Project-based learning activities in high school increase women’s interest in STEM
In the United States, many students, especially women, do not pursue STEM because their interest in it is not fostered and the content is not tailored to their interests. In 2017, the number of STEM job openings outnumbered the amount of available graduates.
Dr. Mary Margaret Capraro and Dr. Robert Capraro, professors in the Department of Teaching, Learning and Culture and directors of AggieSTEM, recognized the importance of encouraging students to pursue STEM careers and set out to discover how to increase interest in these fields.
“Women are underrepresented in STEM and, therefore, identifying strategies that promote and encourage young women to enter the STEM field is paramount,” Mary Margaret Capraro said.
To increase women’s interest in STEM, the Capraros developed an instructional and teacher training model that promoted STEM for high school girls. The study was conducted over four years to examine how STEM project-based learning activities affected the success of high school girls as compared to high school boys in mathematics, science and english. Scores of the state-mandated Texas test were examined and analyzed throughout the students’ four high school years.
The results showed that there was an important improvement for both girls and boys, as seen in how their scores accelerated over time. Most importantly, girls began to select science and mathematics courses that were not required in their high school curriculum, showing a significant increase in women’s interest in STEM.
In addition to encouraging high school girls to pursue further education in STEM, project-based learning activities had other benefits as well.
“We were very pleased at the results on their state tests, but even happier that the results included a larger number of girls staying in high school and not dropping out,” Mary Margaret Capraro explained.
The Capraros recommend that teachers invest in their STEM content knowledge and pedagogy, and encourage teachers to take the time to plan STEM project-based learning activities for their students.
Encouraging students’ interest in STEM through project-based learning activities has significant benefits for the future. Continuing the implementation of these activities in high school can decrease the dropout rate of females, encourage further education in STEM and fill crucial positions in STEM employment.
About the Writer
Ashley is a graphic design intern in the College of Education and Human Development from Katy, Texas. She graduated from Texas A&M University in 2021 with a B.A. in Communication and a minor in Spanish.
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