This page will be updated with our latest research publications, conference papers and dissemination activities.
Evaluating a complex and sustained STEM engagement programme through the lens of science capital: Insights from Northeast England
The study examines a complex, sustained intervention intended to build science capital in young people aged 11-15 over three years, which drew on science capital theory and related research to inform intervention design and evaluation. When evaluation results differed from those anticipated, process evaluation supported authors to interpret these findings. By outlining challenges faced in the evaluation of a complex, sustained STEM outreach intervention, this paper addresses critique that outreach programmes focus too often on short-term and positive findings.
This study’s main contribution is the provision of nuanced insight into the evaluation of STEM interventions for use by others evaluating in similar circumstances, particularly those adopting sustained or complex delivery models. While this study highlights the value of science capital when designing intervention models, it also illustrates the inherent challenges of using an outcome measure of ‘building science capital’, and quantifying levels over an intervention’s course.
The link to this paper will be added when available.
Source: International Journal of STEM Education
Authors: Annie Padwick, Opeyemi Dele Ajayi, Carol Davenport, Rebecca Strachan
Date: May 2023
Imagining the Sun: using comparative judgement to assess the impact of cross-curricular solar physics workshops
‘The use of open-response questions and drawing provides a helpful method of identifying changes in scientific knowledge in children before and after a STEAM workshop.’
This paper describes a school intervention focused on visual art and solar physics using science capital and STEAM methodologies to develop STEM engagement activities. Data from 40 children (aged 8–11) in two primary schools in the North East of England are presented, using pre- and post-intervention surveys which contained free-response and Likert-scale questions.
The paper presents a novel, and transferable, method of evaluating children’s drawings using online comparative judgement marking software, particularly suited to those without a background in qualitative research. Using comparative judgement this paper shows that the intervention led to a moderate increase in girls’ knowledge of solar physics.
You can read the full paper here.
Source: Journal of Communication Science
Authors: Carol Davenport, Richard Morton
Date: Oct 2022.
Scientist of the week: evaluating effects of a teacher-led STEM intervention to reduce stereotypical views of scientists in young children.
Previous research into children’s perceptions of science shows that children like science but often hold stereotypical views of scientists and commonly do not see themselves with a career as a scientist.
The aim of this study is to examine if a carefully designed medium-term, teacher-led STEM intervention, ‘Scientist of the Week’ which showcased a diverse range of working scientists and the skills they need, can lead to a positive change in the perception of scientists among young people.
Shortly afterwards, and one year following the intervention, the use of common stereotypes had fallen significantly across all children, with particular improvements in counter-stereotypical word usage for males. It also found that stereotypical images of scientists as highly intelligent were more difficult to counteract and that many of the positive changes in this view seen in the short term (weeks and months) diminished in the long term (one year later).
This research has shown that with minimal expense and effort from teachers, negative stereotypes of scientists can be reduced through an intervention that does not require bringing scientists into the classroom. Some of the observed changes persisted in the longer-term, suggesting a lasting alteration in children’s perceptions of scientists following the intervention.
Full paper here.
Source: Research in Science and Technological Education
Authors: Joe Shimwell; Jen DeWitt; Carol Davenport; Annie Padwick; Jonathan Sanderson; Rebecca Strachan.
Date: Jul 2021
Space sector careers resources in the UK need a greater diversity of roles
Educational research highlights that improved careers education is needed to increase participation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Current UK careers resources concerning the space sector, however, are found to perhaps not best reflect the diversity of roles present and may in fact perpetuate misconceptions about the usefulness of science. We, therefore, compile a more diverse set of space-related jobs, which will be used in the development of a new space careers resource.
Full paper here
Source: Geoscience Communication,
Authors: Martin O. Archer, Cara L. Waters, Shafiat Dewan, Simon Foster, Antonio Portas
Date: April 2021
Going beyond the one-off: How can STEM engagement programmes with young people have real lasting impact?
‘Deeper programmes of engagement are required based around Theories of Change and considering young people’s wider learning ecology’
This paper discusses the likely impact of single and repeated STEM intervention with varying durations. With a sector shift from single to repeated engagements, the paper provides examples of different approaches that have emerged. The potential benefits and limitations of these approaches are outlined and discussed from the authors’ perspective.
