TU Dublin project secures €4m in Horizon 2020 funding
Technological University Dublin (TU Dublin) will coordinate an international research project, which aims to enhance the spatial ability of young people and to help close the gender gap in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).
The multi-agency project, titled Spatially Enhanced Learning Linked to STEM (SellSTEM), was awarded €4.12 million in funding from the Marie Skłodowska Curie Innovative Training Network under Horizon 2020.
Research has shown that those with high levels of spatial ability are much more likely to succeed in STEM subjects, enjoy doing them and select them for further education and careers compared to those with low spatial ability.
Over four years SellSTEM, which is a consortium of ten European universities and eight non-academic partners, will recruit and train 15 PhD students to develop innovative and practical approaches to improve spatial ability among young people in Europe, so they are better prepared for learning science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects.
The large gender gap in spatial ability in favour of males means women are over-represented in the low spatial ability group and more disadvantaged in STEM learning. It has been suggested, however, that factors other than biology may be important drivers of this difference. Psychologists at Emory University One found that males gain advantage in mental-rotation performance during the first years of formal schooling, this advantage grows with age.
“SellSTEM will train researchers to collect spatial ability data from children in Europe to measure it against academic performance and career choice and analyse the interaction by gender, region and socioeconomic status,” said Dr Gavin Duffy, TU Dublin. “Our researchers will also develop methods to foster spatial ability among children through online learning, tactile activities, maker-space workshops, project-based learning, and integrated with the STEM curriculum.
“They will work with teachers and teacher educators to identify barriers and enablers to developing spatial ability so they can provide sustainable classroom solutions to raise the spatial ability of children above existing levels. SellSTEM brings fresh thinking to promoting STEM education and careers, including addressing the gender gap in STEM enrolment, thereby enabling Europe to achieve its agenda for growth and jobs.”
Members of the SellSTEM consortium, include Technological University Dublin, Technische Universiteit Delft, Bangor University, Norges Teknisk-Naturvitenskapelige Universitet – NTNU, Latvijas Universitāte, Universiteit Leiden, Paris-Lodron-Universität Salzburg – PLUS, Universität Regensburg, Universität Koblenz-Landau and Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan – KTH, Microsoft Ireland Operations, Stichting VHTO, SAP Service and Support Centre, Ionad Oideachais Mhuineacháin, De Galan School Voor Training, Science Hub TU Delft, Marino Institue of Technology, Stichting Waag Society and VHTO, National Expert Organisation on Girls/Women and Science/Technology, Netherlands.