Summary of the Impact:
Improving mathematics proficiency among Irish school children has long been a topic of national debate. The research team at EPI*STEM, the national centre for STEM Education based at the University of Limerick (UL), play a key role in highlighting the subject’s challenges and providing solutions. EPI*STEM’s research uncovered a fundamental barrier to mathematical attainment. Their 2009 study (1) reported that almost half (48%) of those teaching mathematics at post-primary level were not adequately qualified to do so: in other words, they were teaching out-of-field (OOF). These results led to EPI*STEM launching a dedicated upskilling programme, the Professional Diploma in Mathematics Teaching (PDMT), in 2012. The programme is government funded, recognised by the Teaching Council, and delivered through a national network of 14 teacher education partners. To date, 1100 teachers have graduated the programme. Through their focus on STEM research and education, EPI*STEM have: impacted mathematical proficiency among post-primary students; addressed the imbalance in the numbers and age-profile of qualified mathematics teachers within the education system; and contributed to improving the knowledge, confidence, and classroom practice of mathematics teachers throughout Ireland. A 2018 study by EPI*STEM (2) found the rate of OOF teaching has since reduced to 25%.
EPI*STEM’s research uncovered a fundamental barrier to mathematical attainment.