Enhancing student learning and increasing young people s involvement in STEM careers

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1 Enhancing student learning and increasing young people s involvement in STEM careers A guide for CPD providers

2 Introduction Across Europe, policymakers and employers are concerned about the declining interest shown in careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in terms of countries economics. There is a rising demand for qualified researchers and technicians in the workforce, particularly with the advent of newer technologies, and governments fear that without a plentiful supply of STEM qualified workers at a number of levels in the economy, there may be a decline in innovation and, consequently, economic competitiveness. In order to counteract such concerns the policymakers have supported a range of activities which include: promoting a positive image of science raising pupils interest in science subjects and consequently increasing uptake of science studies at upper secondary and tertiary education levels creating partnerships between schools and companies, scientists and research centres 1 Overview This digest describes how one project, InGenious 2 has successfully enabled a range of schools across 26 European countries to effect change in the interest students display in STEM careers and increase their likelihood of taking up such careers when they leave education. The project was three years in duration and involved 500 teachers, 350 schools, and 15,000 students from primary and secondary schools, and further education as participants. Teachers and their students were invited to evaluate 35 different classroom activities whose purpose was to place learning within industrial contexts. The activities themselves had been developed with and by industry experts. This included opportunities for teachers and students to visit industries, take part in online discussions with industrial experts, meet experts in their classrooms, partake in novel classroom experiments and explore how learning science, maths and other technology subjects can help when choosing a career or job in later life. A range of continuous professional development (CPD) activities were provided for teacher participants throughout the three years. These included face to face discussions, online meetings with industrial experts, a chat space for discussions with teachers in other schools and other countries, residential courses and seminars. Teachers regarded the wide range of opportunities for contacting and learning from, and about, industrial experts as being a real strength of the project. They mentioned in particular the online learning communities, chats and webinars with industry experts, competitions, and database of role model or career information videos. Online chats were particularly successful in making STEM industries and jobs real to teachers and students and online communities led by industry representatives inspired teachers to look for local opportunities. 1 Science Education in Europe: National Policies, Practices and Research Euridyce Report The report of the full project can be found here: 01

3 Impact of CPD activities on teachers Teachers were asked to complete a questionnaire at the project start and end points and after each classroom activity, in order to evaluate impact on their teaching and on students. In addition, focus groups, open-ended case study formats and interviews were provided to capture teachers views of their experiences, including the CPD activities to which they had access. For many teachers, the involvement in professional development activities was the most satisfying part of the project and contributed greatly to what they saw as their improving practice in the classroom. They valued highly the opportunity to learn from other teachers and industry experts in the informal parts of structured events as well as learning from them in the more structured parts of the day when participating in residential courses. When asked Which was the most useful/enjoyable/inspirational/exciting aspect of the event? just over half (55%) of teachers said this was an opportunity for networking with colleagues, industry representatives and experts. Just over 40% mentioned exchange of ideas and a fifth (21%) said it was seeing practical examples of teaching a certain STEM concept or idea. Teachers views This [online chat with industry expert] is very useful. It is good tool to motivate teachers to cooperate with companies. It is a best way for student to get knowledge and experience about modern industry Teacher from Estonia, Pilot 1 We now enter a lot more competitions and contact STEM ambassadors (to invite them) into school a lot more Teacher from the UK, Pilot 3 There is a positive change in my way of thinking about the teaching of science, since I started to participate in the project Teacher from Israel, Pilot 3 My students have gained great expertise in collaboration with companies Teacher from Denmark, Pilot 3 Participation in this type of project allows me to broaden my professional horizons Teacher from Portugal, Pilot 2 Talking and interaction with other participants was very useful! The exchange of experiences was very good Teacher from Germany, Pilot 1 The chance to talk with the facilitators face by face and fix all queries personal contact is really important. Swapping experience with some of the participants, getting inspiration, e.g. idea of leading the students making a project by a business person via Skype Teacher from Czech Republic, Pilot 1 02

4 Most useful aspect of CPD event 55% 42% 21% Networking opportunities Exchange of ideas Demonstration of practicals Teachers were broadly enthusiastic in their comments: The chance to talk with the facilitators face by face and fix all queries personal contact is really important. Swapping experience with some of the participants, getting inspiration, e.g. idea of leading the students making a project by a business person via Skype Teacher from Czech Republic, Pilot 1 Communicating with industry representatives because it was useful to hear their expectations and tell ours Teacher from Turkey, Pilot 1 For me the most useful aspect of the event has been to stay in contact with experts from companies and the round table with teachers Teacher from Spain, Pilot 1 Initially, in the first year, where courses/summer schools/face to face events were more structured, teachers offered constructive critique to improve their experiences in the following years. It should have been given more opportunity to say that how we have carried out some activities and discuss methods of operating these activities Teacher from Portugal, Pilot 1 I came for inspiration. I think I would have appreciated to hear more from my peers. And see how they do things, to get inspired Teacher from Slovakia, Pilot 1 03

