This paper will discuss the Invisible Witnesses project (Carr et al. 2009) that investigated children and young people’s (CYP) understanding and interpretation of representations of STEM on UK television, and the effects these representations might have. In this paper we argue that a focus on television as an out-of-school setting for informal learning about STEM and those who are involved in it is an important and necessary contribution to the efforts to increase the participation of all students, in STEM within school and beyond.

The project, which drew on both quantitative and qualitative methods, involved an investigation of the continuing portrayal of established stereotypes and the possible emergence of new representations of STEM on UK children’s television programmes (Whitelegg et. al. 2008). A key premise that has underpinned the project is that children and young people are not simply passive receivers or consumers of media messages, but active viewers, interpreters and, potentially, producers of media representations. Indeed, we have argued that this process of interpretation plays an important role in the ways in which CYP actively construct their sense of self- concept and their identities. As such, a key aim of this project has been to move away from research methods that focus on the ways in which adult researchers interpret representations of STEM to engage with the insights offered through children’s and young people’s media literacy skills.

In this paper we will discuss the activities carried out with 59 CYP aged 11 to 13 years that were designed to support them in analysing, for themselves, short extracts from television programmes in order to expose the images that these CYP bring about STEM and STEM practitioners and to engage with the “creative” element of their media literacy skills by planning STEM-related television series. We will consider the recommendations from the CYP in this study for the representation of STEM on TV and the elements of STEM programming that these CYP find engaging in order to discuss whether they have the potential to increase CYP’s engagement with STEM.

Full project reports referred to above are available from the project website at http:// www.open.ac.uk/invisible-witnesses.

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 [PCST]
PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Investigating and creating stem identities of scientists for children and young people through TV

Elizabeth Whitelegg   The Open University

Richard Holliman   The Open University

Jennifer Carr   The Open University

This paper will discuss the Invisible Witnesses project (Carr et al. 2009) that investigated children and young people’s (CYP) understanding and interpretation of representations of STEM on UK television, and the effects these representations might have. In this paper we argue that a focus on television as an out-of-school setting for informal learning about STEM and those who are involved in it is an important and necessary contribution to the efforts to increase the participation of all students, in STEM within school and beyond.

The project, which drew on both quantitative and qualitative methods, involved an investigation of the continuing portrayal of established stereotypes and the possible emergence of new representations of STEM on UK children’s television programmes (Whitelegg et. al. 2008). A key premise that has underpinned the project is that children and young people are not simply passive receivers or consumers of media messages, but active viewers, interpreters and, potentially, producers of media representations. Indeed, we have argued that this process of interpretation plays an important role in the ways in which CYP actively construct their sense of self- concept and their identities. As such, a key aim of this project has been to move away from research methods that focus on the ways in which adult researchers interpret representations of STEM to engage with the insights offered through children’s and young people’s media literacy skills.

In this paper we will discuss the activities carried out with 59 CYP aged 11 to 13 years that were designed to support them in analysing, for themselves, short extracts from television programmes in order to expose the images that these CYP bring about STEM and STEM practitioners and to engage with the “creative” element of their media literacy skills by planning STEM-related television series. We will consider the recommendations from the CYP in this study for the representation of STEM on TV and the elements of STEM programming that these CYP find engaging in order to discuss whether they have the potential to increase CYP’s engagement with STEM.

Full project reports referred to above are available from the project website at http:// www.open.ac.uk/invisible-witnesses.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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