STEM is the acronym of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. STEM education aims to develop different student capabilities to solve real life problems. With the fast changing world and tremendous amount of information, developing students’ 21st century skills (also known as generic skills) is key to prepare them for unprecedented challenges and the future. Through STEM education, students build solid knowledge and skills of STEM related disciplines, develop 21st century skills and acquire the ability “to integrate and apply their knowledge and skills across different subject disciplines through solving daily life problems with practical solutions and innovative designs” (CDC, 2015, p. 2).

Figure 1. Framework for STEM education

Effective STEM education enables students to integrate and apply knowledge and skills of different STEM related disciplines. Integrated STEM education (or sometimes known as interdisciplinary STEM education or integrative STEM education) emphasizes integration and application of two or more STEM related disciplines in solving real life problems (Bryan, et al., 2015; Bybee, 2014; English, 2016; Johnson, 2013; Kelley & Knowles, 2016; Laboy-Rush, 2011; Moore, et al, 2015; Sanders, 2009). The integration highlights also adoption of different disciplinary practices that students are enabled to experience in STEM education what scientists, engineers and/or mathematicians tend to consider and do when they undergo investigation or solve problems e.g. a self-directed approach.

Figure 2. Adaptation of SDL in the scientific investigation process
Figure 3. Adaptation of SDL in the engineering design process

It is not necessary to pursue the integration of all four STEM disciplines at one time. The emphasis is on raising students’ awareness of the importance of different STEM related disciplines and knowledge integration. The integration aims to enhance student learning and achieve positive learning outcomes as shown at the center of the conceptual framework for STEM education (Figure 1).