Only 5% of primary school teachers have a science related degree (Department for Education, 2013), and yet research shows that children (particularly girls) develop their attitudes towards STEM as a potential career before the age of 11 (Archer et al., 2013). Improvements in teachers’ attitudes to a subject can lead to a positive impact not only on children’s performance but also on their engagement and enjoyment (Ofsted, 2011). This highlights the importance of addressing and positively influencing pre-service teachers by cultivating positive dispositions and beliefs towards subjects such as science and engineering during their training (Jung & Rhodes, 2008).
This presentation will describe such a project; the development of a collaboration between science communication researchers and science education teaching professionals. Through the project, student engineers were paired with pre-service teachers to respectively mentor each other in STEM subject knowledge and communication skills. The paired peer mentors then worked through teaching materials about an engineering design process (ENGINEER, 2015) to present to children (N=269) in primary schools. The children engineered their own designs which they presented in a university environment to learn about the scientific communication process.
A pre and post longitudinal mixed methods design was employed to measure change in attitudes and Education Outreach Self-Efficacy in student engineers; alongside attitudes, Teaching Engineering Self-Efficacy and Engineering Subject Knowledge Confidence in pre-service teachers. Highly significant improvements were noted in the pre-service teachers’ confidence and self-efficacy; while both the teachers and engineers qualitatively described benefits arising from the paired peer mentor model (Fogg-Rogers, Edmonds, & Lewis, 2016). The successful pilot project has now been expanded with HEFCE funding to develop a degree module for engineering students and pre-service teachers. A new network for professional teachers and STEM outreach practitioners has also been created (Curiosity Connections) to further enhance continuing professional development in this sector.