The SENSE projects partners, in order to promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) careers amongst young people and the project results, and with the aim of ensure the findings had validity among the school networks, set out to conduct several focus groups with students. The chosen institution were schools of different sectors with different target of students (age, gender, etc.) and teachers.
By Angelica Di Giacomo, the activity leader, Umbria Training Center
Umbria Training Center produced a template for partners to conduct focus groups with students in their respective countries on the work of the project. The following questions were asked of the different groups, not more than 6 people per group:
- Have you considered a career in STEM?
- Have you had any obstacles in accessing STEM subjects?
- What could teachers do to make STEM subjects more attractive? Please comment.
- What impact would external speakers from industry and science have on your experience and attitudes towards learning of STEM subjects?
- Overall, do you feel that teachers are able to identify and support your learning needs and talents?
According to the CPIP (RO) focus group, the materials developed within the SENSE project (presented during the local focus group as well) are evaluated of a high quality and could be a real support to the STEM classes; moreover, a follow-up of the SENSE project would be a good opportunity for creating more European synergies and adding value to the already developed products/materials etc.
The Irish (GREBT) partner’s analysis shows the importance of role models and STEM Ambassadors, which according to the survey results appear to be the key to greater involvement
Even from the SES-13 LTD (UK) report it seems clear that the involvement of volunteers (in various ways) can have a real and positive impact on the STEM curriculum by providing depth and context for their studies. Therefore, the volunteer can play a significant role in enriching the experiences of all students.
The issues highlighted by the UCY report are the lack of proper attention and time for STEM careers and the need for external speakers, positively assessed by the students interviewed.
This view is reinforced by the words of the survey prepared by Martina Nemcova, lead partner and coordinator of the SENSE project: the teaching could be improved by invited experts from practice, who would teach some topics instead of a teacher.
As summarized by UTC, the two sides of STEM teaching and learning in Italy were analysed.
Following the principles of equality and gender equality, and going against stereotypes, the correct approach to be followed in order to promote STEM careers, is to not differentiate students from weak and advanced. Its more about helping the weaker students rather than progressing the talented ones.
Teachers have the duty to support their needs and help the students facing the obstacles, but sometimes the lack of tools, methodologies and time has to be balanced out with the experience of external speakers, volunteers and ambassadors. This is a signal of the need for quality career guidance that will enable students to improve the commitment and better identify the preferences, skills and talents of the students so that they can develop their potential effectively.
The analysis of the different partner’s focus groups shows a general interest of VET school students in STEM subjects, feedbacks are positive and overwhelming.