new creativity but without losing sight of experience. Transnational cooperation adds value to the actual reshaping process as we can view the various STEM topics from many angles and consequently enrich each teaching module.

Naturally, cross-border collaboration during the output production process and evaluation results, stemming from a multi-country perspective, help us to design each module as universally applicable as possible (across different contexts, cultures and political systems).

Find out more about our team!

Target Groups

We address the following main target user groups:

  • Future STEM teachers (students in initial teacher education (ITE) programmes)
  • Higher education teaching staff involved in STEM ITE
  • Decision-makers and lead positions, e.g. rectors, deans, heads of STEM education departments at partner institutions
  • Staff responsible for curriculum design and course programs of partner institutions.

Interdisciplinary STEM Education

STEMkey develops 13 learning modules for Higher Education STEM programmes. Each module covers another standard STEM topic exemplarily to support the EU’s Key Competence Framework across STEM education. In particular, the development of out-of-the-box Critical Thinking in relation to the covered STEM topics is used to practice interdisciplinary STEM teaching and learning.

Each module starts from another discipline: maths, biology, chemistry, physics, engineering and (digital) technology, and thus sets a subject focus to chose from. The modules will be linked to each other, tackling exemplary problems from different  STEM discipline perspectives and offers paths to use them in a bigger interdisciplinary picture. What has maths to offer to solve a physics problem? How do chemistry and biology relate when trying to understand our world? How does each system, our society, our world function in and across disciplines?

The educational approaches which are mainly used in the STEMkey models and have the potential to adress the requirements as set by the Key-Competence Framework are:

  • Real-life contexts
  • Inquiry-Based Learning (IBL), Experiential Learning and Project-Based Learning (PBL)
  • Gender-balanced activities
  • Diversity-embracing activities
  • Digitally-supported learning

Supporting Materials

12 Higher Education Institutions from as many countries worked together on the STEMkey project to provide you with practice-ready material (activities, background information and guidelines) involving latest STEM education research: competence-based, real-life embedded and interdisciplinary.

Choose and enjoy!


STEMkey Module 1 – Introduction on Developing Key Competences with an interdisciplinary approach in STEM education

Elevating STEM Education through Key Competences and Interdisciplinary Approaches

Welcome to Module IO1, a cornerstone of our Erasmus+ project that synergizes key competences with interdisciplinary STEM education. This module acts as a gateway to the EU’s Framework for Key Competences for Lifelong Learning, showcasing the transformative power of interdisciplinary STEM methods in educational settings.

What IO1 Delivers:

  • A thorough understanding of the EU’s Key Competences Framework and its pivotal role in shaping Europe’s educational future.
  • Innovative strategies to weave learners’ key competences into a cohesive series of 13 interrelated modules.
  • A focus on interdisciplinary perspectives, emphasizing the significance of Critical Thinking, Creativity, and Problem-Solving in solving real-life problems.
  • An exploration of educational methods such as inquiry-based learning (IBL), project-based learning (PBL), and engineering design processes (EDP) that nurture key competences.
  • Integration of digital tools and inclusive learning environments, catering to the diverse needs of students, particularly girls in STEM.

Needs Analysis:

The EU’s Key Competence Framework, although crucial, remains underrepresented in STEM education, which tends to favor conventional subject-specific teaching. Our exploration in IO1 highlighted the need for a paradigm shift to effectively integrate these competences into educational practices. We’ve reimagined the delivery of standard STEM subjects to embrace interdisciplinarity and bolster skills like Critical Thinking, Creativity, and Problem-Solving.

Target Groups:

Designed primarily for Higher Education staff in future STEM teacher programs, IO1-13 also offer valuable perspectives for in-service STEM teachers aiming to refine their teaching methodologies. Each subject module (IO2-12) is crafted to be flexible and applicable in STEM classrooms.


At the heart of IO1 is a groundbreaking approach that strengthens learners’ key competences (knowledge, skills, and attitudes) in STEM subjects. It draws from diverse STEM disciplines and prioritizes the cultivation of Critical Thinking as a key skill across all STEM and digital competences.

Expected Impact:

IO1 has been a catalyst for increased awareness and understanding of the EU’s key competence framework, promoting a holistic approach to STEM education. It equips educators with the tools to deliver STEM topics integratively, ensuring balanced development of knowledge, skills, and attitudes. By introducing Critical Thinking and Creativity as core elements, IO1 prepares educators to effectively foster these skills in their STEM classes.

