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MultiCO Report Summary

Project ID: 665100
Funded under: H2020-EU.5.a.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - MultiCO (Promoting Youth Scientific Career Awareness and it Attractiveness through Multi-stakeholder Co-operation)

Reporting period: 2015-08-01 to 2016-07-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Europe needs more scientists to solve major challenges such as those related to energy, water, waste, climate change, food, health and transport issues, as well as promoting scientifically literate citizens as decision-makers and social actors. This project undertakes research on an approach to science education, designed to attract more students towards studying science, by focusing on making school science more relevant and exciting for students, as well as raising their awareness of the multitude of science-related careers and their motivation to pursue such careers. The project also recognises that an evidence-based, attractive science education provision can enable all citizens to play a more active role in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics processes, to make informed choices and to more fully engage in a democratic, knowledge-based society.
Research has shown that the origin of the problem of lack of student interest or motivation, particularly in secondary science education, may lie in pedagogical considerations. To counteract this, a range of educational considerations have been introduced. A major development, designed to attract young people to science studies and to raise scientific literacy among future citizens, has been to view science education as being ‘education through the context of science’. Research also has shown that context-based approaches in science education result in improvements in attitudes towards science and may lead to a higher interest in science-related careers. Teaching strategies that actively engage students in the learning process, such as through scientific investigations, increase conceptual understanding and also have positive effects on students’ attitudes towards science. Further, middle grade students are not made aware of career options, and few indicate knowing professionals actively working in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.
This project examines (1) the introduction, for secondary school students (ages 13 to 15), of real life related, career-focused stories, referred to as scenarios, which initiate context- and inquiry-based science studies; (2) increasing students’ preferences for choosing science studies and their desire to reflect on an increased awareness of, and the attractiveness in pursuing, science-related careers taking into account students’ own ideas to enhance the relevance of science studies.
The intended outcome is to motivate young people to extend science studies and orient them towards considerations of undertaking science careers. This is undertaken through longitudinal studies involving interventions using motivational scenarios. These scenarios are created in multi-stakeholder co-operation between scientists in education, natural science, counselling, psychology and experts from industry and civil society organisations, policy-makers, parents, formal, as well as non-formal science educators and students. While a key aspect of the project is capturing the student viewpoint, research within the project heavily focuses on producing evidence of the impact of a career-awareness on students’ science study choices, and attitudes towards science-related careers, as well as tangible outcomes for use by researchers, teachers, teacher educators and policy-makers for future educational planning. The project arranges activities for the general public to increase awareness of modern scientific developments and associated careers.
The project has seven specific aims. At the beginning of the project, the project aims to (1) formulate a theoretically justified conceptual framework for the research. The project also aims to (2) identify modern science-related research and innovation developments, scientists’ work and careers linked to developments as well as their work/career stories, to be introduced to students. Furthermore, the project aims to (3) determine and analyse perceptions, related to scientific careers, among different stakeholders as well as students’ perceptions of careers and working life skills/21st century skills. Using the knowledge of careers, an aim is to (4) design a collection of student motivational, innovative scientific career-related scenarios and determine students’ views related to the value of these scenarios in promoting science education as well as providing supervisory guidelines for teachers for using scenarios in science teaching. Further, the project aims to (5) obtain detailed, research-based evidence on students’ interests, attitudes, experiences gained and career choices. The project aims to (6) students’ science courses and career choice intentions as well as their involvement in science-related activities outside school plus through follow-up study determine students’ actual science options taken up. During the whole project, it is aimed to (7) disseminate experiences and research results.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

