The „Be STEMpatic!“ project is financed by the European Social Fund, related to the call for proposals „Encouraging work with gifted children and students at the pre-tertiary level“. The project will last for 16 months, and be implemented by the Virovitica-Podravina county in cooperation with 14 elementary schools and 7 high-schools.
The Institute of Social Sciences Ivo Pilar will also collaborate on a number of project activities which concern the development and evaluation of models used to identify gifted students in the STEM domain.
A new research paper, „Predicting gender-STEM stereotyped beliefs among boys and girls from prior school achievement and interest in STEM school subjects“ was published in the international journal „Social Psychology of Education“.
More on the ASPIRES project
The ASPIRES project is longitudinal UK study combining two phase of project – ASPIRES 1 and ASPIRES2. The first ASPIRES study tracked the development of young people's science and career aspirations from age 10-14 (from 2009-2013).
The ASPIRES 1 was a five-year study funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Research grant number RES-179-25-0008, as part of the Targeted Initiative on Science and Mathematics Education (TISME), a research programme funded by the ESRC in partnership with the Institute of Physics, Gatsby Charitable Foundation and the Association for Science Education (tismescienceandmaths.org).
The study combines quantitative online surveys of a student cohort and repeat (longitudinal) interviews with a selected sub-sample of students and their parents. Survey and interview data were collected at three time points: the end of primary school (age 10/11, Year 6), the second year of secondary school (age 12/13, Year 8) and the third year of secondary school (age 13/14, Year 9). In total, over 19,000 surveys were completed: 9,319 by Year 6 students, 5,634 by Year 8 students and 4,600 by Year 9 students. A sample of 83 students and 65 of their parents were also longitudinally tracked via interviews across this age range (10-14). In addition to researching influences on students’ aspirations, the project also worked
with a small group of London teachers to develop approaches for integrating STEM careers information into Key Stage 3 Science lessons.
ASPIRES 2 is continuing to track young people until age 19, to understand the changing influences of the family, school, careers education and social identities and inequalities on young people's science and career aspirations.
ASPIRES team are: Professor Louise Archer as the principal Investigator, Professor Becky Francis - co-investigator, Dr Jennifer DeWitt - co-investigator, Professor Jonathan Osborne - co-investigator, Dr Julie Moote - Project Research Associate, Lucy Yeomans - Project PhD Studentship, Emily MacLeod - Project Research Officer.
Our team members, Ivan Dević and Mara Šimunović, participated in a workshop aimed at sample design, weighting and parameter estimation at the Faculty of Social Sciences in Ljubljana, which took place on the 24th and 25th of April 2017. The workshop, second of its kind, was organized as part of the EU "Synergies for Europe’s Research Infrastructures in the Social Sciences" (SERISS) project, which gathers European researchers from different areas of social sciences. Twenty-five doctoral students and postdocs from the areas of social sciences and humanities from all over Europe participated in the workshop, lead by professionals from the GESIS institute of social sciences in Köln.
The workshop was organized to cover topics pertaining to three interconnected areas: methods of complex samples selection, designing weights to address the problem of under-representation of certain groups, and analyzing data collected on complex, weighted samples. The first part of the workshop included a lecture on the central concepts of the topic; such as sample variance, unbiased parameter estimation, stratified sampling and the problem of allocation, cluster sampling, non-probability sampling and the design effect. After the theoretical part, there was an introductory practice session using the R software. The second part of the workshop introduced the concept and rationale behind weighting in survey designs, and basic weighting methods like post-stratification and calibration. Practical examples in R were used to explain the inclusion of weights in parameter estimation with complex samples, on the data set of the longitudinal international study "The European Social Survey (ESS)”. There was also time for participants to share their research experiences and discuss the problems related to the topic at hand, and unique to the studies they are currently working on.
After our fifth graders visited the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Naval Architecture and the sixth graders visited the Faculty of Chemical Engineering and Technology, the seventh graders went to the Ruđer Bošković Institute (IRB) in Zagreb. It’s one of our leading scientific facilities doing research in theoretical and experimental physics, physics and chemistry of materials, electronics, physical and organic chemistry, molecular biology and medicine, sea and the environment, computer sciences, laser and atomic research. During the visit, the students participated in several workshops in the fields of biology, chemistry, physics and environmental studies.
During the workshop „DNA Isolation“, students heard about ongoing research projects at the Department for molecular medicine of the IRB, with a focus on the Laboratory for Neurodegenerative Disease Research. They visited the sterile room for cell research where they got acquainted with the models used to investigate medical questions and a biochemical lab where the grown cells are analyzed. After a short tour of the labs, students were given the chance to isolate the DNA of a banana on their own and learned about the relevant research methods, as well as features and structure of DNA. At the end of the workshop, each student got a souvenir of the visit – the DNA they isolated on their own!
The workshop „What do chemists do?“ focused on showing students different models in chemistry, and with the help of the models and worksheets explained the concept of chirality. The second part of the workshop consisted of several attractive demonstrations which illustrated key concepts in chemistry – physical and chemical changes, acids, lyes and indicators, the composition of air, gas features, etc. – as well as linking chemistry to physics, biology and everyday life.
„New materials for chemical hydrogen storage
in solid form“ was another workshop where students experienced practical
laboratory work on their own. They were given the task to weigh several samples
of lithium and sodium and lithium hydride in a dry chamber with an inert
atmosphere, to use later in a series of experiments. Apart from these, another
reacting composition was prepared for a demonstration of a mechanochemical
reaction, by ball milling in a container of strengthened steel. After the
synthesis had finished, the container was opened in the dry chamber where the
sample was transferred to the appropriate receptacle. Subsequent measurements
showed students had in deed managed to prepare the desired product, which was
sent for further testing as part of the ongoing research.
The second hands-on part was a theoretical quiz in chemical elements and the meaning of the periodic table. Students were asked to produce reactions of water with lithium, sodium and sodium hydride. This was meant to show the similarities between the elements and their hydrides, as well as the differences in reactivity. The observations were discussed with the students, which resulted in jointly achieved insights, which are crucial for understanding chemistry.
The workshop „Matter change at low pressure and temperature“ included a visit to the accelerator and experimental hall where students learned about ion acceleration and the occurrence when ions collide with materials. It was followed by experiments with vacuum and low temperatures, the goal of which was to explain pressure and how the features of materials known to them change with changes in pressure and temperature.
At the Division for Marine and Environmental Research, students participated in the workshop „Geo-chemical features of natural waters – traces in the water“. They were taught about the importance of researching the geo-chemical features of water, and were also given the chance to experience what such research projects entail, namely, the preparation of experiments and their implementation, as well as techniques of different chemical analyses in the laboratory.
Through these workshops, the students revised what they had been previously taught, but also learned a lot from the respective fields in a new and interesting way. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and most students showed a great interest in the things they had observed at the Institute.
After the successful STEM intervention for fifth-grade students at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Naval Architecture, it was sixth-graders' turn to visit the Faculty of Chemical Engineering and Technology at the University of Zagreb. Two forms from each experimental school were taken on a tour of three departments – Department of Organic Chemistry, Department of Analytical Chemistry and the Department of Mechanical and Thermal Process Engineering.
In groups of ten, the students went through a myriad of interesting exercises, experiment and demos, with the guidance of the Faculty's professors and teaching assistants. For instance, they changed the color of water into purple, blue, green and yellow by using substances such as Manganese peroxide and adding sugar and alkaline crystals. They also had the task of uncovering a hidden picture drawn with colorless acid and alkali indicators, and is revealed by spraying it with an alkaline solution.
Except from water, the students were also shown how to change the color of flame with the help of ethanol to which different chemical substances are added. Other interesting demos involved the quick dissolution of Styrofoam in acetone, using acetone and dry ice to decrease temperatures below 70 degrees Celsius and create artificial fog, and producing the so-called „elephant's toothpaste“ with the help of hydrogen peroxide, liquid soap and artificial coloring.
At the Department of Analytical Chemistry, students
heard a presentation about Teobroma caccao – the plant responsible for everyone's
favorite sweet indulgence, chocolate. They learned about the step-by-step
procedure used to ascertain the level of iron in chocolate, and how it relates
to different qualities of specific types of the product. There was also talk
about chromatography and how it can be used to discover the colors needed to
produce different shades of felt-tip pens on paper, and make interesting
At the Department for Mechanical and Thermal Process
Engineering, different varieties of crystals, such as snowflakes and salt
crystals, were the main attraction: apart from hearing about them, students were
also given the chance to observe them through microscopes.
