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Studying the science and career aspirations of 10-23 year olds.

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Book Launch: Science Education, Career Aspirations and Minority Ethnic Students

IOE Digital26 August 2016

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Last month we attended the book launch of our former colleague Dr. Billy Wong, who was a Research Associate on the first phase of our study. Billy now lectures in Education Studies at the University of Roehampton and has published in science education and sociology of education journals.

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His book, Science Education, Career Aspirations and Minority Ethnic Students, builds on his work on both the ASPIRES and Enterprising Science projects at King’s College London by exploring the science career aspirations of minority ethnic students. It investigates the views, experiences and identities of British Black Caribbean, Bangladeshi, Chinese, Indian and Pakistani youths in relation to science.

Order Billy’s book here.

Follow Billy on twitter.

ASPIRES 2 responds to inquiry on science communication

IOE Digital14 June 2016

— Emily MacLeod

In May, ASPIRES 2 researchers Professor Louise Archer and Dr. Julie Moote submitted evidence to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee’s inquiry into science communication. The purpose of the inquiry was to investigate how the Government, scientists, the media and others encourage and facilitate public awareness of, and engagement in, science. Following the submission Professor Louise Archer gave oral evidence to the Committee at the Natural History Museum on 14th June.

The evidence submitted used findings from ASPIRES 2’s national survey of over 13,000 15-16 year olds, and focussed on the science communication strategies being taken to encourage young people to study STEM subjects post-16 and to encourage those young people into STEM careers. We recommended that science communication efforts must work to diversify the image of ‘who does science’, and showcase science qualifications and skills as useful for a wide variety of careers.

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Sixth Form students needed for 30 minute research

IOE Digital11 May 2016

60% of young people aspire to work in business, but only 15% aspire to be a scientist (ASPIRES).

Not enough young people are choosing to study Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) after the age of 16. There is also widespread concern that the profile of those who do go on to pursue STEM subjects and careers is too narrow – with women, working-class and some minority ethnic groups remaining under-represented.

ASPIRES 2, based at King’s College London, is the second phase of a ten-year study into the science, STEM and career aspirations of young people aged 10-18. Our longitudinal data, tracking students from primary school to further education, is helping us to understand the changing influences on young people’s science and career aspirations, and has a strong bearing on educational policy and practice – especially concerning the widening STEM skills gap and diversifying the STEM workforce.

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Is GCSE Triple Science making the STEM skills gap wider?

IOE Digital21 April 2016

— Emily MacLeod

When the 2006 GCSE reforms introduced the entitlement to take Triple Science from 2008, it was hoped that this widely praised three-qualification route would go some way to addressing the country’s STEM skills gap. But following the data collected from our national survey of over 13,000 Year 11 students, in addition to our longitudinal interviews with 70 of these students, researchers at ASPIRES 2 are questioning whether the Triple Science route really is serving society’s STEM needs. Emergent findings suggest:

  1. Socially disadvantaged students are less likely to study Triple Science – In our study, the most socially disadvantaged students were two and a half times less likely to study Triple Science compared to the most advantaged. We also found that students in middle and bottom sets were much less likely to study Triple Science than their peers in top sets.
  2. Students don’t choose their KS4 science options – their schools do – Despite the notion of ‘choice’ surrounding the GCSE selection process, 61% of the students surveyed taking Triple Science had this decided for them. What’s more, many of the remaining students indicated that they had been steered into taking a particular choice by their school.
  3. Students think that Triple Science is only for the ‘clever’ kids – Triple Science was overwhelmingly seen as the route for those who are ‘clever’ and ‘sciency’, both by those taking it and those taking alternative options. Our interviews showed that this left Double Science and Science BTEC students feeling inferior, especially in schools which  threaten to ‘bump down’ Triple Science students to Double Science if they fail to achieve the top grades.

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What makes the girls taking Physics A level so exceptional?

IOE Digital15 January 2016

— Emily MacLeod

Less than 23% of the students studying Physics at AS level in 2013/14 were female, according to Ofsted. So why are so many girls choosing not to continue with Physics post-16?

ASPIRES 2 is the second phase of a ten-year project aiming to understand the processes through which students develop their science and career aspirations between the ages of 10 and 19 by surveying and interviewing students and parents from around the country. 70 of the students we first interviewed in year 6, now in year 11, have recently been interviewed for the fourth time, this time about their post-16 choices. We found that, overwhelmingly, students see Physics as ‘masculine’ and ‘hard’.

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I still like science, but I still don’t want to be a scientist

IOE Digital1 December 2015

— Emily MacLeod

Here at ASPIRES 2 we’re building on the work of our previous five-year study, ASPIRES, which collected data about science education and aspirations from over 9,000 students, and their parents, in years 6, 8 and 9 (ages 10-14). Using surveys and interviews ASPIRES found that, although most young people enjoy learning science, only a small percentage of students (15%) said that they aspire to be a scientist.

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