It turns out liking science isn’t the same as liking science class.
New reports from sources that advocate for STEM education, found that while teenagers are interested in subjects like physics, biology, and engineering, they tend not to enjoy their in-school classes – based on an online survey of more than 1,500 teens from around the country.
This discrepancy means there’s room both in and out of school to dramatically improve STEM education offerings for teens, mostly by making them more hands-on and engaging.
Some 81 percent of teens said that they were interested in science. Seventy-three percent were interested in biology in particular. But only 37 percent of students said they enjoy their science class, and even fewer — 33 percent — liked biology class. That’s less than the 48 percent who said they enjoyed non-science classes.
The sample was balanced by region and ethnicity. Differences in outcomes by race, ethnicity, and income were tested for significance at the 95 percent confidence interval. All differences noted in the brief and infographic are statistically significant.
Explore the survey outcomes more fully (PowerPoint).
While many teens find more hands-on experiences like field trips and experiments to be most compelling, most instruction in science class involves either textbooks or in-class discussion. A chart compares preferred learning styles compared to teaching methods:
The survey also examined the relationship between students’ family income and access to and interest in STEM fields. Lower-income students were less likely to know an adult involved in biology and less likely to participate in a science club.
Overall, more than 80 percent of teens reported that they thought knowing adults in their desired field of work might help them advance, but just about a third actually knew adults in that field.
The authors of the AmGen and Change the Equation report argue that schools should adopt more inquiry-based STEM curricula and that teachers should receive training in how to teach it. They also argue for stronger ties between businesses and community members and schools.
STEM often makes news when students create or achieve remarkable things—consider thestudents at the White House Science Fair, who shared projects related to everything from pollution to artificial intelligence. The subjects are a priority for federal, state, and local policymakers, who often raise concerns about the dearth of of young people pursuing degrees and career in STEM. The Every Student Succeeds Act, the successor to No Child Left Behind, includes more flexibility for districts and states looking to create or support STEM programs. But this survey hints at the fact that in many schools, science education is still less-than-inspiring.
A few other findings from the report: