National science agency - university collaboration inspires an inquiry-oriented experiment

Publication Type:
Journal Article
International Journal of Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education, 2015, 23 (5), pp. 66 - 78
Issue Date:
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An initiative involving the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) and Australia's premier science agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Agency (CSIRO), connects first year students in a large enrolment physics service subject to research of national standing through a co-developed inquiry-oriented experiment. We describe the background to the initiative which we believe to be the first of its kind, how it was piloted, and our findings from the first running of the experiment with enrolled students. The initiative applies a previously published framework for designing and evaluating new and existing experiments with regard to student engagement and learning, laboratory logistics, and scale. Evidence from focus groups, student surveys, and classroom observations indicates that the experiment is regarded by students as: 1) a worthwhile, very valuable or outstanding learning experience; 2) engaging; and 3) benefitting their learning through group discussions. Student feedback during the development phase highlighted issues to be addressed, including allowing students greater time to design and carry out their own investigations, more explicit assistance for students in the use of supporting technology, and better guidance on the assessed component of the experiment.
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