A leading education expert from University College London has reiterated the importance of encouraging students to pursue Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects.
Speaking at a seminar funded by a UWA Research Collaboration Award, Professor Michael Reiss told attendees that the most important factor in students choosing to study STEM subjects is a significant adult influence. It is critical for students to have a relationship with a significant adult who thinks STEM subjects are worth studying and who believes the student is capable.
The Graduate School of Education’s Katherine Carson, who organised the seminar, said Professor Reiss’ research findings would help Australian teachers encourage students to pursue STEM subjects at higher levels.
“It is critical that students understand how they will be able to use their STEM subjects in the future, and how the subjects will help them in their future career,” Ms Carson said.
“As such, it is important for teachers to emphasise the connections between STEM subjects and a range of career pathways.”
Professor Reiss also told seminar attendees that girls can achieve in physics at levels equal to boys. However, girls are pursuing the subject at lower rates than boys due to a lack of confidence in their abilities, combined with receiving less encouragement to study physics.
In a second seminar, Professor Anat Zohar from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem discussed teaching higher order thinking to low achieving students.
Professor Zohar argued that teachers should not focus on teaching higher order thinking skills to only high achieving students. Instead, research shows that low achieving students do benefit from being taught higher order thinking skills in both conceptual understanding and critical thinking skills.
Both seminars were attended by representatives from various universities, UWA students, school teachers and representatives from other education organisations.
While in Perth, Professor Reiss and Professor Zohar also attended the Wheatbelt Science Forum, an annual STEM forum for middle school students and their teachers held at Wongan Hills.
Verity Chia (Faculty of Arts, Business, Law and Education) (+61 8) 6488 1346