THE SITUATION OF AND THE NEED FOR STEAM NON-FORMAL EDUCATION: THE CONTEXT OF LITHUANIAN TEACHERS’ OPINIONS
Current tendencies of education in Lithuania demonstrate the increasing need for qualified researchers and specialists; the decreasing interest in studies of natural sciences and related professions; the increasing concern about innovations, and, therefore, reducing economic competitiveness; low results in international school students’ achievement (PISA, TIMSS) results. As one of the priorities of the national strategy, STEAM education is one of the ways to solve such situation. To foresee what non-formal education involving STEAM subjects should be in Šiauliai city, the research problem is grounded on the following questions: what is the offer of non-formal education, what are its diversity and quality? what are the expectations of pedagogues?
The research aims to reveal teachers’ attitudes towards the situation of and the need for STEAM subjects in non-formal education in Šiauliai city.
Methodology: In 2017, a written survey of teachers delivering STEAM subjects was carried out in Šiauliai city comprehensive education schools. The researchers designed the research instrument grounding on defined and specified diagnostic areas and characteristics of the research. In order to specify, concretise the research object, operationalization of the research object has been conducted. The data obtained from closed type questionnaires was processed using the methods of statistical analysis. The research involved 96 pedagogues from Šiauliai city comprehensive education schools; these pedagogues had much experience (26 years on the average) of pedagogical work.
Results: Having evaluated the diversity of non-formal education in Šiauliai, it was observed that music education, sports, fine art, dance extra-curricular activities, clubs had been evaluated the best. The quality of these services was evaluated as high. Classes of engineering and natural sciences received the least amount of positive evaluation. Quite many teachers were not completely aware and simply did not evaluate the diversity and quality of the services and subjects such as mathematics, natural sciences and engineering. It can be stated that there are too little of non-formal education classes related to STEAM subjects being held in Šiauliai. The conducted research proves a strong need for establishment of a state-of-the-art, modern, open-access STEAM centre; 88.5% of the respondents together with school students would participate in activities of such a centre, i.e. lessons of physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, computer science, technologies and creative activities, as well as they would attend various non-formal extra-curricular education classes dedicated to these subjects. The most useful forms of teaching and learning in the STEAM centre are defined as follows: an opportunity to independently carry out tests and experiments, to take part in research activities of scientists, available support while preparing for olympiads, examinations etc., team work of school students, construction. Theoretical lessons would be of the least interest for school students. It is important that qualified specialists would work in the STEAM centre; recent equipment, modern learning environment are significant, too. It is important that school students could attend classes not all the time but rather by selecting the most interesting topics and activities, that one institution (STEAM centre) would include many extra-curricular activities, clubs.