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Talking with parents about STEM learning 'can improve pupils' achievement levels'

23/01/2017 Joanna

Parents of secondary school students who spend time talking to their children about the relevance of science and maths classes could make a difference in helping students to achieve more in these subjects.

This is according to new research from the US, which showed that parents may have a bigger role to play in conveying the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects to pupils than previously thought.

For this study, led by the University of Chicago, researchers designed materials to help parents talk to their children about the relevance of STEM fields, specifically highlighting topics of interest such as the role of maths and science in how modern smartphones work, or how the subjects can set people up for specific careers.

Parents participating in a decades-long study in Wisconsin were split into two groups, with one receiving the materials, while the other served as a control group. It was shown that parents who were given the information on the benefits of STEM education saw their children achieve better grades in maths and science, as well as becoming more likely to take elective STEM courses.

This, in turn, affected the number of STEM classes in which students enrolled when they reached further education, influencing the careers they went on to pursue and their overall perception of the value of STEM fields.

The findings indicate that parents have a greater-than-expected effect on shaping the educational perceptions of older children, and that they could therefore be instrumental in encouraging more pupils to study these economically important subjects.

Christopher Rozek, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Chicago, said: "By the time students are teenagers, many parents don't think there is much they can do to change their children's minds or help them be motivated.

"This research shows that parents can still have a substantial effect."

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