STING – STEM Teacher Training Innovation for Gender Balance
The STING project promotes the integration of gender in STEM education through activities in teachers’ professional development. Gender awareness and other forms of teaching and learning practices are important to provide better outcomes, especially in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education. Ultimately, STING’s activities can help teachers find inspiration and suggestions for practices where gender is taken into account in STEM education.
The STING project promotes the integration of gender awareness in STEM education through a modular teachers’ professional development programme. This programme is developed as a toolkit that teacher trainers and teachers can use to increase gender awareness in STEM teaching and learning, as well as to support other teachers to make gender awareness a part of their professional practice.
Careers in STEM continue to be male-dominated. While making great strides in areas such as biological sciences, in general, women continue to be under-represented and marginalised in fields like chemistry, engineering, physics and computer sciences. Whilst women have made significant progress, they are still in the minority in most STEM disciplines, and the proportion of women tends to decrease as the level of seniority / tenure rises.
Although the numbers of males and females participating in and excelling at science are roughly equal throughout primary and secondary school, fewer women enter STEM majors in college, and even fewer graduate with a STEM degree. This pattern continues as fewer women pursue advanced degrees in STEM areas and fewer still obtain jobs in STEM areas.
Country: Cyprus, Denmark, Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom
Coordinator: Elhuyar Fundazioa, Spain.
Target groups: teachers, trainee teachers
Topic: Gender in STEM, Education
Start year: 2014
End year: 2017
Contact person: Danel Solabarrieta, Email d.solabarrieta (at) elhuyar.eus
Professional development programmes are meant to provide teachers with opportunities to further advance their professional abilities in order to be able to teach in particular domains. Current trends in research on teachers’ professional development view teachers as professionals. As such, teachers’ development programmes provide teachers with learning opportunities which can enhance their onsite teaching abilities and introduce them to theory-driven pedagogical changes in their teaching practices.
Research in teachers’ professional development has identified a number of important principles that support teachers and help them develop their skills. Generally speaking, a teachers’ professional development programme can address a great range of teachers’ needs, and help teachers refine their teaching approaches and pedagogy. This can improve teachers’ understanding of changes to everyday practices in particular areas, and help them put those changes into action in their daily teaching activities. Ultimately, this can also help students to learn more effectively.
Issues related to the place, the degree of formality, frequency and duration of programmes in teachers’ professional development influence their effectiveness, as experience over the years has shown. School-based programmes seem to help teachers better identify their needs for professional development and adapt to changes in teaching in their day-to-day activities. Teachers’ professional development programmes which have frequent meetings (e.g. once or twice a month) also demonstrate better outcomes. The same applies to the programmes’ duration. Longer programmes show more sustainable outcomes, as it usually demands a significant amount of time to embed new teaching practices. Research suggests that teachers need time in order to develop, absorb, discuss and implement new practices and knowledge; this applies both the span of time over which professional development is spread and the number of hours spent on such activities. Once teachers start to apply new knowledge and skills to their practices, short professional development programmes offer limited follow-up to teachers and fail to meet the teachers’ ongoing pedagogical needs.
It is also important to consider to what extent the teachers’ professional development should demand collective participation. Changes in teaching behaviour and practices become an ongoing and collective responsibility and can be enhanced by extending the collaboration among teachers, school-based teacher mentors, university researchers and mentors in curriculum development.
It is also important to pay attention to how activities are organised and structured. Productive programmes need to give teachers the chance to identify areas by themselves which require further development. Then, it is also of equal importance that teachers/participants in the programmes become actively engaged in various steps and procedures and that they see themselves as learners.
Based on this, there are a large number of tools that may be useful to educators to support teachers’ professional programmes. These could include the following, amongst others:
- Reflective journals.
- Peer-group meetings without a formal pre-defined agenda.
- Collection of data from a teaching practice.
- An event at the end of a programme, to share knowledge, experiences and expertise.
STING’s objective is to support teachers, so that they can:
- Appreciate the need to integrate gender in educational practice.
- Know that women are under-represented in STEM career subjects.
- Raise gender awareness in teaching and learning and subsequently influence classroom practice.
- Transform gender considerations in professional practice.
- Reflect on the inclusive nature of their STEM teaching and learning.
The purpose of STING is not to enforce a strict gender code, but simply to make educators aware of the subtle influence of gender on classroom atmosphere, activity and learning preferences. Participants in STING activities should enjoy what they do and enjoy what they learn!