Amgen's New STEM Survey Shows What Motivates American Students

(3BL Media/Justmeans) – The Amgen Foundation and Change the Equation (CTEq) have released the results of their latest survey, which throws light on what motivates American high school students to study science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The study, Students on STEM: More Hands-on, Real-World Experiences, was conducted by C+R Research Services, a national marketing research firm specialising in research with youth. A total of 1,569 online surveys were completed by students ages 14-18 years old. Participants were high school students (sophomore, junior and senior levels) currently attending public and private schools in the States. Hispanics and Blacks/African Americans were oversampled to ensure adequate representation, and the data was weighted by ethnicity and region to mirror America’s population.

Overall, the findings reveal that students want additional opportunities that will inspire them to explore careers in scientific fields and that teachers are uniquely positioned to stimulate students’ interest in STEM. Plus, the majority of teenagers like science and understand its value, but mundane teaching methods, such as teaching straight from the textbook, do not engage students in the same way as hands-on, real-life experiences. For example, 81 percent of students are interested in science and 73 percent expressed interest in biology. However, only 37 percent of teenagers said they like their science classes “a lot.” In contrast, 48 percent reported liking non-science classes “a lot.”

The survey also looked beyond the classroom, revealing that most teenagers lack access to additional resources and opportunities to learn more about scientific careers and engage with science professionals; these experiences are critical to developing a lifelong love of science. Most respondents believe knowing an adult in their field of interest would be helpful, yet only 32 percent actually know an adult in a science-based career. While only 33 percent of teenagers have ever been involved in a science club or group, either in or out of school. Low-income teenagers are especially unlikely to have been involved, and are probably unaware of extracurricular science offerings. Low-income students also have the fewest pathways to science careers. They are less likely to know someone who works in biology (19 percent versus 25 percent of higher-income students) and not as likely to have access to career-planning resources.

Helping to create change, over the past two years, CTEq and its corporate partners, including the Amgen Foundation, have rallied around STEMworks programs, bringing them to almost 1 million more youth nationwide. It has enabled science teachers to give their students more hands-on learning experiences and insight into career options and the Amgen Foundation created the Amgen Biotech Experience. This program provides professional development training to teachers along with the state-of-the-art equipment to schools, bringing real-life biotech experiments into the classroom.

We are in an era where scientific advances provide the opportunity to make meaningful progress against some of the world’s most serious diseases. Therefore, to sustain this momentum, the next generation of innovators must be inspired. This study reveals that teachers are critical catalysts to inspiring a love of science in students.

Photo Credit: Amgen/3BL Media