Understanding teachers' and pupils' perspectives on participation in project-based science

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Sch of Education and Lifelong Learning


I plan to conduct a mixed methods study to explore beliefs about and practices of STEM integration through project work among secondary school science, maths, ICT/computing and design technology teachers in England. Through a combination of cross-sectional surveys and individual case studies, I hope to identify how teachers' epistemological and pedagogical beliefs about STEM are formed and how they differ between subject specialists. I will then examine teachers' actual practices of STEM integration with particular emphasis on any mismatches between belief and practice. Using the sociocultural model of embedded belief systems as a framework, I will examine the features of the school culture and wider environment that inform these beliefs and practices. It is hoped that this research will contribute to the national and international debate around the purposes and nature of STEM education as well as inform the planning of effective CPD to enable teachers to understand and explore their own beliefs and practices. I will not be undertaking any overseas fieldwork or difficult language training.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000630/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
1605771 Studentship ES/P000630/1 01/10/2015 31/12/2021 Jill Noakes
Description Preliminary findings from pilot interviews indicate that science teachers engage in project-based science activities for a variety of reasons, often unrelated to the science curriculum itself. In several cases it they were considered to be a sort of antidote to the content-driven, performance-oriented demands of the science curriculum and the sort of science teaching that this gives rise to. Many of the teachers highlighted the virtues of giving pupils the opportunity to take ownership of a project, to make mistakes, to choose their own approach to a problem and to pursue their own interests in a supported environment. At best, some science teachers regard these activities as a vital opportunity for pupils to engage with science in more meaningful ways. However, contradictory aims and motives as well as conflicts with other activities undertaken in schools sometimes lead to the collapse of an activity or to disappointing outcomes. Agency has emerged as a key theme and I am in the process of developing an activity theory approach combined with other theories of agency to take account of multiple perspectives and motives, social and structural aspects of the school environment and the potential of aligning all these factors to create learning that is transformative for individuals and wider communities.
Exploitation Route It is too early to say, but I hope that it will enable teachers to reflect on their own aims for embarking on project-based activities, to design them with pupils' motives and agencies in mind and to harness the tools, communities and ways of working that facilitate expanded educational outcomes.
Sectors Education