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Engaging disadvantaged learners in creative STEM learning


Project Description

This interdisciplinary PhD project will study data emerging from HE outreach/primary school engagement programmes, with specific interest in the Great Science Share for Schools (the annual, international campaign run by The University of Manchester Science & Engineering Education Research and Innovation Hub,SEERIH).

The PhD research will explore how such progammes enrich creative STEM learning for younger age groups and how they impact on pupils’ school engagement and attainment. Particular focus will be applied to the experience of pupils from areas of social disadvantage in mainstream primary schools.

In examining in particular the impact of creative STEM education practices on primary pupils, a key aspect of the PhD will be critical examination of the pedagogic approaches used by teachers to engage primary children in asking and investigating their own scientific questions. The way in which the pedagogical approaches embrace themes such as self-efficacy, curiosity, scientific identity and agency drawing on knowledge around various educational methodologies within mainstream primary STEM education.

The research aims to inform policy for science and engineering education, particularly related to how creative STEM learning programmes led from Higher Education’s impact on inclusivity and equity in STEM education.

The PhD project will address some of the following research questions:

• What are the learning aims/objectives that HE aligns to the development of creative STEM learning programmes, such as the Great Science Share for Schools (GSSfS)? Some information about GSSfS can be found at https://www.greatscienceshare.org.
• What learning aims/objectives do school-teachers align with their engagement in the GSSfS?
• What kinds of pedagogies do school-teachers employ within mainstream classrooms when engaged in creative STEM learning programmes? E.g. in GSSfS – how do they encourage pupils to ask and share scientific questions and investigations?
• How do these pedagogies enable pupils to work-in-role as scientists?
• How might pupil’s science learning through such approaches be characterised?
• To what extent, do the GSSfS strategies adopted impact on pupil’s science learning, and their personal characteristics e.g. problem-solving, inquisitiveness, resilience, persistence, creativity, devising questions etc.?
• To what extent does the involvement in creative STEM education programmes, such as GSSfS, support pupil’s engagement in learning, specifically those from areas of low socio-economic backgrounds?
• To what extent does the GSSfS impact on pupil’s Science Capital and aspirations in STEM?


Candidates must have qualifications of the standard of a good undergraduate honours degree at first or upper second class level and a suitable master’s degree at Merit level or above (or appropriate progress towards a master’s degree at Merit level or above), in Education, Science Communication or a related discipline.

Candidates should have a keen interest in academic research in creative STEM learning. The online submission should include a letter of application (max. 2 pages, font Arial, size 11, standard margins) to outline your suitability for the studentship and some insight into methodologies/analytical frameworks that you would be keen to integrate into the research programme.

As an equal opportunities employer, we welcome applications from all suitably qualified persons. As the School is committed to the principles of the Race Equality Charter Mark and Athena SWAN, we would particularly welcome applications from women and the black and minority ethnic (BME) community, who are both currently under-represented at this grade. All appointments will be made on merit.

Funding Notes

Funding for this project is offered to support a PhD starting in September 2020. The duration of the studentship is for 3 years and will cover both Home/EU tuition fees and a stipend to cover living costs at the RCUK-standard rate (£15,285 in the 2020/21 academic session). A Research Training Support Grant will support research related expenses including conference attendance and fieldwork expenses.

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