The project has worked in line with its specific aims. At the beginning of the project, the theoretically justified conceptual framework for the research has been formulated and the overview is seen in the project website. Four areas for literature review have been identified as: interest, motivation, attitudes, relevance; study and career choices; counselling on science based careers; science-related activities.
Some modern science-related research and innovation developments, scientists’ work and careers linked to developments as well as their work/career stories, to be introduced to students are identified in Internet and literature. List of modern and future scientific careers and descriptions of careers are created. Furthermore, perceptions, related to scientific careers, among different stakeholders as well as students’ perceptions of careers and working life skills/21st century skills are determined. Students’ perceptions are collected in working life skills workshops and stakeholders in focus group discussions. Most of the stakeholders share the concern about the lack of interest among young people towards science and point out the role of parents, peers and teachers. Students’ seem to be well aware about the working life skills.
The collection of the first student motivational, innovative scientific career-related scenarios are created and students’ views related to the value of these scenarios in promoting science education are identified. Students have evaluated all the scenarios created in partner countries so far.
Teachers participating in the project are provided supervisory guidelines in meetings for using scenarios in science teaching. They have carried out the first interventions using career-based scenarios with their student groups. The career-based scenarios and the following inquiry work has interested students and some of them perceived studying being more relevant than their previous science studies.
Detailed, research-based evidence on students’ science interests, attitudes, and experiences gained and future career choices have been collected at the beginning of the project interventions. Few of the students are interested in science and most of them do not plan to choose scientific careers in future.
In dissemination, project international and national websites are created, flyer is printed, and the project is presented in schools.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The project has found interesting perceptions among students about the 21st century working skills. The results revealed that students have traditional views of scientific careers but also that they know the most essential skills needed in working life. The students pointed out mostly tools for working and ways of thinking and less ways of working and living in the world related skills.
Collectively the other stakeholders identified a range of careers that involve science. Some stakeholders added that though science is relevant to everyone, this does not necessarily translate to career choices. Some groups identified a wide range of science related careers, others focused on modern or future careers. There was also a view that science is related to all careers. According to the stakeholders, the basis of science-related careers is mathematics. Knowledge in physics though is equally important. For example in engineering a combination of knowledge in physics and mathematics is required. Then biology and chemistry are fundamental to several science-related professions such as chemical engineer and environmental engineer. Specialist knowledge, general knowledge, knowledge of where scientists sit in society is also needed.
Stakeholders don’t have a common position; some focus on greater employment, bigger salaries and other incomes, the possibility to travel, to do research, to be creative and to demonstrate general capability in the profession. However, other stakeholders added that it is not possible to bring out general features of science-related careers that make them worth pursuing (or not worth pursuing), because it all depends on students’ personal interests and choices.
The stakeholders were asked what features of science careers made them worth pursuing and therefore of interest to students. One focus was on job prospects and financial reward. Personal reasons included variety, enjoyment, excitement and self-fulfillment leading to a sense of pride in achievement. More social reasons included that science careers were useful, and potentially helped society. Alternatively some views on what made scientific careers not worth pursing were possible feelings of isolation. There was also a perception that science careers could be boring or repetitive and also that they could lack financial remuneration and could take a long time in formal education to qualify/get experience. Some key influences are: motivation (intrinsic motivation to study science/technology, excitement about discoveries/innovations, motivation to do research/lab work, interests, talent); science-related activities organized by the family and out of school experiences; school-related factors (difficulty of science-related subjects, students’ performance in science, science teacher); excitement about discoveries/innovations. Interestingly family influences were highly rated in the UK and Cyprus, but less important in Germany. Family-related factors (pressure, socio-economic background, science-related activities organized by the family) were also highly rated in Finland.
The overall methodology for school interventions follows the design based research (DBR) approach: Based on a theoretical framework, educational interventions (“career-based scenarios”) are planned collaboratively with different MultiCO stakeholders (teachers, industry partners and students). To study the interventions’ impact on learning, they are implemented in authentic learning contexts (in school or in out-of-school learning environments). Through an iterative prototyping approach with feedback cycles they are continually refined and improved. The goal is to contribute to theory on one hand and to educational practice on the other. MultiCO project aims to develop design propositions and theories that can inform the development of innovative interventions (career-based scenarios) by others. Multiple methodologies and mixed methods are utilized.
The early stages of drawing out the cases from intervention data means that the report presented here provides only an initial overview of findings thus reported so far. More detailed analysis will follow to provide a synthesis of findings and their implications. One outcome of reviewing country reports is to inform the next intervention. In particular the career focus of the scenario and intervention needs to be more strongly emphasised; many teachers are mostly focussed on the activities for the inquiry stage and careers are a minor aspect of their concern. In planning the second intervention the career aspects need to be more prominent in many cases.
Clearly the scenarios are a central feature of all the interventions, so how these are planned and incorporated into teaching units is critical to their implementation – we need to ensure that data on the planning process is collected for reporting. Teachers have noted some of the impact of working with scenarios. Student organisation and management will impact on their experience of working with the scenarios, and from teachers comments it is clear that some groups are more collaborative than others and so they are not sure about the influence of the scenario on this aspect. The scenarios do help students to be more creative exploring different professions in science; they link with what is happening in the “real world”, and show that science-related careers do not have to be “too intellectual” and hard or difficult to apply. Teachers have found that one disadvantage is not having time to explore in depth those professions beforehand. In addition, the main barrier to implementing this approach is the lack of time to think and link the contents with the syllabus. Teachers’ careers knowledge is minimal and there is a lack of information and guidance on how to explore different careers.
Some students are not interested in science and/or not interested in that specific career, and that can lead to disengagement; if the scenario is “too” professional the focus diverges to other aspects that need to be covered in the curriculum.
The results so far guide the future research in the project. There are some signs of the role of careers-based scenarios in motivating middle school students.

Related information

Record Number: 194955 / Last updated on: 2017-02-17
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