With our finalized educational concept we enable learners to develop Critical Thinking, Creativity, and Problem-Solving through the activities in IO2-12. This “triple concept” forms the backbone of our STEMkey framework, representing a forward-thinking solution that enriches our understanding and implementation of the EU’s Key Competence Framework in STEM education.

Download the materials for module 01 here, available in English and German.

Do you have any questions?



STEMkey Module 2 – Teaching knowledge, skills and attitudes in Mathematics: Functions

STEMkey Module 2 focuses on the mathematical standard topic “functions”. The concept of functions is fundamental in mathematics and all other STEM subjects. Even though most people do not realize it, but they use functions in many all-daily situations, be it to calculate a taxi fare with fixed start price and per kilometre travelled (linear function), the trajectory of a ball (quadratic function) or the spreading of a virus (exponential function).

In the first phase of the project, University of Zagreb has set an outline for the module and has discussed it with all project partners to work on the interdisciplinary connections to the other modules. The outline is based on the development of three specific competences:

  • Observing dependencies and modelling with functions in the real world;
  • Developing and using the concept of a function in different representations;
  • Recognizing and using (properties of various) elementary functions.

Each of these competences will be explained in more detail on the level of knowledge, skills and attitudes according to the key competence framework and followed by activities based on interdisciplinary examples. Each IO Module contains an OULTINE, WORKSHEET & PRESENTATION.

Poster Download: STEMkey Module 2 on Functions

Download the materials for module 2 here, available in English, Netherlands & German. The materials include an outline, worksheets and a presentation.

STEMkey Module 3 – Teaching knowledge, skills and attitudes in Mathematics: Measurement

Measurement is an important topic in mathematics education with many connections to other science disciplines and connections to alldaily life.

Words like weight, volume and liters are related, but also have different meanings or use, depending on the context and the language used in academic, school or daily life situations.

“Authentic contexts can be used to provide opportunities for students to learn (basic) measuring skills and to develop transversal skills like critical thinking” (Doorman, 2019; Wijers & Jonker, 2017).

Thus, Module 3 works with a variety of authentic contexts to pursue an innovative key competence approach to the standard topic measurement which supports knowledge on measurement, skills to measure and apply measuring issues in alldaily life, and a mindset which is able to critically reflect on scales.

The project team from the University of Utrecht finalized addresses measurement in Higher Education programmes for future STEM teachers with an interdisciplinary eye on qualitative and quantitative measures, involves the use of mobile phones and a critical reflection on their scales, and makes a step beyond a traditional central position of staircase models. The educational activities use approaches like inquiry-based and technology-enhanced learning and offer illustrative examples for all genders and learners from all backgrounds.

Download the STEMkey Measurement Poster.

Download the materials for module 3 here, available in English, German, Netherlands & Turkish. The materials include an outline, worksheets and a presentation.


Doorman, L. M. (2019). Contexts to Make Mathematics Accessible and Relevant for Students—Jan de Lange’s Contributions to Realistic Mathematics Education. In W. Blum, M. Artigue, M. A. Mariotti, R. Sträßer, & M. Van den Heuvel-Panhuizen (Eds.), European Traditions in Didactics of Mathematics (pp. 73–78).
Wijers, M., & Jonker, V. (2017). Authentic contexts in mathematics textbooks in secondary pre-vocational education (VMBO). In B. Grevholm (Ed.), Mathematics textbooks, their content, use and influences. Research in Nordic and Baltic countries (pp. 245-268). Oslo: Cappelen Damm Akademisk.

STEMkey Module 4 – Teaching knowledge, skills and attitudes in Biology: Human anatomy and physiology


To better contextualize and deepen student’s knowledge about human anatomy and physiology and the subject’s interconnectedness with other STEM fields, the team from University of Maribor worked out experiments which showcase the inner workings of human anatomy in a new way. In-built phone sensors measure the results of these experiments to allow the usage by more or less anyone, as people are able to perform them in their home as opposed to in laboratories. In this way, the subject is taught more interactively and intuitively thus increasing the student’s grasp of the knowledge as well as giving the students better sense of the interconectedness of the knowledge with other STEM fields.


