What can teachers tell us about engaging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls in STEM?

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17 August 2021

We have released the full findings of a qualitative study exploring educators’ experiences in engaging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

The research focuses on uncovering gendered differences within this student group, and opportunities to improve girl’s engagement in STEM education and careers.

To provide these insights, YouthInsight interviewed teachers working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. Building on the 2020­–21 STEM Influencers, Teachers and Career Advisers survey, the research provides a deeper understanding and much-needed context around particular challenges these students face.

Educators in this sample group highlighted the importance of aligning STEM with girls’ interests to make it more relevant to their experiences. They also believed we need more visible women role models to help improve girls’ attitudes towards STEM.

To provide a more supportive learning environment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, they felt it was important to:

  • facilitate environments where questions can be asked and mistakes learnt from
  • provide access to both men and women teachers or teaching assistants
  • enable girls and boys to work separately from one another
  • focus more on foundational skills like numeracy and English literacy rather than specific subject matter.

Educators also believed that meaningful engagement with and by the community was incredibly important for engaging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in STEM. This increased confidence, behaviour and engagement. Improving cultural understanding among educators was also critical and likely to lead to better outcomes and engagement.

YouthInsight’s research is part of our ongoing work to collect and integrate data on girls’ and women’s participation in STEM.

We published highlights from this study in the 2021 edition of the STEM Equity Monitor in a section on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander engagement.

You can now read the full report on this research.

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Email STEM [at] industry.gov.au