Do outreach activities in secondary STEM education motivate students and improve their attitudes towards STEM?

Johanna Vennix, Perry den Brok, Ruurd Taconis

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    The present study investigated outreach activities, developed by STEM-based companies or universities in co-creation with secondary education with the aim to inform students about and motivate them for a career in STEM by connecting the work-context with school-science. Although many of such activities are being offered, little is known about their effects. We investigated students’ perceptions with the outreach learning environment, perceived need-fulfilment, self-reported motivation and attitudes towards STEM. Data were gathered from 729 high-school students engaged in 12 activities in the USA and the Netherlands. The students completed a questionnaire, which contained questions about four elements of our theoretical frame based on the Self-Determination-Theory (SDT). Perceived needs-fulfilment and motivation were measured using the basic-psychological-needs-scale and the self-regulation-questionnaire. Attitudes were measured using the test-of-science-related-attitudes. Learning environment perceptions were measured in a previous study using subscales of what-is-happing-in-this-classroom (WIHIC), constructivist-learning-environments-scale (CLES) and classroom-environment-scale (CES) and typified by activity characteristics. Multilevel analyses of variance were conducted for the two motivation scales (controlled and autonomous-motivation) and the two attitude scales (social-implication and career-interest). Activity characteristics explained almost all variance in these variables between activities. Specific characteristics of outreach activities that statistically significantly related to autonomous motivation and positive general attitudes towards STEM were: workshop-format, understanding science, an out-of-school component. The attitude towards a possible STEM-career was positively associated with autonomous-motivation and negatively associated with controlled-motivation. Thus, outreach learning environments indeed created opportunities to increase students’ motivation in STEM and attitude towards STEM, but the impact varied according to particular characteristics of the activities.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1263-1283
    Number of pages21
    JournalInternational Journal of Science Education
    Issue number11
    Publication statusPublished - 24 Jul 2018


    • motivation
    • Outreach
    • secondary education
    • STEM
    • subject-related attitudes


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