Complexity, intellectual challenge and ongoing support: key learning conditions to enhance students’ engagement in STEM education.

D. Corrigan, K. Smith

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Research


    There is a challenge in maintaining student enrolment in STEM beyond the compulsory years of school. Motivation to learn in these areas requires teachers to attend to personal values and dispositions of their students, provide opportunities to develop a sense of achievement and positive self-efficacy with positive role models for a diversity of learners. While these intrinsic factors are important to attend to, extrinsic factors such as the contextual reality for students (home and school), interactions between teachers, students, parents and other persons of influence and the nature of the learning experience are also important.
    Additionally, the quality of the learning experiences is strongly influenced by student intellectual, affective and behavioural engagement in an environment where social and cultural factors and the very nature of the learning environment itself is valued through providing consistency of the environmental complexity for all learners together with challenge and support within this environment. In considering the complexity of an online learning environment first in a unique secondary school context in NVSES and extended to what was learnt in the online tertiary learning environment, it can be seen how these factors play out in promoting student engagement in STEM learning. It is hoped that such engagement will play a significant role in maintaining consistent students’ enrolments in STEM beyond compulsory years of schooling.
    In these examples, consideration was given to:
    • the capacity for students to identify and see themselves in these STEM careers, particularly for girls and despite gender stereotyping in some disciplines and the lack of appropriate role models for some ethnic minorities.
    •The nature of students’ engagement in providing insights into why students might invest in STEM learning and maintain active participation and ongoing study in this area.
    •Learning as a social and transactional process and therefore learning is more likely to occur in environments where students and teachers socially co-construct knowledge.
    •The learning environment as complex, intellectually challenge and supportive.

    The development of the online environments in NVSES and the Graduate Certificate of STEM education provide examples of complex learning environments where the engagement of students was a central consideration in their development and implementation.

    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationEngaging Learners with Chemistry
    Subtitle of host publicationProjects to Stimulate Interest and Participation
    EditorsIlka Parchmann, Shirley Simon, Jan Apotheker
    Place of PublicationCroydon UK
    PublisherThe Royal Society of Chemistry
    Number of pages16
    ISBN (Electronic)9781788016087, 9781839161278
    ISBN (Print)9781788015080
    Publication statusPublished - 2020

    Publication series

    NameAdvances in Chemistry Education Series
    PublisherRoyal Society of Chemistry
    ISSN (Print)2056-9335
    ISSN (Electronic)2056-9343


    • STEM learning environments,
    • student engagement
    • online learning environments

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