A Study of Evaluation Methodologies and Impact of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Outreach Activities

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    It is expected that by 2022, an additional 2.5 million workers with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills will be required globally, although there is a shortfall of around 40,000 STEM graduates per year. Several strategies have been suggested to address this deficit, one of which includes providing STEM outreach activities for school pupils, including interactive STEM workshops, STEM ambassador presentations, master classes, competitions and talks about STEM careers. However, very little research has been conducted that has examined different perspectives and investigated approaches to enhance the delivery, impact and evaluation of STEM outreach. The purpose and significance of this research is to identify and develop an effective STEM outreach model that describes strategies to maximise the efficiency of outreach activities through combining the views of the receiver, facilitator and provider involved in STEM outreach.

    This research utilised a mixed methods approach. Qualitative data was collected through semi-structured interviews with outreach facilitators (practitioners) and teachers specialising in a range of STEM subjects. Both qualitative and quantitative data was collected through surveys with students of different age groups. The research questions focused on STEM outreach practitioners’ and teachers’ perspectives on a range of areas including how students are selected, target year groups, evaluation methodology and factors influencing the impact of STEM outreach. The research also explores students’ perceptions, understanding and aspirations of STEM subjects, careers and examines the evidence for differences based on gender, ethnicity and whether or not a student had participated in a STEM outreach activity.

    The key messages that emerge from this study include the importance of dialogue between outreach practitioners teachers and students. A second important finding is that messages about STEM are most effective by integrating STEM outreach into a school’s ethos and providing all students with an equal opportunity to access the activities provided. Another important finding concerns students’ views on preferred types of activities, which include fun and interactive activities. Gender, ethnicity and participation in STEM outreach activities were found to have significant effect on GCSE and A level students’ aspirations of a STEM career.

    Conclusions from the research include the proposal that every student should be offered STEM outreach throughout their compulsory education, creating more opportunities to positively influence and inspire them towards STEM education and careers. It is suggested that a generic evaluation tool is developed in order to capture more rigorous and meaningful data. It is also identified that the need is that STEM community should develop a STEM outreach Quality Framework and STEM outreach practitioners training qualification in order to ensure maximum interaction and impact on young people. Finally, to support planning and delivery for future outreach activities, a prototype model has been recommended as part of this research. If implemented the enhanced provision of activities should help to effectively address the shortage of high quality STEM graduates and professionals.

    Date of Award2016
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorFarzana Aslam (Supervisor), Duncan Lawson (Supervisor) & Irene Glendinning (Supervisor)


    • STEM Outreach

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