During these workshops, students were given the opportunity to get acquainted with Chemistry before its inclusion in their school curriculum, and to see how useful, as well as fun and interesting, it can be.
In the period between the 23rd and 27th of January, students from the eight experimental schools visited the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Naval Architecture at the University of Zagreb, accompanied by their class-teachers. Two fifth grades from each school participated in the visit.
After a welcome speech given by the Faculty's representative, the students were shown an educational video which served to better acquaint them with the type of programs on offer, the skills future graduates acquire, and the jobs which they can later do. Students then visited some of the laboratories where they received short demonstrations and lectures about the different domains in mechanical, naval and aeronautical engineering; the research of the labs; as well as the applications of technological solutions to the wider scope of human activities.
For instance, at the Department of Robotics and Automation of Manufacturing Systems, they had the opportunity to watch a video about the robot Ronni, built at the Faculty, used in complex neurosurgical interventions. They also observed the speed of the start up of a robot used in the auto industry, as well as a packing robot who can replace human workers on an industrial packaging line. In their visit to the CADLab, they were taught about the development processes of different products. Students were given a chance to see a 3-D printer at work, one which can produce the most complex geometrical shapes by applying so-called additive technology (adding materials layer by layer). Guided by the professors, students also controlled a robot using a mobile application and could test different automated machines.At the Department of Aeronautical Engineering, they were acquainted with several types of unmanned aerial vehicles and their application in terrain surveillance.
Except for the aforementioned, the visit included a couple of other departments and laboratories, such as the Power Engineering Laboratory, Laboratory for Welding, and the Laboratory for Production and Assembly Systems Design. Students were encouraged to ask questions of the professionals and teachers of the Faculty, and were given the opportunity to engage with some of the presented processes through games and teamwork. A follow-up with the students and teachers showed that their interest in the presented materials was high, and their impressions of the overall visit were extremely positive.
After last year's successful interventions which allowed experimental school students to engage in a myriad of entertaining and educational STEM-related activities, the new wave of interventions took off in November 2016 for students in 5th, 6th and 7th grades.
The first workshop, called „Networks, computers and the Internet“ was carried out as a combination of lectures, discussions, research and practical exercises which served to introduce students to the functioning and complexities of computer networks and the Internet. The main aim was to provide them with a deeper insight into the key concepts of the Internet, such as internet protocols (IP), IP addresses, IP packages, routers, nodes, etc.
In order to help students better consolidate the learning materials, the workshop linked to the previous intervention in which they had encountered the basics of computer programming by asking them to write a program for generating pictures they'd received and send them through the network to a classmate. Thus, the students were given the opportunity to combine their previous knowledge of programming and apply it to the new information they received about the functioning of computer networks.
The second workshop was titled „LittleBits“ and incorporated topics from the basics of electronics and robotics. LittleBits educational sets were used for this purpose, consisting of colorful electronic components such as power supplies, LED diodes, keyboards, sliding potentiometers, inverters, pulse generators, different sensors and motors, and others. Students can connect these components using magnets to create closed circuits and learn about the principles of electronics and the different components in a simple and straightforward way.
For the end of the exercise, students created a small electric car with self-ignition, and could try out the different effects of the sensors, wheel rotation, and the like on the behavior of the car. The workshop presented students with an opportunity to build up on their knowledge by starting from very simple to gradually more complex tasks and make their own logical assumptions about the correct ordering of the components in the block and their effect on the rest of the circuit. The workshop was organized in groups of three or four students, which also served to show the importance of team work and sharing ideas in a group.
Researchers from the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing conducted the two workshops (Tomislav Jagušt and Juraj Petrović in ˝Networks, computers and the Internet ; Ivan Kunović in LittleBits). Collaborators from the Ivo Pilar institute also assisted in the implementation (Ivan Dević, Mara Šimunović), as well as student volunteers.
