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Interventions with parents push kids to pursue science classes

Roheeni Saxena
https://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/stem_education_list.jpgIdeally, we'd like some of the most talented students to get involved in STEM education—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. But many potentially talented students choose not to enroll in these courses early in their education, making it less likely that they can become adequately prepared for STEM careers. Figuring out how to get and keep students interested has been a big challenge, but a new study suggests that we might be targeting the wrong audience with some of our programs.
In a randomized controlled trial, when parents were given an intervention that emphasized the importance of STEM subjects in high school, their children were more likely to complete coursework in the area and pursue STEM-related careers. These findings suggest that educational policies that inform parents about the importance of math and science could help ensure that more students are prepared for futures in science.
The study recruited families in the state of Wisconsin between 1990 and 1991, when mothers were first pregnant. These families and their children were studied to pursue various research aims in the intervening decades. The study focused on a subset of this population that included 181 families, with students attending 108 different high schools in the state of Wisconsin. When these children were in 10th or 11th grade, the families were randomly assigned to a STEM intervention or a control one. The intervention came in the form of brochures and access to websites that emphasized the usefulness of STEM education. Eighty-nine percent of the parents reported remembering and using the intervention materials, and 75 percent of the teenagers confirmed that their parents had shared the material with them as well.
This intervention had a significant effect on mathematics and standardized test scores, increasing these ACT scores by approximately 12 percentile points. Additionally, children in families who received the intervention took an average of roughly one additional semester of classes on STEM topics in 11th and 12th grade.
They also tracked the before-and-after performance of individual students on the ACT. The intervention significantly raised individual students’ scores on the math and science portions of the test.
While the results look promising, we can't claim that there's a definitive link between the intervention and this uptick in STEM interest and performance. There was a significant lag time between the two, and many other factors influence STEM career aspirations. The authors did argue that the intervention led to more STEM engagement in students, which then led to more STEM-related career choices, even if the effect was not direct.
These findings present compelling techniques for increasing student engagement in STEM during formative academic years. Showing parents that STEM education can be the key to a stable and fulfilling career may be an effective and low-cost technique to attract more students into these disciplines. Now we just need to ensure that there's enough support for research to make that statement true.
Interventions with parents push kids to pursue science classes Reviewed by Chidinma C Amadi on 7:47 PM Rating: 5

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