Guest blog post by Dr. Fay Lewis, from the Department of Education and Childhood at UWE Bristol.
Towards the end of primary school, interest in, and attitudes towards STEM subjects decline. However, simple yet positive STEM experiences can bring about radical changes in interest in these subjects and future career aspirations.
If we are to try to fill the 830,000 new STEM roles needed (Royal Academy of Engineering, 2012), its essential to expose children to positive STEM experiences at the late primary age.
The team at UWE have developed a unique ‘Children as Engineers’ toolkit which aims to bring engineering into the primary classroom to deliver science in a problem solving contextualised format.
The first element of this toolkit focuses on materials and training for primary school teachers. This includes CPD materials with a focus on the engineering design process and how science teaching and learning can be aligned with this as well as ideas aiming to address parental involvement. Curriculum development and science capital are a theme throughout this element of the toolkit.
The second element focuses on materials aimed at the higher education sector, including training materials for pre-service primary school teachers (focusing on the science through engineering approach) and undergraduate engineering students (focusing on teaching and learning in the primary classroom). The toolkit then develops this further by laying out how these two sets of students can be paired up within a knowledge exchange format to deliver engineering challenges into primary classrooms. A model of how the work can be embedded into undergraduate provision within education and engineering degrees is also provided.
The materials contained in this toolkit build on previously successful research which has indicated that involvement in a science through engineering model has benefits for all participants.
An increase in the public engagement skills of the engineers was observed (Fogg-Rogers et al. 2016) and the children reported an increased interest in science and engineering and career aspirations relating to these subjects. The pre-service teachers demonstrated significant gains in their STEM subject knowledge confidence and confidence in their ability to teach these subjects (Lewis et al. 2015) (a key factor in ensuring positive outcomes for children (Ofsted, 2011, Singh & Stoloff, 2008)). For fully qualified teachers participation in engineering professional development workshops, can change the way they teach science and other subjects (Macalalag and Tirthali, 2010).