Download the materials for module 4 here, available in English. The materials include an outline, worksheets and a presentation.

STEMkey Module 5 – Teaching knowledge, skills and attitudes in Biology: Material cycles

Knowledge about Material Cycles is vital for understanding ecosystems and ecosystem services on the local, regional and global levels. When it comes to the current debate about climate change and possible strategies to cope with it, it is, for example, decisive that young citizens can understand how the carbon cycle (illustrative example worked on in this module) works on our planet.

For this purpose, the experts from the University of Innsbruck have developed teaching material on the carbon cycle, which consists of different modules, can be flexibly used, and expanded. The acquisition of competencies on the carbon cycle also leads to reflective handling of socio-scientific issues, such as climate change. Intellectual Output 5 bridges the gap between the importance of acquiring knowledge and the boring way it is taught by connecting material cycles across disciplines and connecting them to a real-life context. The food production industry is one of the largest CO2 producers on our planet. Young people need to acquire knowledge and skills to make thoughtful decisions when it comes to choosing food and become more sensitive to food waste and food transport (develop attitudes). Therefore, we developed teaching material, which can be directly linked to school or private gardens and raise awareness for the topic of food production.

Get an Overview on our Module (available here anytime soon)

STEMkey Poster_Material_Cycles

Download the materials for module 5 here, available in English. The materials include an outline, worksheets and a presentation.

Do you have any questions?



STEMkey Module 6 – Teaching knowledge, skills and attitudes in Chemistry: Chemical Reactions

Chemical reactions bear outstanding potential to be connected to many profound processes of life on Earth: e.g. reproduction, digestion, growth, birth of stars, the universe and development of matter…however the topic is presented very formally: often approached by showing examples as a first step and then, consequently, calculating various chemical equations. This mostly happens theoretically without integrating experimental activities and connections to everyday life. Therefore, for many students at school, these calculations and equations are little more than numbers and letters without any relevant meaning, hard to understand at that.

The aim of Module 6, provided by the Charles University in Prague, is to present a conceptual and pedagogical guidance for the topic Chemical Reactions within the EU’s Key Competence Framework. Offering examples for teachers’ and learner’s activities, starting off from an analysis of textbooks and other instructional materials, IO6 provides background information, guidance, and worksheets for pre-service Chemistry/Science/STEM teachers education.

girls working on chemistry

You can download here:

STEMkey Poster 6_Chemical_Reactions

Download the materials for module 6 here, available in English. The materials include an outline, worksheets and a presentation.

Do you have any questions?



STEMkey Module 7 – Teaching knowledge, skills and attitudes in Chemistry: The Periodic System

Why should students care about the periodic system or chemical elements? In NTNU‘s teaching module an interdisciplinary, curiosity-driven and student active approach to teaching the periodic table is exercised for all STEM teachers to take it up. Instead of presenting the periodic table as factual knowledge to be learnt by heart, we invite students to reflect on why and how researchers systematize knowledge and matter, and how such processes can render different categorisations, like the various representations of the periodic system. Students get to feel the weight of same volumes of titanium, iron, copper, and aluminium to reflect on how mass is an important principle for the categorisation of the periodic system. Research implies that students are more motivated to learn if the scientific topics are placed in a context. Therefore, the activities introduce elements that have some personal, professional or societal relevance; students are invovled in discussions of socio-scientific issues related to theseelements. 3D models of the periodic system are used to help students visualize trends instead of memorizing them. By making such a student-active module for pre-service-teachers, NTNU hopes to encourage a motivating and student active approach to teach the periodic table to students all over Europe.

Download the STEMkey Periodic Table Poster

Download the materials for module 7 here, available in English, Slovenian, German & Norwegian. The materials include an outline, worksheets, a presentation, paper model instructions & 3D Lego instructions.

Do you have any questions?



STEMkey Module 8 – Teaching knowledge, skills and attitudes in Physics: Electricity

The Electricity STEMkey Module 8 consists of three activities. Each activity starts with a day-to-day context and follows an inquiry-based learning approach. In the first activity, a fictitious example was selected, focusing on the real-world problem “Reverse Engineering”. The second activity has a context associated with lightning rods and the third activity is related to the human body.

Students are engaged in a number of science and engineering practices: asking questions and defining problems, developing models, constructing explanations and designing solutions, using different sources of information and software (e.g., Arduino), collecting and processing information/data, obtaining and communicating information.