The president of Croatia, Ms Kolinda Grabar Kitarović, held a meeting with the JOBSTEM project leader, prof.dr.sc. Josip Burušić. JOBSTEM (fully titled „ "STEM career aspirations during primary schooling“) is a research project financed by the Croatian science foundation, bringing together a large team spanning four countries. The project leader gave the president a brief overview of the research activities currently underway in STEM fields, and shared some insights about the state of the Croatian educational system. President Grabar-Kitarović showed a great interest for the topics and challenges in education, especially its focus on STEM fields. In this light, there was talk of further numerous possibilities for activities in the domain. The conversation also touched upon similar activities, for which interest has been shown by prestigious research institutions and universities in Croatia, and more globally, as well.
Below, we present the third JOBSTEM study from the ECER conference in Dublin, titled The contribution of attitudes toward school science in explanation of achievement in STEM school subjects (authors: Ivan Devic, Toni Babarovic, Mia Karabegovic, Mirta Blazev & Dubravka Glasnovic Gracin). Find the previous two posts here and here.
STEM achievement of Croatian students has consistently been shown to be low in comparison to their other school subjects - in both specific scientific studies (Burušić,
Babarović, & Šakić, 2008), and larger international research projects (e.g.
PISA). The debates about what
determines achievement in STEM school subjects in primary school still persist.
Several STEM-relevant variables show a significant association with achievement
in math and science, including student level variables, school level variables
and variables related to their broader social environment (Hattie, 2009).
The specific aim of our study was to identify the contribution of students’ attitudes to school science and experiences with STEM subjects in explaining STEM school achievement, after controlling for individual characteristics, family-related variables and experiences in out-of-school activities. The variables used correspond to Huitt’s (2003) Transactional model of the teaching/learning process, a framework which posits several different domains which produce learning outcomes: input (students’ and teachers’ individual characteristics), context (environmental factors that might have an influence on the outcome) and classroom processes.
We collected data from 360 primary school students (aged 12 to 15; M=13.32; 165 female) enrolled in three schools from the Daruvar municipality, Croatia. Scales used as predictors in the survey were mostly derived and adapted from the ASPIRES project (Archer et al., 2013; DeWitt et al., 2013), and the output, STEM school achievement, was measured as a composite of school marks (GPA) in different STEM subjects in the previous grade.
The predictors used in the study encompassed students’ gender, the education status of their parents, parental ambitions and support of the students’ education, parents’ attitudes toward science, students’ positive and negative image of scientists, interest in science outside of the school context, and attitudes toward school science.
Hierarchical regression analysis was applied in order to predict achievement in STEM school subjects, with the first block of predictors pertaining to input and contextual variables, and the second block being the attitudes toward science in the school context.
Short Summary: Main Results
References used in the post
Huitt, W. (2003). A transactional model of the teaching/learning process: A summary. Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University.
During the first year of the JOBSTEM project, a myriad of key tasks were finalized in order to meet the goals outlined in the project plan. In order to raise the visibility of the project and the results stemming from it, in Croatia as well as among the international academic community, we conceived of a visual identity and official logo for the project, as well as designed a website which is now operational. Computer equipment and statistical software was also obtained for the purpose of establishing and maintaining a database, and carrying out complex statistical analyses on the gathered data.
At the onset of project-related activities, a base was formed containing the data relevant for meeting the goals of the project, which has been updated on a regular basis. The first meeting of the full research team was held in October, 2015, in order to discuss the main and specific research tasks, their theoretical underpinnings and the dynamics and tasks to be accomplished by individual team members during the year. Complex sampling of the schools and class units included in the project was carried out before data collection started. In the end, 16 elementary schools from Zagreb and the vicinity participated in the project, with three age cohorts of students from each school. We also obtained all the necessary permits from the Ministry of science, education and sport and the Croatian Education and Teacher Training Agency, as well as parents' consent forms. All the needed measurements and use permits were also gathered, with another part of the instruments constructed or adjusted to the requirements of the project. In the case of the new measurements, a pilot study was done in order to ascertain their metric features.
After we'd gathered all the necessary permissions and instruments, a new and detailed plan of operations was agreed upon for the data collection in the first research wave. During this period, two class units were tested in each school and in each cohort (4th, 5th and 6th grades). Immediately after, all collected data were entered and preliminary statistical analyses were carried out. In the first year, we also implemented the first STEM intervention in the form of multi-disciplinary workshops, educational visits to university laboratories and school lectures. After the intervention, the students who participated in the above-mentioned activities were included in focus groups. The results of the first year were disseminated through two research papers, presentations at international conferences (ECER 2016 and AERA 2016), as well as a string of articles in the press. It is also important to note that the project leader, prof.dr.sc. Josip Burušić, presented the JOBSTEM project to the New York Academy of Science in April 2014.
