Impact of academic research through Northumbria’s physical sciences, technology and engineering outreach activities on improving the uptake of STEM disciplines by young people

Emembolu, Itoro Charles (2020) Impact of academic research through Northumbria’s physical sciences, technology and engineering outreach activities on improving the uptake of STEM disciplines by young people. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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Abstract

Previous research highlights that children from an early age should have learning experiences on real world applications and careers to widen their horizons and open up future opportunities. In parallel, there is a growing emphasis especially in the UK, to ensure academic research impacts on wider society. This research brings these two elements together and contributes to the challenge of improving the uptake of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) disciplines by young people. Although there have been considerable numbers of STEM interventions (past and current) with young people and substantial funds invested in these, there is still little evidence on the effectiveness of those interventions. The aim of this study is to develop an effective evaluation framework and provide a process whereby academics and practitioners can plan, develop, implement and assess the impact of a range of intervention activities in primary schools, on children’s interest in STEM across many disciplines. The intervention activities under evaluation were targeted at children aged 7 – 11 years. The focus of these interventions combined research work done by academic researchers with practical/career applications to bring STEM subjects to life for children. Adopting an action research approach and a Theory of Change process, an innovative impact evaluation framework was designed to provide a set of pathways for widening aspirations and help children appreciate that STEM professionals are just ‘people like me’. Evaluation of the impact of STEM intervention activities on young people was achieved using a collection of instrumental case studies from intervention outreach activities across three STEM disciplines: computer science, materials science and geography. Data was collected from 343 children across the different case studies using a pre and post quasi-experimental design. Data was collected on the children’s aspirations, career knowledge and understanding, subject knowledge and inclination towards introduced career. Data analysis provides evidence to suggest that children are gendered in their career aspirations from an early age. Post intervention, the data shows there was an increase in career knowledge of the children across the different case studies and an increase in vocabulary used to describe subject specific concepts. The impact evaluation framework designed was successful in providing an iterative model and pathway for change that academics and outreach practitioners can use to design and refine research based STEM outreach activities for children.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Impact Evaluation, Theory of Change, Primary School Children, STEM Intervention, Integrated pedagogical framework
Subjects: X200 Research and Study Skills in Education
X300 Academic studies in Education
Department: Faculties > Engineering and Environment > Computer and Information Sciences
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: John Coen
Date Deposited: 30 Oct 2020 08:28
Last Modified: 30 Oct 2020 08:30
URI: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/44643

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