It highlights the need for all those who engage young people, to work more collaboratively to identify, which group is best suited to deliver specific engagements that are necessary at the various points along a young person’s educational journey.
Source: Research for All
Authors: Martin Archer; Jennifer DeWitt; Carol Davenport; Olivia Keenan; Lorraine Coghill; Anna Christodoulou; Samantha Durbin; Heather Campbell; Lewis Hou.
Date: Feb 2021
Using action research to design and evaluate sustained and inclusive engagement to improve children’s knowledge and perception of STEM careers
‘Career awareness in primary schools should open up opportunities for children by widening their career knowledge and keeping career options open for longer’
This study investigates the impact of a project that delivered career-driven STEM interventions on young children’s (7–10 years old) career knowledge and perceptions over time. There was a clear shift from children who had closed off particular career options (by saying they ‘would not like to do’ the jobs) to being more open about whether they wanted to do the jobs or not. This is important because it suggests the children remain open to pursuing those jobs, thereby leaving the possibilities of those job paths available to them should they wish to choose to pursue them in the future. We also found that there can be positive effects of carefully designed and sustained career driven STEM engagement on children, particularly girls. Prior to the interventions, girls were less likely than boys to know some STEM jobs but after 2 years later of sustained intervention, there was no significant difference between boys and girls in their knowledge of STEM jobs. These finding provide evidence of a pathway to tackling the STEM skills gap by organisations and suggested evidence of broadened career knowledge and career preference shifts over time.
Source: International Journal of Science Education
Authors: Itoro Emembolu, Annie Padwick; Joe Shimwell; Jonathan Sanderson; Carol Davenport; Rebecca Strachan.
Date: Mar 2020
A Theory of Change for improving Children’s perceptions, aspirations and uptake of STEM careers
‘A Theory of Change offers both predictive and diagnostic utility, of individual activities and of an overall programme of work’
This paper introduces an innovative Theory of Change model which provides theoretical underpinnings and context for complex mix of interventions, necessary for significant change in the number and diversity of those choosing STEM careers. The Theory of Change process enables the identification of causal chains through which the model takes into account the pre-requisites and assumptions that underlie the causal chain(s), along with the barriers which may work against them. It helps identify how children, young people and their key influencers (teachers, carers and families) can be engaged, to increase the diversity and number of young people choosing STEM careers. The paper also provides case studies of how Theory of Change is used in practice.
Source: Research in Science Education
Authors: Carol Davenport; Opeyemi Dele-Ajayi; Itoro Emembolu; Richard Morton; Annie Padwick; Antonio Portas; Jonathan Sanderson; Joe Shimwell; Jane Stonehouse; Rebecca Strachan; Leanne Wake; Gary Wells & John Woodward
Date: Jan 2020
‘People Like Me’: Identifying personal attributes of STEM professionals
‘Engineers and other STEM professionals think that a range of soft skills have helped them to be successful in their careers’
This paper presents the findings from a study to identify the attributes STEM professionals believe make them successful in their role.
We issued an online survey to STEM employees (n=217) and asked them to name up to six personal attributes, as well as rate how well the list of NUSTEM’s 16 STEM attributes described them.
The key findings are:
- 68% of personal attributes identified by STEM employees can be described as soft skills providing a clear indication that soft skills are valued by established employees in their work.
- The 16 STEM Attributes used by NUSTEM were found to realistically represent the attributes of those working in STEM.
The conclusions drawn from the research are:
- There could be merit in looking beyond subject knowledge and to frame engineering education and engagement activities.
- An attributes based approach to engagement could help children and young people to identify the skills they currently have or could develop, or support students with communicating their employability.
You can read the whole paper here.
Source: 2022 Frontiers in Education (FIE) Conference.
Authors: Carol Davenport, Melanie Horan, Bethany Willis, Annie Padwick, Rebecca Strachan
Date: Oct 2022.
Elimination before imagination: How children’s early understanding of scientists may limit aspirations for broader STEM careers
‘Young children’s understanding of scientists does not draw heavily on their knowledge of science as a subject’
This paper presents an examination of emerging understanding of science careers among very young children (aged 5-7) the factors that influence their understanding. 79 children were interviewed on their understanding of science and science careers across 20 focus groups.
The study identified four categories to describe the patterns of children’s understanding were identified: undeveloped, introductory, stereotypical, and diversifying.
