Dr Helga D Bartels-Hardege, Senior Lecturer, Director of Foundation Year Studies, Hull University
Biology in Education is a 40-credit module offered to final year students in the Biological and Marine Sciences Department. It involves students taking weekly placements at local primary and secondary schools throughout the academic year. The way in which the module would regularly be assessed is by a number of assignments, with the main piece being a report on a lesson that had been taught independently by the student.
However, because of the pandemic, in-person placements were not possible during the most recent academic year. Instead, the students acted as demonstrators in online workshops for the module “Group Challenge”, where Foundation Year students produce a small piece of research in groups of 5 – 7 members. The final year students helped with experimental design, data analysis and the creation of the project poster. This worked well and covered most of the module learning outcomes, however, an independently taught lesson was not possible. As an alternative it was decided, in collaboration with the students on the module, to create online Outreach Projects for an age group of their choice, where students bring their favourite Biology topic into the classroom.
Encouraging undergraduate final year students to plan and deliver their own Outreach Project based on a topic that they themselves are enthusiastic about, is an alternative to creating time consuming projects by academic staff themselves (Clark et al. 2016). Early exposure to “real” science and “real” scientist is important especially for younger school pupils (DeWitt et al., 2013). University students provide great role models for science; they are seen as more approachable than what the public expects from a scientist (Mackay et al, 2020) and their ability to communicate scientific concepts successfully is a skill highly valued by employers (STEM, 2018).
The students planned a variety of Outreach Projects mostly on ecologically important topics, like Climate Change, Endangered Species and Plastic Pollution, but also covered Human Biology (The Importance of Vitamins) or more basic biological concepts (Classification of Species).
Timeline of the project
- Formative assessment: Application for an Outreach Project based on the Activity Funding Request form from the Access, Funding & Support Office.
- A survey was created and distributed for teachers about their attitude towards Outreach Projects.
- Contact was made with primary and secondary schools presenting them with a choice of topics. The Outreach Project applications were sent to the schools.
- Dates, times and mode of online delivery was discussed collaboratively between the school teacher and the student independently.
- Summative assessment: a report about the Outreach Project, based on guidance from the Access, Funding & Support Office for evaluation of widening participation activities.