NUSTEM Research and Evaluation Activities
Established as a research-rich practitioner-led project, the development of NUSTEM has been strongly influenced by recent and current research. We strive to express the recommendations of research-derived thinking in our practice.
Our own research activities have grown out of a need to evaluate the impact of our interventions, and our commitment to testing and understanding ‘what good STEM engagement looks like’, has meant that research has become a growing focus since our inception.
NUSTEM’s close partnership with (initially) thirty schools in the North East, and networks of teachers, Science Coordinators and Head Teachers within them, provides an opportunity to build a test-bed, from which we can apply leading theory, frameworks and recommendations in the classroom and explore how they work in practice.
These pages are intended to provide an overview of our research and evaluation activities, and to serve as a hub for our emerging research findings.
The research interests of our research and wider NUSTEM teams and broad and multi-faceted. Three common interests of the group are:
Exploring Aspects of Science Capital
We find ‘science capital’ a useful concept for helping to shape the conversation about why (or why not) children and young people aspire to careers in STEM, yet as a large proportion of NUSTEM’s work is with young children in primary schools, we began by exploring how we could translate the study of science capital among our younger audiences.
We found that measuring science capital in younger children is challenging, and many elements can’t be adapted for use with younger children, without involving children’s parents or carers. However, elements of science capital we have explored among
Theory of Change Approaches
We have developed a Theory of Change (ToC) for increasing the diversity and number of young people choosing a career in STEM post-18, focusing on three key audiences: children and young people; their teachers and schools; and their parents and carers. This Theory of Change provides the theoretical underpinnings and context for the complex mix of interventions necessary to lead to a significant change in the number and diversity of those choosing STEM careers.
Our research continues to test and refine the Theory of Change, and expand the Theory of Change to additional audiences including employers and Higher Education.
Additionally we act as consultants to other organisations, charities or projects looking to develop their own Theory of Change.
Integrating and Improving Accessibility of Evaluation during Interventions
NUSTEM believe good evaluation is of exceptional value and importance to STEM interventions, helping us understand what works and what doesn’t, undercover unintended consequences of interventions, and in the continual improvement and refinement process. However we also understand that asking children to take part in research and evaluation activities can take time out of their education, and asking time-stretched teachers and families to do the same can be an unwelcome burden.
Therefore NUSTEM’s research is around developing evaluation models and tools that are well-integrated into project deliveries, with benefits to learning as well are necessary to evaluation. Some of our project’s in this area have involved:
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