The key findings of this research are:
- For most children, their perceptions of scientists remained either under-developed or confined to ideas with clear labels, such as stereotypes.
- The factors of influence on young children’s understanding of scientists differ from those presented in studies with older children, with the role of siblings and
cousins, YouTube and children’s toys identified as particular influences.
- Young children did not commonly relate science learning in school with scientists or to a broader spectrum of science-related jobs.
- Children within the diversifying group highlight the value of personal experiences with science and STEM professionals.
The full paper can be found here.
Source: IEEE Frontiers in Education (FIE) Conference
Authors: Annie Padwick, Carol Davenport, Rebecca Strachan
Date: October 2022
Innovative methods for evaluating the science capital of young children
This paper introduces NUSTEM’s development and testing of a suite of research instruments, created with the aim of measuring elements of science capital in young children. It focuses on the Most Like Me/ Most Like a Scientist ‘Diamond 9’ sorting activity, an instrument designed to measure children’s perceptions of scientists alongside their self-identity. We found that young children tend to view scientists as ‘hardworking’ and ‘clever’, but that boys self-identities are more likely to include clever than girls, whereas girls self-identities are more likely to include hardworking than boys. Children’s self-identify differs by gender, age and background illustrating significant gaps for some children between their self-identity and that of a scientist.
Source: 2016 IEEE Frontiers in Education (FIE) Conference
Authors: Annie Padwick; Opeyemi Dele-Ajayi; Carol Davenport ; Rebecca Strachan
Date: Oct 2016
Tackling the digital and engineering skills shortage: Understanding young people and their career aspirations
‘enjoyment of the subject and related skills are significant motivators for children with Core STEM aspirations’
This paper looks at children’s career aspirations and their reasons why they chose these careers.
We asked 622 children aged between 7 and 11 to write down three jobs they would like to do when they were older, and why they wanted to do those jobs.
- Children had high, but narrow, aspirations. 20 jobs accounted for 75% of the jobs named by the children
- Children had aspirations higher than the jobs that their parents/carers currently did
- There wasn’t a gender difference about why children wanted to do the particular careers. Those wanting to do physical sciences related STEM jobs said it was because they enjoyed an aspect of it or thought they would be good at it, and those wanting to do medical/biological science related STEM jobs said it was because they wanted to help others or enjoyed an aspect of it.
- Very few children mentioned role models as being their reason for choosing a career.
- At this age, children were happy to suggest possible careers from different fields e.g. scientist OR singer suggested by the same child.
You can read the whole paper here.
Source: 2020 Frontiers in Education (FIE) Conference (accepted).
Authors: Annie Padwick; Carol Davenport; Joe Shimwell; Melanie Horan; Rebecca Strachan.
Date: Oct 2020
Using a Games Design Intervention based on an Integrated Pedagogical Framework
Combining learning theories (Direct Instruction and Cognitive Constructivism) can enable effective learning that caters for a range of participants’ abilities along the novice-expert spectrum
This paper presents a games design intervention that is based on an integrated pedagogical framework to encourage diversity in engagement with computer science by primary age school children (age 7 – 11 years). The intervention explored stereotypes and increase in children’s awareness of careers in the sector through individual games created by the children. Children became more aware of careers in the game industry post- compared to pre-intervention. Also, girls had a variety of diversity in their choice of lead characters while the boys chose mainly male human lead characters in the games that they designed. This suggests gendered behaviour (whether conscious or unconscious) occur at an early age of a child’s development. The paper highlights the effectiveness of combining different learning approaches to provide an age appropriate intervention. It also presents evidence on the positive effect of using games in the classroom.
Source: 2019 IEEE Frontiers in Education (FIE) Conference
Authors: Itoro Emembolu; Rebecca Strachan; Opeyemi Dele-Ajayi; Carol Davenport; Joe Shimwell
Date: Oct 2019
The NUSTEM approach: Tackling the engineering and gender challenge together from early years to sixth form and beyond
This paper documents NUSTEM’s early thinking in approaches and Theory of Change required to increase the uptake of physical and computer sciences, technology and engineering by young people from under-represented groups. It highlights three key principles for effective long-term STEM interventions; the need for early and sustained engagement, a commitment to building understanding and conﬁdence of children’s key inﬂuencers and efforts to drive for wider social change by tackling issues such as unconscious biases.