5 Once changes were made to increase the proportion of time given to sharing experiences with other teachers, participants were more than satisfied:offered constructive critique to improve their experiences in the following years. Contact with teachers from other countries and InGenious experts allows me to better inform students about careers that they can follow in the future Teacher from Portugal, Pilot 3 Lessons learnt from the project The feedback provided by teachers in surveys, focus groups and in case studies demonstrated that just participating in the project itself had helped them to improve their teaching and to change the learning experience of students. In addition the project also enabled teachers to widen their professional networks to include other teachers in their schools, some of whom were not teachers of STEM, local STEM businesses and other students in classes outside the project. One of the most important aspects of the project was the opportunity to enhance their own professional development. Teachers regarded the impact of the professional development activities to be one of the highlights of the project for them. In particular, contact and sharing ideas with others, be they employers, teachers or project leaders was a key feature, which teachers reported upon enthusiastically. Whilst this is a clear indication of the success of the CPD, it does bring into question the degree to which such a wide range of development as teachers are asking for is sustainable. Teachers valued the contacts across schools and countries as well as those outside the normal teaching environment. However this requires a great deal of investment, both of time and energy on behalf of individuals and organisations in the future. Can policymakers or industrial funders be persuaded that this much-valued outcome of the project can be replicated economically within different education systems? Was the impact so great in some countries because they were unusual, that is, teachers rarely had the opportunity within their everyday teaching lives to interact in this way? Teachers requested a continuation of professional learning with industry experts, networking events for teachers, more advice and opportunities for collaboration. The project has demonstrated that interesting classroom activities, coupled with inputs from experts from both industry and professional teachers, can make a significant difference to teaching and have an impact on student learning and their choice of career in the future. However, for such approaches to be sustainable, what is required is a change of culture in schools across almost all the countries participating in the project. Sustainability comes from an expectation of continual improvement in practice. That in turn can only be firmly established if the whole school, from senior management through to newly qualified teachers, are committed to maintaining such a culture. Governments, policymakers and CPD providers need to play their part. They must invest in the resources which will enable teachers to maintain this culture. Some good examples have been seen in the project of events, online activities and support groups, all of which require resources for their establishment and maintenance. 04

6 So what can CPD providers do? To achieve the best results: Establish a bank of accessible flexible, interesting materials based in industrial contexts for use by teachers. Ensure the materials have a range of activities for students to allow teachers to maximise them across the class and different age ranges. Engage industrial experts at all stages of the preparation in writing the materials, in arranging visits (preferably), in visiting the classroom, in being available to teach in webinars or in online chats to answer questions from teachers or students. Provide chat rooms or communication spaces where teachers can question their colleagues in other schools or countries about how to do things or what worked best and share their own adaptations of materials. Build information about careers and what happens in an industry into the STEM lesson itself. It is less effective in changing students career choices if this information is just part of careers lessons. Students need it first hand and in context if it is to make a difference. Enable face to face courses or summer schools where teachers can meet experts and watch demonstrations of how activities can be organised. Ensure teachers have plenty of time to learn from each other during CPD experiences. This is what they feel works best. Encourage senior staff to understand the CPD activities and tell them what impacts can be achieved in student learning and achievement. Encourage teachers to enhance their learning by attending CPD events year on year and provide resources to help them persuade senior staff of the importance of this too. The project demonstrated that those who achieved the most for their students took part across all three years of the project. Finally Many things in the list above are already known. What became clear in this project is best practice develops within a community of teacher learning and sharing where a culture of continual improvement is the key feature of teacher advancement in that community; where professional development is seamlessly integrated through interactive and online resources as well as face to face opportunities to address issues with both colleagues and experts. Having a bank of well tried and tested materials and resources is not enough. For teachers to progress in their understanding and embrace new opportunities for their students, this seamless professional development is a critical factor. The responsibility for engagement with professional development lies with teachers and these teachers took that very seriously. But the responsibility for provision of this development lies with senior staff in schools, policymakers, professional development experts in individual countries and ultimately, governments. Without the promotion of that culture of progressive change, student learning cannot improve over time. The National Science Learning Network is a joint initiative by the Department for Education and the Wellcome Trust. 05

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