Jeshka McConnell and Kathleen Hayes: Final research seminars

This afternoon two CPAS research students will present their final seminars on their research projects.

Parental preferences for comprehensive sexuality and relationship education in schools

Jeshka McConnell will present her final seminar on her honours research on this topic.

This presentation will cover the foundations of the project but focus on the results obtained from 140 parental respondents, how they relate back to the literature and may be relevant to further study. Three core aspects were determined from the research: how demographics influence values, what specific comprehensive sexuality and relationship education (CSRE) topics parents want taught in schools and when they should be started and how certain values influence CSRE topic preferences.

Opportunities and challenges in a non-formal science education program

Kathleen Hayes will present her final seminar on her PhD research on this topic.

Declining student enrolment in post-compulsory science has prompted many schools to use non-formal science education programs to help motivate and guide students in post-compulsory STEM study. Non-formal science learning holds much potential for engaging students in ways that schools cannot but there is a scarcity of data demonstrating this, particularly in Australia. As large scale and government funded non-formal programs continue to be implemented it is important to understand the opportunities and challenges present in incorporating such programs into schools and the role they can play in student science education. This research explores the perspectives and responses of secondary students, teachers and science centre staff regarding the ongoing implementation of a non-formal science education program through a partnership with a specialized science centre. Over a year centre staff, year 7 and 8 students and their teachers from two secondary schools were interviewed and observed during their biannual visits to a centre partnered with both schools. Students also completed a reflective survey at the end of the year. Results indicate that there is considerable potential for the non-formal program to help students develop trajectories into post-compulsory STEM study with opportunities to engage student interest, broaden their awareness of possible STEM careers and boost their confidence in learning science. However these opportunities were limited by students' tendency to view the non-formal program as a day off school due to the lack of connection between their experience and the school science curriculum. Over time teachers reported that without an understanding of the relevance of the non-formal program to them, students became less enamoured of the program’s novelty and less enthusiastic about attending. In other respects however the ongoing nature of the program was beneficial, allowing for continual refinement of programs and the possibility of changing student interpretations over time as the partnership between schools and centre developed. These findings show that realising the potential of non-formal science education programs requires it to be clearly connected and presented to students’ as a meaningful part of their learning in school.