The declining interest of students in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) learning has received significant attention from the international STEM education research community and has been highlighted in the PISA 2012 results. The aims of the proposed project are 1) to design innovative, engaging, digital, and collaborative STEM learning practises in Finnish and Chilean secondary school contexts and 2) to research students’ engagement in STEM learning through the novel Experience Sampling Method (ESM) in order to gain an understanding of what makes learning engaging. In the context of Csikszentmihalyi’s flow theory, a student is considered to be engaged if the pre-conditions of interest, skill, and challenge are optimal for learning. Interest is defined here as a psychological predisposition for a specific object (topic, activity); skill is defined as the mastery of a set of specific tasks; and challenge is defined as a desire to persist in a STEM learning situation.
We will investigate how these pre-conditions vary according to student characteristics (e.g. gender, minorities) and how they vary in STEM classes in the Finnish and Chilean contexts. Moreover, we will research the relationship between optimal STEM learning moments and students’ subjective feelings (enhancers, detractors, accelerants). Our project will result in novel knowledge about secondary students’ situational engagement in STEM learning and about their affective experiences when engaged in such learning. This knowledge will offer much potential for scientific breakthroughs as a result of our project.
Because of several problems in STEM education in Chile and Finland, new STEM curricula for secondary education have been introduced recently. The curricula recommends STEM practices such as asking questions, planning and carrying out investigations, and the versatile use of technology. These practices emphasise student engagement and active participation in specific learning situations that stretch the acquisition of knowledge. We will design STEM learning practices according to these new curricula and conduct research on how engaging they are for secondary students. It is argued that these practices engage students in STEM learning; however, there is no evidence for this claim and, therefore, there exists the potential for novel knowledge.
The ESM allows us to measure precisely the situational engagement of students and its contextual determinants in STEM lessons. Data will be collected from secondary school classes in Chile and Finland using the same methodological approach in both countries, including identical instruments and items and similar sampling parameters.
The outcomes of the project have the potential of being used for the design of engaging STEM practices and the development of teacher education and school reforms in Chile and Finland. This should help to encourage postsecondary enrollments and the pursuit of STEM careers. New knowledge will be available about the participation of women and under-represented minorities in STEM learning at the secondary level in the two countries.