NPP Projects

Adding to the Pipeline: Improving Numeracy Skills and Career Outcomes for Low Socioeconomic Status (SES) Students

Lead University: University of Western Australia

Lead Researcher: Louise Pollard

Research Team: Louise Pollard, Judy Skene, Clare Senior and Jasmine Chan

Year Funded: 2015

Funding Received: $184,073

DOI: 10.6084/m9.figshare.6969467.v1

 

Abstract

The Adding to the Pipeline project addressed the gap in the awareness and aspiration of low SES students to study STEM subjects at university. Numeracy workshops for early secondary school students were conducted in metropolitan and regional areas to link numeracy skills development with enhanced career options. Accompanying activities and resources were produced, and professional development workshops facilitated with representatives from partner schools.

Project Outline

  • The Adding to the Pipeline project was to address the gap in the awareness of low socioeconomic status (SES) students of the importance of studying Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects in order to maintain or expand their future career options.
  • Other identified objectives were to:
    • design and trial innovative activities for early secondary school students to link numeracy skills development to exciting career options
    • inspire and encourage low SES students to study mathematics and other STEM subjects by identifying the pathways university study provides to future careers.
  • The components of the project:
    • Numeracy themed workshops were developed for use during school visits.
    • Activities and accompanying resources were developed and trialed.
    • Careers in Maths resources were developed, including profiles from across the sector.
    • Numeracy workshops were facilitated by volunteer presenters in participating schools throughout Perth and also in selected regional Western Australia.
    • Professional development workshops were facilitated with representatives from partner schools.
  • Adding to the Pipeline was launched on 11 March 2016 and the project engaged 1644 secondary school students in activities throughout the year.

Key Findings

  • Year 7 and Year 8 workshops were successfully developed and implemented. The workshops were positively received by schools and students. Demand from school was particularly strong, with 70 workshops run across schools in 2016. The University of Western Australia (UWA) Aspire program received requests from 23 partner schools to run the workshops in 2017 and both workshops were embedded into the core Aspire UWA program.
  • The importance of mathematics in all careers was effectively demonstrated through the activities.
    • In a survey, 95 per cent of teachers agreed that the activities demonstrated the importance of mathematics in students’ future careers.
    • After participating in workshops, 97 per cent of students agreed that mathematics is important in many careers and 93 per cent of students agreed that mathematics can be used to solve problems throughout life.
  • Teacher engagement was exceptionally positive, with two focus groups held. Teachers expressed a desire to see the workshops continue.
  • Volunteer engagement, while very useful, was lower than expected. It was agreed to award a bursary or scholarship to students committing to delivering workshops in 2017 to encourage future participation by university students.
  • Resource distribution was successful. Resources were developed in 2016 but their distribution was delayed until early 2017. In total, 31 school resource packs were assembled. The numeracy kits contained physical materials to support numeracy development in the classroom as well as extension activities to build upon the in-classroom workshops.
  • A survey completed by 1066 students included questions on their attitudes towards mathematics, higher education and their opinion of the in-school workshops, as well as demographic data. Sixty-five per cent of student felt a positive change in attitude towards mathematics.

Summary prepared by the NCSEHE.


 

Posted 7 June 2018