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You are reading: NCSEHE Webinar — Moving into, through and beyond STEM degrees: A student equity perspective

Event information

The NCSEHE hosted a webinar on Friday 27 August, drawing on new research to improve support for equity students moving into, through and beyond science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) degrees.

Researchers from the University of South Australia, the Mitchell Institute at Victoria University, and the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) presented fresh insights to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds realise their potential through STEM pathways.

Event overview

Measures of STEM participation, completion, and employment outcomes for equity students are commonly lower than for their more advantaged peers, although academic ability and aspiration often exceeds that of their counterparts.

A body of research funded by the NCSEHE has sought to identify new opportunities, at critical touchpoints across the educational journey, to better support disadvantaged students in achieving fulfilling employment in STEM fields.

In this webinar, three research teams funded through the 2019–20 NCSEHE Research Grants Program presented selected findings from their projects, providing recommendations for policy and practice targeting key stages of the student life cycle, as mapped in the Equity Initiatives Framework (Bennett et al., 2015).

The audience were given the opportunity for live Q and A during the session.

Webinar recording



Pre-access — Creativity in STEM programs shapes students’ attitudes and intentions


This study explored the use of an innovative light-touch research method to provide useful evaluative data on students’ attitudes towards their school subjects and how these change across year groups and in response to outreach programs and other changes to their learning program. In this presentation, the research team will discuss key findings around engaging school students in STEM subjects. The research found that incorporating creative principles into learning programs effected positive changes in students’ attitudes towards STEM subjects and towards further study in these areas after school. The study also found students appeared to be forming ideas of which career pathways may be suitable for them earlier than expected, which has particular implications for programs that seek to increase equitable participation in the STEM areas post-secondary school.

Associate Professor Simon Leonard and Dr John Kennedy, University of South Australia


Participation Re-imagining participation: Equity lessons from a radical first-year model for STEM students at Victoria University 


A crisis in first-year outcomes led to radical transformation at Victoria University: the Block Model. This presentation will introduce new research looking inside the ‘black box’ of the Block Model, and why it has lifted achievement and retention for first-year students, especially those from equity groups. The research team interviewed leaders, academic teaching staff, and STEM students, and discovered that the Block Model’s impact on equity resulted from using existing resources in innovative ways, including time, knowledge, relationships and data. This presentation will provoke other institutions to re-examine how they use these resources in first year and beyond, and re-imagine how they can transform student participation.

Associate Professor Jen Jackson, Mitchell Institute at Victoria University

Attainment and Transition Out — Entering the STEM workforce: the impact of equity, motivation and prior achievement


This study explored STEM pathways for young people in equity groups as they progress from secondary school, through post-school education and into the workforce. The presentation will focus primarily on the final step in the pathways explored—entry into the STEM workforce—and then wind back to examine some critical factors during the school years that influence pathways into STEM. The research used data from the Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth (LSAY) and the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) for tracking a cohort of young people from age 15 to 25. The study focused on young people from low socioeconomic status backgrounds, non-metropolitan areas, first in family to enrol at university, and women.

Dr Daniel Edwards, Dr Sarah Buckley and Dr Sheldon (Sam) Rothman, Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER)



A/Prof. Simon Leonard is UniSA’s Associate Professor of STEM Education. His research focuses on understanding how the innovative approaches to teaching and learning needed in STEM—and other learning areas—can be adopted in sustainable and scalable ways. With a view to preparing young people to meet the contemporary challenges of a complex world, Simon’s research looks at how teachers and schools can better implement innovative pedagogies including embodied learning, experiential learning, computational thinking, blended learning and gamification.

Dr John Kennedy is a Research Fellow in UniSA Education Futures and a member of the Centre for Change and Complexity in Learning (C3L). He was a Physics teacher and Head of Science for 15 years before moving into academic research. His industry engaged research sits at the nexus of educational theory and classroom practice and is focussed on students’ attitudes to schooling, in particular the impact of changing pedagogies on attitudes to STEM subjects, leading to real change in real school settings. John’s research also focusses on expanding methodologies for real world impact and effective change in schools. His research program results in rich data that can be used to shape data-driven discussions among teachers, school leaders and policy writers.

A/Prof. Jen Jackson is Associate Professor of Education Policy at the Mitchell Institute at Victoria University. Jen has held a range of education research and policy roles, across early childhood, school and tertiary education. Jen has a particular interest in how higher education and vocational education and training (VET) can work together to improve equity and opportunity.

Dr Daniel Edwards

Dr Daniel Edwards is Director of the Tertiary Education Research program at ACER. Dan has a keen interest in all aspects of education policy and has explored issues relating to graduate outcomes, supply and demand, and student aspirations and pathways. Dan is a member of the Australian Government’s Equity in Higher Education Panel. (

Dr Sarah Buckley is a Senior Research Fellow in the Educational Monitoring and Research Division at ACER. Sarah has led several multidisciplinary projects designed to address mathematics anxiety in primary schools and in pre-service teachers, and worked on large-scale international assessments like TIMSS and PISA. (

Dr Sheldon (Sam) Rothman recently retired after 45 years in education, including 19 years at the Australian Council for Educational Research. Much of his research at ACER focused on the senior secondary years of school and young people’s transition to work and further study.