In a previous post, we wrote about the ECER conference and an upcoming talk stemming from the project (see here).
We now present the second study from our team (authors: Toni Babarović, Dubravka Glasnović Gracin, Josip Burušić, Ivan Dević, Marija Šakić Velić), titled Personal Inputs and Contextual Supports as Predictors of STEM Aspirations among Boys and Girls.
What's it about?
In this study, we used the Social Cognitive Career Theory (Lent, Brown and Hackett, 1994) as a theoretical framework to predict interest and intention to pursue STEM educational choices and careers among primary school students. This model encompasses measures of an individual's self-efficacy, outcome expectations, personal inputs and background, and contextual supports and/or barriers to explain reasoning behind students' academic or career choices.
The main aim of the study was to test the hypothesis that the determinants of STEM career aspirations have different patterns for boys and girls. We used variables related to students' family characteristics and parental attitudes, peers influences, school achievement, attitudes toward STEM education in school, STEM self-concept, and STEM activities outside the schools in order to predict STEM career aspirations among boys and girls.
We tested 360 primary school students (grades 6-8, age 12 to 15; M=13.32; 165 female) from three schools in one municipality in Croatia (Daruvar area), from 21 class units. The dependent variable was a measure of students' aspirations toward STEM careers as self-reported on a 5-point Likert-type scale. Hierarchical regression analyses were applied separately in boys’ and girls’ samples in order to predict aspirations toward STEM careers, including five blocks of predictors: (1) Family influences (family education status, parental ambitions and support, parental attitudes to science); (2) Self-concept in science and attitudes towards science in school (positive self-concept in science, negative self-concept in science, attitudes toward school science); (3) Peer support (peer attitudes to science, peer orientation to school); (4) School achievement (GPA from the previous grade, GPA in STEM subjects in previous grade); (5) – Out-of-school STEM attitudes and interests (positive image of scientists, negative image of scientists, interest for science out of school).
Short summary of main findings
How do boys and girls interested in STEM careers differ?
The boys like science
subjects in school, have hobbies related to science, and do not have negative
stereotypical images of scientists.
The girls are highly intrinsically motivated: they have hobbies related to science, like school science and have higher marks in STEM subjects then other school subjects.
Because our team have been very busy this year, expect a third study from the conference, titled The contribution of
attitudes toward school science in explanation of achievement in STEM school
subjects, to be reported on next!
References used in the post
Lent, R. W., Brown, S. D., & Hackett, G. (1994). Toward a unifying social cognitive theory of career and academic interest, choice, and performance. Journal of vocational behavior, 45(1), 79-122.
What is the Croatian School paper writing about the JOBSTEM project? Find out in the text below! (in Croatian)
(Školske novine, 6.9.2016.)
(Večernji list, 27.8.2016.)
Researchers from the JOBSTEM team will be taking part in this year's ECER conference, entitled "Leading Education: The Distinct Contributions of Educational Research and Researchers", that is taking place at the University College Dublin, 22-26 August 2016. ECER – European Conference for Educational Research – is the most prestigious European conference in the field, organized by the European Educational Research Association, which brings together scientists from a wide array of countries with the goal of promoting high-quality research in education and acknowledging the transnational contexts in which it is embedded, with its social, cultural and political differences.
A group of our researchers
have prepared an interesting presentation of a paper which seeks to examine the
level of self-competence beliefs in STEM school subjects and explore the
relationship between self-competence beliefs and school achievement in these subjects,
with a special focus on Mathematics.
Short summary of main findings
STEM Team: Josip Burušić; Dubravka Glasnović Gracin; Marija Šakic Velić; Ina Reić Ercegovac; Mia Karabegović; Mirta Blažev.
Find out more about the conference here.
