Society is becoming increasingly dependent on technology and the importance and economic utility of scientific knowledge for all citizens is increasingly recognized (Barmby et al., 2008). Not only do we need more technology experts, but also people in general need a higher level of understanding. As a result, many countries face a shortage of skilled personnel in the fields of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

It is therefore important to get secondary school students interested in STEM; to equip them with the basic knowledge they need as citizens and to raise interest for a career in this field. However, research shows that science education which indeed raises career interest and shows the relevance of science for students’ (future) lives is not easy to establish (Klop, 2008; Millar, 2006).

This case-study research investigates how science education can be designed and implemented to improve secondary school students’ understanding of life sciences, enabling them to make well-founded decisions in their lives and about their future careers. The Imagine competition was selected as a case study, as it aims to motivate students for a career in life sciences and to show the relevance of life science in a global society (Imagine, 2004). The competition contains three important elements: 1) students solve a problem in a less developed country; 2) they cooperate with a scientist; and 3) they apply life sciences within their project. Although the competition has been running for several years now, the fulfilment of the aims has never been assessed.

This paper presents the factors that contribute to or hinder the fulfilment of the aims of the Imagine competition. Results showed that the first element is an important factor that motivates students to participate in the Imagine competition. The interaction between the scientist and the students appeared to be one of the key factors contributing to students overall experiences. We did not observe much increase in knowledge about life sciences among the participants, nor did we observe much increased interest in a career in the life sciences. Furthermore, we observed a discrepancy between the intended activity and the implemented activity, which could be causing this. This discrepancy is the focus of an intervention to improve the fulfillment of the aims. The first results of this intervention will be presented during the conference.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Imagine
Engaging students in science

A. Masson   Delft University of Technology, research group Biotechnology and Society; Kluyver Centre for Genomics of Industrial Fermentation; Centre for Society and Genomics

T. Klop   Delft University of Technology, research group Biotechnology and Society; Kluyver Centre for Genomics of Industrial Fermentation; Centre for Society and Genomics

P. Osseweijer   Delft University of Technology, research group Biotechnology and Society; Kluyver Centre for Genomics of Industrial Fermentation; Centre for Society and Genomics

Society is becoming increasingly dependent on technology and the importance and economic utility of scientific knowledge for all citizens is increasingly recognized (Barmby et al., 2008). Not only do we need more technology experts, but also people in general need a higher level of understanding. As a result, many countries face a shortage of skilled personnel in the fields of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

It is therefore important to get secondary school students interested in STEM; to equip them with the basic knowledge they need as citizens and to raise interest for a career in this field. However, research shows that science education which indeed raises career interest and shows the relevance of science for students’ (future) lives is not easy to establish (Klop, 2008; Millar, 2006).

This case-study research investigates how science education can be designed and implemented to improve secondary school students’ understanding of life sciences, enabling them to make well-founded decisions in their lives and about their future careers. The Imagine competition was selected as a case study, as it aims to motivate students for a career in life sciences and to show the relevance of life science in a global society (Imagine, 2004). The competition contains three important elements: 1) students solve a problem in a less developed country; 2) they cooperate with a scientist; and 3) they apply life sciences within their project. Although the competition has been running for several years now, the fulfilment of the aims has never been assessed.

This paper presents the factors that contribute to or hinder the fulfilment of the aims of the Imagine competition. Results showed that the first element is an important factor that motivates students to participate in the Imagine competition. The interaction between the scientist and the students appeared to be one of the key factors contributing to students overall experiences. We did not observe much increase in knowledge about life sciences among the participants, nor did we observe much increased interest in a career in the life sciences. Furthermore, we observed a discrepancy between the intended activity and the implemented activity, which could be causing this. This discrepancy is the focus of an intervention to improve the fulfillment of the aims. The first results of this intervention will be presented during the conference.

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

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