Students in theatre seating in front of lecturer
Article: “Does attending a large science event enthuse young people about science careers?”

What do we know?

  • The prevailing view of STEM career progression holds that interest in science and mathematics decreases over time as students move through the education system. Yet evidence also suggests that access to information about science-related career paths plays an important role in decisions to pursue a science career: with greater access to information about science-related career paths potentially mitigating a declining interest in STEM.
  • Science events provide an important opportunity for students to foster a stronger commitment to science, engage in self-motived science learning, and to learn more about science-related careers.
  • Although youth who attended the University of Manchester’s Science Extravaganza learned something new (96%), learned more about the science and engineering courses you can study in college (82%), and had the opportunity to speak with a student/researcher about their work (78%), less than half of students (46%) indicated they were more likely to pursue a career in science as a result of the event.
  • When encouraging youthful attendees to pursue a career in STEM is a goal of an event, organizers of large infrequent events may further enthuse science career aspirations by: (1) encouraging researchers to engage in bi-directional conversations with students about their own work, students’ career aspirations, and why each chose their respective paths; (2) preparing takeaway materials that focus on different scientific careers that can be readily used by teachers during their instruction; (3) promoting visibility of and give greater voice to non-academic, science professionals; and (4) inviting scientific recruiting companies and agencies to attend, if the event design allows.

How do we know?

Questionnaires were distributed to students and teachers to better understand the impact that attending the University of Manchester’s 2014 Science Extravaganza event had on attendees’ perceptions of science researchers and science career aspirations. Students and teachers received different surveys, each of which included a prescribed set of statements for which respondents indicated their agreement.

Where do we go to learn more?

Sam Illingworth, Emma Lewis, & Carl Percival. (2015). “Does attending a large science event enthuse young people about science careers?” JCOM, 14(02), A06.