Technological advancements and rapid changes in the modern job market require an education which will aid young individuals to daily face complex situations and find creative solutions for the problems that may arise. The importance of STEM-related education in this area cannot be overstated; not merely as a skill-set (which is in high demand), but also as a way of approaching problems and a way of thinking that fosters curiosity and creativity, critical reasoning and experimenting with possible solutions. These qualities are applicable in most careers and contribute to educational and professional advancement.
The STEM Education Coalition's most recent report highlights the importance of out-of-school learning activities and access to STEM-related resources in the community as one of the key factors in preparing young students for competitiveness in the job market. Unequal opportunities regarding out-of-school activities, science centers, libraries and partners from the STEM fields contributes to later inequalities in entering STEM careers, the report claims, and it is therefore crucial to recognize the importance of informal educational programs as a key addition to formal STEM education.
Early interventions focused on fostering interest in STEM fields increase the probability of choosing science-related subjects starting from high school and onward, and can be useful in influencing the aforementioned inequalities found on later educational levels of the STEM domain, like ethnic and racial differences in the USA, as well as those to do with gender – for example, the percentage of women in engineering careers is judged to be around 22%. Interest in STEM fields has been shown to be the strongest predictor for choosing a major in this area, even more so than science test results of students in the eighth grade (Tai, Qi Liu, Maltese, & Fan, 2006). Furthermore, representative studies of out-of-school programs such as 4-H or FIRST Robotics Competition have pointed to the importance of engaging with STEM-related experiences for students' later achievements. For instance, research has found that those involved in the FIRST Robotics Competition were more likely to graduate with an engineering degree, have internships or apprenticeships during their first year in college, get a postgraduate degree or start a career in science, technology or engineering.
Data reviewed by the National Research Council (NRC) points out several beneficial outcomes of these out-of-school programs:
NRC has also identified three important factors that should guide policy-makers' decisions and speak to the efficacy of different out-of-school STEM programs. The first of these relates to students' intellectual, social and emotional engagement with the field – they should gain first-hand experience with practices in STEM fields, such as the scientific method, in a challenging manner that incites interest and understanding. Another important thing to consider is the alignment of the material with students' existing interests and experiences: educators should strive to present STEM fields in a way that reflects questions and areas important to young people and connect them to their aspirations. Finally, and related to the latter, different programs should look for ways to connect STEM education in different social spheres young people are engaged in, such as schools, families and out-of-school activities. This point is important for the transfer of acquired skills to different environments, thus making them more meaningful and useful for the students.
Find out more!
More about the research:
More about the programs:
New York, USA – JOBSTEM project leader, prof. dr. sc. Josip Burušić, met with dr. Kristian Breton, Director of Education, and dr. Stephanie Wortel, Program Manager of Education, at the New York Academy of Sciences, in April 2016.
The main goal of the meeting was to get acquainted with each other's research activities and ongoing projects, and discuss areas of mutual interest and potential cooperation in the field of STEM education research. The possibility of future project collaboration was agreed upon, with the Academy members showing great interest in becoming a partner in future research and project activities in Croatia.
Solving the global STEM crisis is outlined as one of Academy's main activities: it launched the Global STEM Alliance in 2013, an international initiative which seeks to increase the number and diversity of students in STEM education through various projects and learning platforms, as well as narrow the existing skills gap between schools and the workforce. Other STEM-related programs include the Junior Academy, a global network connecting gifted science students with the best international researchers.
Certain specific details of the Academy's Afterschool STEM Mentoring Program were also discussed at the meeting. This program, which started in the Fall of 2010, brings graduate and postdoctoral students from universities local to the Academy (NYC, Newark and Upstate New York) together with under-served schools in the area to give hands-on mentoring to 4th through 8th grade classrooms. The topics of the sessions range from genetics and space science to environmental studies. So far, 11,750 middle-school students have benefited from this program, with the positives going in the other direction as well; by helping young up-and-coming scientists learn how to efficiently communicate scientific insights and get first-hand experience in teaching.
The New York Academy of
Sciences in one of the leading organizations advocating for scientific endeavors.
It currently has more than 20,000 members from 100 different countries, among
which both Nobel Prize winners and government leaders and postdoctoral
researchers and students can be found working together on the core mission of
the Academy – advancing scientific research and its impact on education and
policy to drive positive societal change. The Academy also publishes the Annals
of the New York Academy of Sciences, one of the most cited multidisciplinary scientific
journals in the world.