In the module, different topics are provided to respond to gender-neutral learning, and suggestions for interdiscplinary pathways are given.

Download the STEMkey_Poster_IO8 Electricity.

Download the materials for module 8 here, available in English & Slovak. The materials include an outline, worksheets and a presentation.

Do you have any questions?



STEMkey Module 9 – Teaching knowledge, skills and attitudes in Physics: Light

STEMkey Module 9 focuses on the standard topic of light and aims to prepare pre-service teachers to understand the topic of light, to provide pedagogical guidelines on how to address students’ difficulties on the specific topic, and engage them with innovative strategies, including the use of technology, to realize the EU Key Competence Framework in physics education.

Module 9 has its focus on the following competence-based aspects:

  • Knowledge: to understand reflection and diffusion of light
  • Skills: to use evidence to support their reasoning, develop argumentation skills and develop technological skills related to the use of virtual labs and shared designing spaces (i.e.
  • Attitudes: to develop a critical appreciation and curiosity of science in general, and in particular of light and its relevance for each of our lives.

Download the materials for module 9 here, available in English, German, Slovenian, Netherlands & Turkish. The materials include an outline and a presentation.

Do you have any questions?



STEMkey Module 10 – Teaching knowledge, skills and attitudes in Engineering: Household Appliances

Most Higher Education programs lack courses on Engineering Education. Many (future) STEM teachers have difficulties to transfer engineering practices to a teaching level in their classrooms.

Household Appliances are a standard topic of engineering, offering a vast field of practical application examples. Experiences begin in early childhood and at home, with blenders, vacuum-cleaners or hair-driers. Module 10 uses these reach contexts to students’ lifes to teach important features of engineering, enhancing its impact through a hands-on approach.

Module 10 explores ways of incorporating engineering concepts and practices into STEM education with “Household Appliances” as exemplary topic.The engineering process evolves along a Design Thinking Process, the teaching applies innovative methods such as inquiry-based learning and gender-neutral ways of working.

Future teachers have to define and solve a task by developing and/or improving a technology. For instance, they will be asked to design and build their own vacuum cleaner, blender, hair dryer or any other type of electric home appliance.

To solve their tasks, future teachers are expected to work like engineers and generate creative solutions. The tasks explore the relationships among STEM practices and concepts and how they can be transfered to teaching and learning levels. Through practical real-world connections and interdiscplinary considerations, future teachers will have an opportunity to see how STEM is part of their everyday world and how different disciplines work together – in real life and in teaching.

Module 10 supports the development of engineering content knowledge, and skills and attitudes in and for engineering on a pedagogical level. You can use all materials in your STEM courses and classrooms:

STEMkey Poster on Engineering – Household Appliances in the Key Competence Framework

Download the materials for module 10 here, available in English, Slovenian & Slovak  . The materials include an outline and a presentation.

Do you have any questions?



STEMkey Module 11 – Teaching knowledge, skills and attitudes in Technology: Technical Materials

What do young people know about WATER as a material? How can water management and technical water systems in houses be dealt with in STEM classes?  Is it possible to use rain water in the house? Which STEM knowledge and technical skills are important for managing water supply in a house? Which kind of societal aspects are adressed by this topic, which attitudes exist in this context (such as water saving, water pollution or water desalination)?

The main idea of Module11 – developed by our partner CPU from Slovakia –  “Providing Water for a House” is that students become aware of the complexity of the topic “water” (technical materials – discipline: technology) and to be able to understand the importance of dealing with a topic that is more or less taken for granted in real life in the EU: to have drinking water available, always.

Module 11 covers water not only as “materials and its properties” but considers ecological and societal contexts. the micro:bit Smart home Kit supports the involved experimental set-ups as it enables to merge several skills: technical parameters of materials, digital technologies and programing and practice technical skills in constructing the special model for water pumping and purification system.Framing discussions are supposed to allow students to develop attitudes with regards to water, e.g. when it comes to water pollution, water saving or desalination, also with regards to different situations across Europe, when it comes to drinking water availability.

The activities will support STEM learners to interdisciplinarily find solutions to tasks dealing with the importance of water management (technical aspects, environmental aspects, social aspects). The initial situation is formed as a challenge to be solved by STEM learners: How to manage the water system in a remote house with an own well for drinking and technical water?

