Students' voice: The missing piece in STEM policy and practice

Year: 2017

Author: Arnold, Zoe, Zipf, Reyna

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Recent international test results (such as TIMSS and PISA) indicate that the scientific literacy of Australian school students continues to demonstrate alarming decline. Initiation of a national STEM agenda offers promise of reform which will re-invigorate school science in terms of both curriculum and pedagogy. This paper argues that the success of these initiatives is dependent upon recognition of student voice, an element most often silenced during policy inception. In order to action effective change in school science education, careful consideration of student's own perceptions and lived experiences of science are critical. The findings reported in this paper are part of a larger qualitative research project which uses case study methodology to examine the implications of teacher scaffolding on student engagement and persistence in science. A questionnaire was developed to give voice to students' views and perceptions of science and was trialled with 50 Australian secondary school science students. The questionnaire comprised open-ended question prompts in combination with a series of likert-type scaled questions based on Wang et al's (2016) Math and Science Engagement Scales. Responses were analysed across four key organisers: student's perceptions of science as a lived experience, their perceptions of what school science should be, their feelings towards science, and the way student's assign value or relevance to school science using grounded theory techniques of coding, categorising and theme identification. Findings suggest that adopting a critical approach towards students' voice has potential to inform and progress an agenda responsive to how students think about and engage with science. Students' voice is not a magic panacea, but listening may enable small steps towards a STEM infused Australia to be made.