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ASPIRES 2

Longitudinal research project studying young people's science and career aspirations.

This project was first based at King's College London, having moved to the UCL Institute of Education in March 2017. It is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

Biology practical experiment

ASPIRES

The first ASPIRES study tracked the development of young people's science and career aspirations from age 10-14 (from 2009-2013). ASPIRES 2 is continuing to track young people until age 19, to understand the changing influences of the family, school, careers education and social identities and inequalities on young people's science and career aspirations.

Aims

ASPIRES 2 aims to address the following five questions:

  1. How are students' educational and occupational aspirations formed, and how do they change, over time?
  2. How are subject choices and (GCSE) attainment related to aspirations, and how are these patterned over time?
  3. How are aspirations shaped by families and schools (including experiences of school science and careers education)?
  4. How are aspirations shaped by gender, class and ethnic identities?
  5. How can findings be translated for stakeholder audiences, specifically for policy-makers/intermediaries, teachers, students and parents/families?
Background

Participation in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) is an international priority for government, industry and the science education policy and practice community. There is widespread concern that participation in STEM needs to be improved for reasons of both national economic competitiveness and social equity.

The first ASPIRES study tracked the development of young people's science and career aspirations from age 10-14 (from 2009-2013).

We found that most young people, from primary through to secondary school, find school science interesting. However, interest in science does not translate into post-16 participation and careers - with only 15% of 10-14 year olds interested in becoming a scientist.

Further details:

ASPIRES 2 is continuing to track young people until age 19 to understand the changing influences of the family, school, careers education and social identities and inequalities on young people's science and career aspirations.

Crucially, this research relates these aspirations to students' attainment in national examinations and their post-16 and post-18 choices. This tracking of young people's aspirations and educational outcomes until age 19 comprises the crucial 'final link' in our longitudinal project, and will have strong bearing on educational policy and practice.

ASPIRES 2 extends the unique dataset developed by the first ASPIRES study. Building on our previous research, we are continuing to track our students over the crucial next five years in order to understand the changing influences of the family, school, careers education and social identities and inequalities on young people's science and career aspirations.  

Comparison of survey responses from years 6, 8, 9, 11, and 13 students

The ASPIRES 2 study is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council - Grant Number ES/L002841/1.

Methodology

ASPIRES 2 extends the unique dataset developed by the first ASPIRES study, which tracked the development of young people's science and career aspirations from age 10-14. The project follows the same cohort of students from our first study, from age 15 to age 19.

Quantitative and qualitative data

The study uses both quantitative and qualitative data, which includes:

  • Two large-scale student surveys collecting data from a nationally representative sample of students (c. 7,000-14,000 per sweep)

    We gathered data from our cohort of students in Year 11 (age 15/16) via a survey, online from September to December 2014, administered by the National Foundation for Education Research (NFER). The survey was completed by over 13,445 students recruited from 340 secondary schools in England (296 state schools and 44 independent). Our final survey tracked our cohort of students whilst they were in Year 13, and was live from October 2016 to February 2017. The survey, administered by EdComs, collected data from over 7,000 students studying in sixth forms and higher education institutions around the country' from students in Year 13 (age 17/18).
  • Two sets of interviews, conducted in Year 11 and Year 13 with c.80 pupils and c.60 of their parents (all previously tracked from Years 6-9, age 10-14)

    Our Year 11 interviews, conducted in spring 2015, collected data from 70 students and 66 of their parents. The interviews, conducted by members of the ASPIRES 2 team, lasted between 30 minutes and 1 hour (with students) and up to 1.5 hours (with parents).

    Our Year 13 interviews track the same cohort of students and their parents, forming a longitudinal set of qualitative data on aspirations stretching over eight years.

All project data will be made available via the UK Data Service at the end of the project. For more information about our data or data storage policy please contact us.

Findings

Students with low Science Capital are unlikely to see science as 'for me'

In the first phase of our project, ASPIRES, we introduced the term Science Capital to refer to someone's science-related qualifications, understanding, knowledge (about science and 'how it works'), interest and social contacts (e.g. knowing someone who works in a science-related job).

Enjoyment of Science doesn't translate into science aspirations

Current careers education is patterned by existing social inequalities

The stratification of science at Key Stage 4 may be contributing to the STEM skills gap

Girls pursuing the physical sciences post-16 are exceptional

Read our blog posts summarising our papers on the subject of girls, or femininity, and science:

Team

ASPIRES team
  • Professor Louise Archer - Principal Investigator
  • Professor Becky Francis - Co-investigator
  • Dr Jennifer DeWitt - Co-investigator
  • Dr Julie Moote - Project Research Associate
  • Lucy Yeomans - Project PhD Studentship
  • Emily MacLeod - Project Research Officer
Advisory Group

The ASPIRES 2 team is fortunate to receive support and guidance from:

Newsletters

Summary Reports and Books

Academic Papers

ASPIRES Blog

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