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Tinkering as an inclusive approach for building STEM identity and supporting students facing disadvantage or with low science capital

  • August 2020
  • Education & learning
  • Book or article
Tinkering as an inclusive approach for building STEM identity and supporting students facing disadvantage or with low science capital: Considerations from a reflective practice experience with teachers Published in 2020

From 2017 to 2020, the Erasmus+ -funded project ‘Tinkering EU: Building Science Capital for All’ has brought together science education practitioners from across the informal and formal education sectors to explore the potential benefits of using Tinkering pedagogy with young people facing economic, social and cultural disadvantage with the aim of strengthening their STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) identity and helping them to build transferable 21st century skills.

This document summarises the impact of the project through the description of the work carried out over three years which brought together museum educators and teachers to develop their practice and explore how Tinkering pedagogy could be used to develop more engaging, inclusive and equitable STEM learning experiences for learners facing educational, social, cultural or economic disadvantage.

  • Section 1 describes the evolution of the collaborative work with schools, including the project methodology, and information about recruiting and working with the participating teachers and schools who met the target criteria for the project.
  • Section 2 presents the tools created to support teachers to observe the broad-ranging learning outcomes that Tinkering experiences can elicit, as well as to reflect on the experience in relation to their individual students and their own pedagogical practice. It also outlines how this information, gathered from the participating teachers, was analysed in order to gain insights into the impact of the project work strands in relation to the key aims of the project.
  • Section 3 presents and discusses the findings of the evaluation work of the project which has explored the benefits of Tinkering pedagogy for increasing inclusion in STEM learning, as well as how the experience of taking part in this project may have influenced the teachers’ own practice in their classrooms and schools.
  • Section 4 provides a summary of the key findings from the project that have implications for future work in this area using Tinkering pedagogy as part of a widening participation and social justice agenda to create more equitable and inclusive STEM learning approaches for all learners, but particularly for those facing disadvantage.

This is the final output of ‘Tinkering EU: Building Science Capital for All’. It brings together three years of work that started with theoretical considerations regarding the relationship between Tinkering as a pedagogical approach, students’ individual science capital and inclusive STEM teaching approaches, continued with teacher training and testing of activities with students in each country, to end up with a specifically-designed reflective practice process that offered structured insights on how Tinkering is and can be integrated into school practice.

Supporting our arguments – as well as any recommendations of activities or tools – about the potential of Tinkering to increase science capital with empirical data and teachers’ own reflections has been considered fundamental for the objective of this project. Such empirical data back our insistence for pedagogies that help improve learning in science and contribute to developing 21st Century skills: creativity, innovation, entrepreneurship, critical thinking.

At the same time, the tools used for observation and reflection, although specifically designed for this project, can indicate ways for informal and formal educators to delve deeper into the constituent elements and dynamics of pedagogy and their students' learning experience.

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