Collabor8: (Re-) Engaging female secondary cohorts in STEM subjects

Publisher:
School of Engineering, Deakin University, Victoria, Australia
Publication Type:
Conference Proceeding
Citation:
Proceedings of Australasian Association for Engineering Education Conference, 2015, pp. 783 - 794 (12)
Issue Date:
2015-12-05
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Demand for skilled professionals in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is projected to increase significantly with 75% of the fastest growing occupations requiring STEM skills (Australian Industry Group, 2013). Yet, over the past 20 years, Australia has seen significant decline in the number of secondary students - particularly girls - electing to study science and advanced mathematics (Office of Chief Scientist, 2014). A 2014 national STEM strategy from the Office of the Chief Scientist recommended support for `high levels of participation and success in STEM [education] for all Australians, including women, Indigenous students and students from disadvantaged and marginalised backgrounds’. Recent research builds on previous work (e.g. Fine et al, 2010; Lyons et al, 2012; Sikora, 2012; Mills et al, 2010). Zecharia et al identify three key factors found to be influencing young women’s participation in STEM subjects: 1. Relevance of STEM to sense of identity and future aspirations. 2. Perceived actual and relative ability in STEM subjects. 3. ‘Science capital’ - or experience of STEM, including formal and informal exposure to STEM subjects and careers through the curriculum, schooling, media, culture, family and personal connections’ (Zecharia et al., 2014 p.9). This paper introduces Collabor8, an engineering and IT outreach program for junior female students from high schools serving low socio-economic communities. Collabor8 will test the relative importance of Zecharia et al’s three key factors for participants’ interest in STEM; intention to select STEM subjects in senior high school and tertiary study, and evaluate the chosen outreach model.
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