Evaluating the impacts of a STEM research placement program between a secondary school and a science research institute [thesis]

Ross Bray
Recent data from the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS; 2019), which benchmarks students across 64 countries, stated that Australian students are significantly less confident in science than the international average. In addition, the percentage of Australian students that do not like learning science increases as students enter high school, which was also reflected in their achievements (Thomson et al., 2019) . Although there are currently various programs aimed at
more » ... creasing the interest of high school students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), very few programs have explored the students' perceptions of the effectiveness of extracurricular STEM programs to their school learning and post-school aspirations. A better understanding of how STEM programs improve student interest in STEM can inform future program content and their utilisation. This research aimed to investigate high school students' perceptions of a STEM research placement program integrated into their school curriculum, and how it contributed to their self-efficacy, attitude towards science and motivation to pursue a career in that field. The research placement program was between the Queensland University of Technology and the Queensland Academy Schools for Creative Industries and Science, Mathematics and Technology and this research evaluated participants between 2018-2020. This research investigated students' perceptions of working under a university researcher in a real-world laboratory to complete their extended essay (EE) assessment pieces in engineering, chemistry, biology, physics and design areas within the International Baccalaureate curriculum. Survey and interview questions were developed to examine student perceptions of how the research placement program assisted them in terms of visualising what a career in science involves and connecting various science concepts in the professional setting to that in their school subjects. A mixed-methods approach was applied where a total of 20 students from Years 10-12 participated across two cohorts for survey data collection. Nine students and eight supervising scientists were interviewed in the second cohort generating further qualitative data. Overall, students found the research placement program to increase their knowledge in STEM subjects and to inspire their future motivation to consider other extracurricular science activities and further pursue a career in science. Working with scientists in a professional laboratory was a key motivation for students to enrol in such a program. However, large knowledge gaps between high school learning and the real-world research projects, along with 3 time management to complete the projects, were suggested as the main aspects that the students found difficult. The study also summarised students' descriptions of why they found the program to be helpful, a standard operating procedure (SOP) was then developed to inform future STEM-centred high school programs. 4
doi:10.5204/thesis.eprints.212449 fatcat:laootroztbepzmm6azlst7jjhu