Best Practice

Students' science aspirations

Professor Louise Archer reports on research into the attitudes of young students towards STEM subjects and careers as they move from primary to secondary ― and the implications for key stage 3 teaching.

Internationally, there is a widespread agreement that more needs to be done to increase and broaden post-16 participation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subject areas. 

This is not only important for ensuring that societies have a broad base of scientifically informed citizens but also to deliver an appropriate supply of STEM professionals for the future.

ASPIRES is a five-year, longitudinal study exploring science aspirations and engagement among 10 to 14-year-olds, as previous research indicates that this is a crucial time for the development and consolidation of children’s views on science. The ASPIRES project is funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as part of the Targeted Initiative on Science and Mathematics Education (TISME). 

Our study includes an online survey (administered when children are in years 6, 8 and 9) and repeat interviews with a sub-sample of children (tracked in years 6, 8 and 9) and their parents (interviewed twice, when their children are in years 6 and 9). In Phase One in 2009, the online survey was completed by more than 9,000 year 6 children (10 and 11-year-olds) from 279 primary schools across England. We also conducted 170 interviews with 78 parents and 92 year 6 children, drawn from 11 schools in England.

In Phase Two last year, the survey was completed by 5,634 year 8 students (aged 12 and 13) from 69 secondary schools across England. The second round of interviews (following up the children, now in year 8) is currently being completed and is due next month (July 2012). The key findings so far are as follows.

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