SCC2013 - Engaging visitors through scientific discovery


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Presentation from "Engaging visitors through scientific discovery" at the 2013 Science Communication Conference organised by the British Science Association - slides by Ian Simmons, Jennifer DeWitt and Natasha Kirkham

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  • ASPIRES (Science Aspirations and Career Choice, age 10-14) project springs out of this ongoing international concern with engagement and participation in science – in particular, the low numbers of students carrying on with science after it is no longer compulsory. In terms of previous research – there is quite a lot looking at choices and aspirations and how they are (or are not) related to things like gender, ethnicity and social class; as well as how they might be influenced by experiences of school science, images of science/scientists; family attitudes, peers and so forth. But pulling that all together, we do know that early aspirations (and interest) in science seem to be particularly key… When we started the project, there was also little work that was longitudinal (there still isn’t much) and not so much looking at possible relationships between aspirations and identity (there’s more now…)
  • Pilot survey (summer 2009): 298 students Mixed methods study – using surveys, and interviews with parents and children [I have lots of details re samples – happy to provide later, but want to have some time to discuss findings – but suffice to say that in survey 1 and interviews, participants came from a range of ethnic and social class backgrounds (as well as public & private schools), and geographic regions within England – were roughly comparable to distribution within England (and schools, in terms of FSM, attainment etc.) – this was largely maintained for second round of survey and interviews…) First – I’m going to focus on the survey data – what we found out in comparing the Year 6 and Year 8 surveys…
  • Also – used basic descriptive stats to compare Year 6 and Year 8 responses… [latent variables – basically, combinations of individual items that grouped together statistically – PCA; we named them…] Scale of 5-25 T-tests revealed that the only changes that were significant were Aspirations in science and parental attitudes to science – both of which increased… But effect sizes were small, so don’t want to make too much of it. But at any rate, it’s certainly not a drop... (other than participation in sci-related activities… but again, not hugely surprising…) Also note how much lower aspirations means are compared with parental attitudes, self-concept, att tow school science and even views of scientists… To look at some of these items in a bit more detail…
  • Positive attitudes – likely to be connected to practical work… (quotes from interviews…) – 56 of 85 students said they enjoyed classes more than in primary school; 16 liked them equally well. Of those who liked them more, 41 (of that 56) referred to practical work in explaining their preference…
  • Similar patterns for other LVs – 72% in Year 6 and Year 8 said their parents believed it was important for them to do well in science Over 60% of students in Years 6 and 8 agree scientists can make a difference in the world, make a lot of money and are respected. But… when it comes to aspirations…
  • [Note argument that have restricted view of what working in science means or what it means to ‘be a scientist’ – but even if those impressions are ‘mistaken’, that’s what’s driving whether or not they can see themselves in science…] Now, for those of you who are visual….
  • Visual… Now, you may want to raise the argument around how many scientists do we really need? Or, how many want to be any particular career?
  • Visual… Now, you may want to raise the argument around how many scientists do we really need? Or, how many want to be any particular career?
  • For those who aren’t as familiar with MLM - ‘posh regression’ – The advantage of multi-level models is that they recognise that students’ responses are grouped into schools – end up with a more accurate picture of the relationships among these various factors… The models for the Year 6 aspirations in science LV and the Year 8 aspirations in science LV were very similar. So – they’re generally positive about school science, positive parental attitudes, these are what’s related to aspirations but…. There’s still this gap… Also, may have noticed that the images of scientists wasn’t actually in the model as related to aspirations – is likely because there were other variables that were more STONGLY related to aspirations [AND because perceptions of sci tended to be so unilaterally positive …] – not that images don’t matter. ALSO, lots of research – our own and others – points to the importance of being able to imagine yourself in a career – or even studying a particular subject… Am I the kind of person who studies science? That the images kids have is important is also suggested by another part of our data:
  • So – where does this leave us?? I think it points to the key role of messaging that the sci comm community may be able to take some responsibility for… Kids need a range of models and examples of where science can take them, beyond slick marketing campaigns. Need to work with schools, esp as careers guidance has been pretty much slashed Need to work with families – (BIG area of ASPIRES has been tracing family stuff – survey/interviews in synch…) We do have some time in which to capitalise on interest – hasn’t dropped by year 8, at least, but ALSO need to start early b/c aspirations are forming then…
  • SCC2013 - Engaging visitors through scientific discovery

    1. 1. ASPIRESAre you science-y??
    2. 2. ASPIRESASPIRES How are student educational and occupationalaspirations formed over time? How are these aspirations influenced by their peers,parents and their experience of school science? How are these aspirations shaped by their gender,class and ethnic identities?RESEARCH QUESTIONS
    3. 3. ASPIRESASPIRES Autumn 2009: Survey 1; 9319 primary schoolpupils (Year 6, age 10), 279 schools Spring-summer 2010: Round 1 interviews; 92Year 6 children, 78 parents; 11 schools Autumn 2011: Survey 2; 5634 Year 8 pupils (age12), 69 schools Spring 2012: Round 2 interviews; 85 pupils (35schools) Winter-spring 2012-13: Round 3 interviews (Year9 students & parents) Jan-May 2013: Survey 3 Year 9 pupilsRESEARCH DESIGN
    4. 4. ASPIRESASPIRESYEAR 6 – YEAR 8 STANDARDISEDMEANSLatent Variable Year 6 Year 8Aspirations in science 13.67 14.28Peer attitudes to science 14.33 13.86Parental attitudes to science 17.98 18.58Self-concept in science 17.99 17.90Attitudes toward schoolscience18.73 18.76Participation in science-related activities14.11 12.53Positive views of scientists 19.47 19.34
    5. 5. ASPIRESASPIRES 74% (Year 6) and 73% (Year 8) agreed (orstrongly agreed) that they learn interestingthings in science lessons 58% (Year 6) and 52% (Year 8) agreed or stronglyagreed that ‘science lessons are exciting’ 68% (Year 6) and 70% (Year 8) felt that studyingscience is useful for getting a good job in thefutureATTITUDES TOWARDS SCHOOLSCIENCE
    6. 6. ASPIRESASPIRES 67% (Year 6) and 69% (Year 8) believed they dowell in science 57% (Year 6) and 54% (Year 8) claimed to learnthings quickly in science lessons 81% (Year 6) and 82% (Year 8) agreed if theystudy hard, they will do well in scienceSELF-CONCEPT IN SCIENCE
    7. 7. ASPIRESASPIRES 40% (Year 6) and 43% (Year 8) were interested instudying more science in the future 28% (Year 6) and 32% (Year 8) claimed theywanted a job that used science 23% (Year 6) and 29% (Year 8) wanted to ‘workin science’ 16% (Year 6) and 15% (Year 8) agreed that theywanted to become a scientistASPIRATIONS IN SCIENCE
    10. 10. ASPIRESASPIRESYEAR 6 & YEAR 8 MLM – EFFECTSIZESEffect (Variable) Year 6Aspir.Year 8Aspir.Gender -0.13 -0.17Parental attitudes towards science 0.44 0.39Attitudes towards school science 0.53 0.51Self-concept in science 0.20 0.21Participation in science-related activities N/A 0.23
    12. 12.  Observation Exploration Pattern recognition Experimentation Fine motor control Hand-eye coordination Discussion Teamwork Creativity Planning Mental modelling Hypothesis making