Effects of STEM Guest Speaker Sessions on Student Interest in STEM
This is a case study in a rural Southeastern school district of the effectiveness of STEM guest speaker sessions at increasing pre-K–12 student interest in STEM and STEM careers, which traditional STEM education fails to adequately do. I attempt to determine whether STEM guest speaker sessions improve student attitudes; whether they empower teachers and speakers; and whether the results depend on teacher, speaker, or student/school demographics. Voluntary response samples of public school teachers and area STEM professionals (employees and university students) filled out pre-session and post-session surveys. Pre-session surveys consisted of demographic questions as well as Likert questions about students’ attitudes toward STEM and the participant’s attitude toward his or her role in STEM education. After a session, teacher and speaker answered the same attitude questions as well as some Likert questions about how the speaking session went. I find statistically significant (α = 0.05) changes in several mean ratings for the Likert attitude questions, suggesting that speaking sessions are effective at improving student attitudes and that they do empower teachers in STEM education. Responses to the pre-session speaker survey suggest little room for speaker attitude improvement. However, a small sample size and homogeneity of the teacher sample prevents analysis based on demographics. Likewise, results cannot be safely generalized beyond grades 2–4 at high-poverty rural schools with few STEM opportunities. The promising results suggest similar studies with different demographics or more diverse samples.
Keywords: STEM education, guest speakers