Early Engagement – Tertiary Success: Sustainability Meets Statistics and STEM
Lead University: University of Newcastle
Lead Researcher: Peter Howley
Research Team: Peter Howley, Tim Roberts, Maree Gruppetta
Year Funded: 2016
Funding Received: $134,278
Project-based learning activities and supporting resources were delivered to low socioeconomic status (SES) regional and remote school students, focusing on environmental sustainability and understanding and applying statistics and the sciences. The project aimed to increase student interest, attitudes and aspirations—as well as those of their families and teachers—towards higher education and STEM, and incorporated information on scholarships supporting Indigenous and disadvantaged students.
- The objectives of the project were to:
- deliver project-based learning activities and supporting resources for low SES regional and remote school students which develop scientific and statistical understanding of sustainable energies
- increase student interest, attitudes and aspirations—as well as those of their families and teachers—towards their ability to achieve and succeed in higher education and science.
- The project-based learning activities focused on environmental sustainability and understanding and applying statistics and the sciences.
- The project included the combined services and involvement of:
- academics across three fields: statistics; environmental sustainability; and Indigenous peoples
- project officers and assistants
- eighty-five teachers and principals from 26 schools across four remote New South Wales locations (Broken Hill; Dubbo; Griffith and Orange; and surrounding areas) having a combined total of 10,702 students (423 Indigenous), of which 435 interacted directly with the project team members during school visits
- a team of external digital media consultants.
- The project involved workshops that described and promoted project-based learning activities and supporting resources. It also incorporated information on scholarships supporting Indigenous students and those with educational disadvantage through the University of Newcastle’s Ma & Morley Scholarship Program.
- There was exceptional feedback from teachers and students, during workshops and school visits as well as from surveys. Feelings of connection with, and support from, universities increased by as much as 70 per cent for teachers and 99 per cent for students.
- Fifteen Ma & Morley scholarship applications were received from the areas visited.
- The project provided a solution for teachers who wanted to connect their students with national and inspiring STEM activities without the expense of having to travel to participate.
- The project fostered interdisciplinary and cross-university collaboration, and the team won the University Faculty of Science’s Collaboration Excellence Award.
- The national poster competition (one of the key project-based learning activities underpinning and uniting the collaborative project research), which combined specifically with environmental sustainability in this project and focused on low SES and remote areas, won the 2017 International Statistical Institute’s Best Cooperative project Award.
- The project supported teachers’ abilities to fulfill national curriculum requirements, including the seven General Capabilities and Cross-curriculum priorities for students. The resources and initiative will be used to develop key future workforce skills in students including, but not limited to, STEM careers.
- The sustainability of, and continued engagement with, this project is evident through the schools continuing their participation in these activities.
Summary prepared by the NCSEHE.