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What does research on learners' choice of STEM subjects and careers tell us?

Recently, a rich body of research has contributed to the establishment of the priorities around STEM learning in the form of the national STEM campaign. This has continued and accelerated as an integral part of the promotion of STEM subjects and careers. In this section we consider the main pieces of relevant work. Their findings are not just for your professional interest and development, but can also contribute to information sessions for teachers, advisers, parents and learners.

The important point about research is that it stimulates thought, change, and action on the ground - how will this information influence your practice?

informationWhy is there a STEM campaign?

Read this slidecast which sets out some of the baseline research work that underpins the promotion of STEM learning and careers. Move cursor over presentation to show start, pause, forward and reverse buttons The presentation can be downloaded here: presentation and the Why do we have the STEM campaign? report contains a fuller explanation.


















From this starting point, how has STEM research moved us on in our knowledge and understanding? What have we learned to help us build up the STEM workforce we need for the future?

informationRead these three recent pieces of research:

activityHow could this translate into practice? Choose one of the above, or if you prefer an example from the 'Taking it Further' section below and consider how you would use the information, or ideas to raise awareness of STEM.

assessment_icon Add your ideas to your STEM Careers Personal Action Plan, download here if you don't already have one.

furtherinfoTaking it further...

  1. Lengthening Ladders and Shortening Snakes: Embedding STEM Careers Awareness in Secondary Schools' Oct 2009. (Read the Executive summary)
  2. E4E (Education for Engineering) have published research which examines in detail the levels of participation and attainment in the UK science and maths at Key Stage 4 "Opportunity or Ability?"
  3. Good Timing - Implementing STEM Careers Strategy in Secondary Schools is a report in the Timeline series from The International Centre for Guidance Studies at Derby University
  4. Ofsted's report Girl's Career Aspirations evaluates the extent to which careers education, guidance and other provision raise aspirations and inform the choices of courses and careers by girls and young women. It identifies weaknesses and examples of good practice in these areas.
  5. LSIS (The Learning and Skills Improvement Service) Progression Through STEM report pulls together good practice case studies from the FE and Skills sector. Their Post-16 Participation in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM): Interim Report, focusses on the gap between the numbers of learners studying STEM in schools at A Level, and those studying in Further Education, providing insight into barriers to progression in STEM and challenges specific to FE. Click here for the Executive summary.
  6. The Gatsby Foundation's STEM Careers Review has been extremely influential in forming the current direction of national STEM Careers promotion.
  7. The Science for Careers report, published by the Science and Society Expert Group in March 2010 collates opinion from a wide reaching group of parties about raising awareness, providing information and increasing diversity. Its recommendations include co-ordination of efforts and work concerning graduates.
  8. The Department for Business Innovation and Skills research paper, STEM Graduates into STEM Jobs, explores why so many of those who choose to study STEM subjects at university do not continue into a STEM career.
  9. STEM Subject Choice and Careers: Lessons Learned Part 1 and Part 2. Between the 2 documents there are 11 case studies illustrating good practice. Part 2 explains how funding for the STEM careers awareness project was ended in 2011 and sets out 7 'legacy elements' that schools should follow in order to strengthen the effectiveness of what has already been achieved in STEM careers.
  10. Are you interested in doing some research of your own? The National Guidance Research Forum has a wealth of information on Using research in practice, which aims to:
  • Demystify research by providing a basic introduction to research approaches and processes.

  • Emphasise the benefits of seeing both the perspective of practice and research

  • Promote the view that we can learn from font line search as well as from academic research

  • Signpost possible references and resources on how to approach research


chat_iconAdd any comments in the box below or on the STEM Careers Helping Students Get The Message online community group on the National STEM Centre website.

ForwardMove on to the next section: Effective use of STEM Careers resources