The module has an emphasis on student-centred teaching methods, with various activities based on inquiry-based learning, and applying digital technologies and programming, as well as setting up a water system with practical skills.

Download the materials for module 11 here, available in English, Turkish & Slovenian . The materials include an outline, worksheets and a presentation.

Do you have any questions?



STEMkey Module 12 – Teaching knowledge, skills and attitudes in Digital Technology: Algorithms and Data

Algorithms and data support creative programming solutions, and help to develop our own computational and algorithmic thinking. Algorithmic thinking automates the problem-solving process by creating a series of systematic logical steps that process a defined set of inputs and produce a defined set of outputs based on these. Algorithms and data are important standard topics of Information Technology and when solving any random problem in STEM. If we can transfer a problem into algorithms and defined strategies, the problem can be solved by robots. Data is a powerful source for understanding the real world around us.

The aim of this module is to present a conceptual and pedagogical foundation to cover digital technologies in higher education programmes, which lead to an increased digital key competences of future STEM teachers. The module will provide guidelines for future teachers on how to transform teaching and learning while using ICT and delivering fundamental digital topics, which nurture the development of knowledge, skills and attitudes likewise.


Download the STEMkey Poster on “Algorithms and Data”

Download the materials for module 12 here, available in English. The materials include an outline, worksheets and a presentation.

Do you have any questions?



STEMkey Module 13 – Support Toolkit for interdisciplinary key competence-based STEM teaching

Empowering Higher Education STEM Teaching with a Comprehensive Toolkit

Welcome to IO13, the cornerstone module of our project, crafted to significantly bolster the implementation and efficacy of modules IO2-IO12. Designed specifically for Higher Education (HE) teaching staff, IO13 is a versatile toolkit equipped with a suite of resources that streamline the creation and dissemination of STEM modules.

Toolkit Highlights:

  • A curated list of standard topics, spurring the development of innovative STEM modules.
  • Uniform templates for educational materials, ensuring coherence across project outputs.
  • Tailored evaluation questionnaires for assessing the effectiveness of piloted activities.
  • An insightful online tutorial that underscores the importance of interdisciplinary STEM education.
  • The STEMkey Partnership Platform, a vibrant hub for promoting the project and sharing results with a wider audience.

The Rationale Behind IO13:

IO13 was conceived to address the challenges faced by HE teaching staff, particularly the need for consistency in results, ease of use of individual outputs, and the transferability of activities. By providing templates, guidelines, and questionnaires, IO13 simplifies the process of creating engaging and effective STEM learning environments, which is often time-consuming for educators.

Our Target Audience:

The module is aimed at nurturing the next generation of STEM educators and enhancing the skills of current HE teaching staff. IO13 stands out by integrating key competence development with standard STEM content through critical thinking, introducing a novel approach to teaching that has yet to be widely adopted in partner HEIs.

Expected Impact:

IO13 is anticipated to have a profound impact by encouraging the creation of new modules, improving understanding of target group analysis, enhancing impact evaluation, and raising awareness about the connection between key competences and standard STEM topics.

Transferability and Sustainability:

All IOs, including IO13, are designed with sustainability and adaptability in mind, ensuring they can be transferred to different educational contexts, countries, and school levels. IO13 plays a pivotal role in facilitating the extension and customization of other project modules, enhancing their longevity and applicability beyond the partnership and project timeline.


Download the materials for module 13 here, available in English.

Do you have any questions?




We organised national and international events to share latest educational research on interdisciplinary STEM, competence-based teaching and learning (supporting knowledge, skills and atttitudes development likewise) and development of Critical Thinking, Creativity, Problem-Solving and Engineering Design Thinking in various STEM contexts.

These events were for everyone who is interested in Interdisciplinary STEM education. It supported participants to be critical STEM thinkers and to learn how to support critical STEM thinking in their students. Moreover it helped teachers to increase their knowledge, skills and attitudes in various STEM disciplines.

The creation of these resources has been co-funded by the ERASMUS+ grant program of the European Union under grant no. 2O2O I-DEO1.KA2O3.OO5671. Neither the European Commission nor the project’s national funding agency DAAD are responsible for the content or liable for any losses or damage resulting of the use of these resources.


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