Source: New Approaches to Engineering in Higher Education Conference Proceedings
Authors: Annie Padwick, Carol Davenport, Rebecca Strachan, Joe Shimwell
Date: May 2017
Widening the Aspirations of Young People towards Digital and wider STEM Careers: A Case Study from the DIGISTEM Programme
The DIGISTEM programme was commissioned by the Ekiti State Government in Nigeria and sponsored by the World Bank to provide a novel approach to address the challenges of traditional teaching approaches. This paper presents its overall vision. Using an action research approach, a set of carefully designed interactions were conducted with young people and their schools and teachers. The initial results from this are presented and demonstrate that there is an urgent need to transform educational practice in this and other similar regions to provide a more authentic and active learning experience that prepares young people to be career-ready global digital citizens.
’16 key skills and attributes for a successful career in physics’, Physics World , Oct 2022. Available at: https://physicsworld.com/a/16-key-skills-and-attributes-for-a-successful-career-in-physics/, C. Davenport (2022).
‘Inclusive teaching in science: Changing culture and practice’, Primary Science , Feb 2021, Issue 116, pg. 29, Available at: https://researchportal.northumbria.ac.uk/en/publications/inclusive-teaching-in-science-changing-culture-and-practice C. Davenport, A. Padwick (2021)
‘Designing effective evaluations for applying scientific academic research to career-based interventions for younger children’, The Evaluator, Autumn 2019, 14 – 16, I.C. Emembolu, R. Strachan, C. Davenport (2019)
‘Growing into careers in primary education’, Education in Science, 276, 11 – 12, C. Davenport (2019)
‘Using career contexts to teach science’, School Science Review, 100, 373, 19-21 C. Davenport (2019)
‘Careers in the curriculum – the difficult fourth benchmark’, Education in Science, 276, pp 14, C. Davenport (2019)
‘Careers advice and changing stereotypes in the primary classroom’, Primary Science, 157, 29 – 30, C. Davenport, J. Shimwell (2019)
‘Endpoint: Teachers, stop ignoring careers information, and include it in your teaching.’ Education in Chemistry, 56, 2, C. Davenport (2019)
‘It’s time to talk careers’, Education in Chemistry, 28 February 2019, Available at: https://eic.rsc.org/endpoint/its-time-to-talk-careers/3010039.article, C. Davenport (2019)
‘Why should you care about careers?’ Education in Chemistry, 22 November 2018, available online at https://eic.rsc.org/feature/why-should-you-care-about-careers/3009776.article, C. Davenport (2018)
‘How to tackle careers guidance’ Education in Chemistry, 9 November 2018, available online at https://eic.rsc.org/analysis/how-to-tackle-careers-guidance/3009712.article, C. Davenport (2018)
‘Including Careers in the curriculum’ Education in Chemistry, 18 September 2018, available online at https://eic.rsc.org/ideas/including-careers-in-the-curriculum/3009375.article, C. Davenport (2018)
‘Linking science with design and technology in a stimulating approach to teaching about levers.’, Primary Science, 139, C. Davenport (2015)
In the News
‘The Art of New Learning’, North East Times, October 2019, pp 8 – 11, available at https://netimesmagazine.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/On-topic-Nuture-oct-19-WEB.pdf
NUSTEM – Helping you find context for the Physics’, The Physics Teaching Podcast, 12 September 2019, available at: https://the.physicsteachingpodcast.com/2019/09/12/37-nustem-matching-physics-topics-with-careers-and-more/
‘Primary boys know more about jobs that girls’ , Schools Week, (2017) available online at https://schoolsweek.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/SW-112-digi.pdf, 2017, edition 112, pg 22
‘Can a new university close the gender gap in engineering?’, (2015) The Conversation, available at: https://theconversation.com/can-a-new-university-close-the-gender-gap-in-engineering-38453,
‘Parents can’t answer everything children ask about science – and that’s ok.’ (2015) The Conversation, available at https://theconversation.com/parents-cant-answer-everything-children-ask-about-science-and-thats-ok-50419
‘Why girls are shunning A-level Physics’, Schools Week, 2014. Available at http://schoolsweek.co.uk/researched-2014-souvenir-edition/ pg.4
‘Engineering: It’s a Family Affair’, (2017), IET Partner News, Issue 33, pg 11
IET Partner News, available at Engineering: A family affair