Introducing STEM Person of the Week
Aims, background and research
STEM Person of the Week (SPOTW) has been created by the NUSTEM Group at Northumbria University. We’re a group of STEM Outreach practitioners and researchers who are looking to increase diversity within STEM. We do this through evidence-informed practice, working with children and their key influencers (parents and teachers) from pre-school to post-16. SPOTW was created in partnership with one of our partner primary schools, who piloted the first iteration of the resource.
We know from our own research that, when asked to describe scientists, children use a limited and very stereotypical vocabulary. In our surveys, when asked to write 6 words to describe a scientist, over 40% of the total words used were some sort of stereotype: crazy hair, explosions, lab coats, genius, etc. The SPOTW resource is designed to counter this vocabulary through a more nuanced set of attributes that scientists themselves use to describe their characteristics.
After the pilot, we went back into the primary school to see whether the children’s narrow, stereotypical view of scientists had changed. We were surprised by just how effective the intervention had been. One year after the SPOTW project, children were using significantly fewer stereotypes and significantly more positive characteristics to describe scientists. Our hope is that in the long term, this resource will help children see that the characteristics you need to be a scientist match with characteristics that they see in themselves. This increased affinity with STEM characteristics may increase their likelihood of studying STEM subjects and go into STEM careers.