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Effective STEM Research Experience Programs for High Schools
High school research experience programs (HSREPs) provide opportunities for true science education and expose students to scientific investigations in laboratory settings. Various HSREPs models have been practiced to shape students’ research understandings; however, a systematic comparison of the success, challenges, and opportunities of these HSREPs has not been gauged. This entry compares the effectiveness of such science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) based HSREP models reported in the last two decades.
Research experience programs (REPs) are leading practices to expose students to scientific research . In principle, REPs provide the students an understanding of the research phenomenon and improve their science knowledge . It builds their research skills and develops critical thinking to analyze, disseminate, and efficiently solve problems. Typically, REPs are being accomplished at the university level; however, there has been a shift in the focus of REPs to the secondary and elementary schools since the last couple of decades . High school provides the right time to invite students to join REPs, develop their more profound understanding of subject matters, and integrate their personal and social skills through collaborative and independent research. High school research experience programs (HSREPs) contribute to their intellectual and professional growth and conceptual knowledge and instigate a scientific-thinking mindset. This way, students experience the exploration process of their interests and can be exposed to potential career opportunities in research-oriented fields . Additionally, pre-college research experiences deem to improve the research self-efficacy of students, enhancing their interests’ and confidence in conducting research during college .
When students are introduced to research experience, they understand the inquiry process, problem-solving skills, data collection procedures, and observation processes to draw research findings. The inquiry process reflects the activities, conceptual demands, and values of “authentic science” . The students are indulged in formulating research questions, developing scientific inquiry, and practical understanding of science concepts. However, the REPs are not globally standardized, and studies depict differences across international practices . For instance, inquiry-based education incorporates more “hands-on” practices elements and is not frequently “minds-on.” The meagerness of established goals in inquiry processes limits the authenticity of a research experience (RE). At the same time, the stress on educating high-stakes standardized tests has diverted the attention away from lab-based investigations. Hence, states have tried to incorporate authentic research practices in secondary education to engage students in effective knowledge-based education . In Australia, educators have worked to substitute purposeful contexts in chemistry to create an independent and extended experimentation environment in students. In Germany, pre-experimental activities created opportunities for students to formulate relevant research questions and designs. In the UK, the national curriculum has prioritized the research investigation in school sciences.
Scholars have also recognized that a collaborative environment is necessary to make up an authentic RE to cultivate learning and endurance in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) research . They have incorporated science epistemology in their program through students, mentors, and researchers’ collaboration. Providing students with self-learning mechanisms allows them to focus on collaborative practices in processes of interactions, social support, and task performances . Educators stress the importance of social contexts as a predictor of student learning as well. In particular, the extent to which the research experience is integrated into the school’s culture and curriculum may be important. Such an integrated STEM-based program has a notable effect on the quality of the mentor-mentee relationships, an important variable for the learning outcomes associated with authentic research experiences . This mutual engagement encourages recognition in participants involving them in sustained collaborative relationships where ideas, perceptions, and responsibility propagates the research group’s functionality.
2. Current Insights
This entry is adapted from 10.3390/educsci11110743
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