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 recommendations from research-derived thinking within 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:
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 evidence and refine the Theory of Change iteratively, and also looks to work collaboratively to expand the Theory of Change to cover additional audiences including employers and Higher Education.
We act as consultants to other organisations, charities or projects looking to develop their own Theory of Change.
Understanding Children’s Career Aspirations and Motivations
Career development theories show that early primary school is a pivotal time in the development of children’s career aspirations, however traditionally career aspirations research commonly has worked with older groups.
Our research has shown that even very young children know what jobs are and can talk confidently about their career aspirations. NUSTEM are mapping the career aspirations of children and young people, alongside the motivations they give for these aspirations, and exploring how factors such as gender and socio-economic background influence these.
Our latest work looks at how career aspirations and career motivations develop as children age.
Exploring Aspects of Science Capital
We have found ‘science capital’ a useful concept and framework for helping to shape the conversation about why (or why not) children and young people aspire to careers in STEM.
As a large proportion of NUSTEM’s work is with children of primary age, we began by exploring how we could explore elements of science capital among these younger audiences. In this work, we found that some elements of science capital did not translate to younger children, but elements of science capital that we were able to explore successful are:
In this work we developed a number of research instruments that could be used to explore these elements of science capital with younger children.
Our later work has looked to explore which elements of science capital might be the most malleable to intervention and the challenges of trying to measure the ‘development’ of science capital over the course of an intervention.
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 for continual improvement and refinement and learning. 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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