The Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) has completed an evaluation of the efficacy of the In2science peer mentoring program, and the results show that mentors increase student engagement. A total of 1868 secondary students from 34 participating schools were surveyed on a range of areas including their confidence in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) studies, their understanding of the relevance of STEM, their enjoyment of science and maths, and their awareness of the career opportunities in STEM related fields.
The review found that secondary students who have In2science mentors working with them experience positive benefits including the belief that anyone can understand science and maths with enough effort and the confidence to find solutions to problems. Students could also see the relevance of things they learned in science and maths to daily life, for people other than scientists and mathematicians. Students who had a mentor in their class also reported high levels of enjoyment of the problem solving aspects of science and maths, and an awareness that going on to study STEM subjects in VCE would improve their employment prospects in the future.
The full report can be accessed here, or at: http://www.in2science.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/In2science-ACER-evaluation-2017.pdf
What are you studying, and what do you like about it? I’m currently studying a Bachelor in Science, majoring in Molecular Biology, at La Trobe University, Bendigo. The course allows us to choose electives from other faculties and has allowed me to explore the areas of anatomy, pathology and physiology and allowed me to find the links and how it is relevant to what I am learning in my core subjects in a practical view.
Why did you become an In2science mentor? I became a mentor because I wanted to inspire young students that there is so much more to STEM then what is in the class room. I feel like I was greatly inspired by my biology teacher in high school who continually fueled my curiosity and I want to return that to upcoming students.
Tell us about your In2science placement. For my placement I am an eMentor. This means I video conference with my students at Camperdown College once a week. It has been a challenge to figure out ways to engage the students over video as activities that can be done is very limited. However, I have learnt a lot about how to engage people, even when there is a screen separating you.
What’s the best thing about In2science? The best thing is when you see the students eyes light up when you hit something that they are interested in. They may not enjoy what they’re learning in class but the interest is still there, and when you find it, it is very rewarding.
What’s one of the biggest challenges about In2science? The biggest challenge I have come upon is building that connection with the students when they may not be available every week. A big part of being a mentor is having the trust between you and the student that they are comfortable to talk to you about school and what they want to do in the future. And it is very hard to build that when you see them a once a week, and at times you don’t see a student for a couple of weeks due to school events or holidays.
What inspired you to study what you are studying? I was always a curious child and when I started science in high school and I loved the practical side and loved that moment when everything we learnt in theory clicked when applied in practical classes. As I went through high school I was drawn to the microscopic side of science and the further I got the more curious I got and I wanted to know why and how. I guess I was inspired by my teacher’s questions and encouragement to keep helping me along the way.
What message do you hope to pass onto the students you are mentoring? I want them to know that there is so much to discover and to keep asking why and how. I want them to know to keep trying and not to let what others say stop them to reach where they want to go, because there is always a way if you keep trying.
What do you want to do after you finish university and why? I want to go into haematology/biochemistry in a hospital lab or pathology. It’s all a big puzzle with haematology and biochem. You get given a list of results to certain tests and you need to work out what is wrong with the patient. Pathology interests me because there is still so much that isn’t known and I would love to figure just a fraction of that puzzle.
If you could have an hour to chat with any scientist, mathematician or engineer, who would it be and why? Probably Rosalind Franklin or Dorothy Hodgkin. Rosalind was discouraged by her father because he thought that women would find it difficult to be recognised as scientists at the time. But she went onto become an expert in graphite structure and discover there were two forms of DNA, as well as demonstrated that DNA was a double helix using X-Ray crystallography.
Dorothy had support behind her from friends and family, but was excluded from research meetings because she was a woman. However she went onto help determine the structure of penicillin and the structure of vitamin B12 and how it prevented pernicious anaemia. Dorothy won a Noble Prize for her work in this area.
What advice would you give other students looking to get involved in the In2science program? Give it a shot, it’s definitely an opportunity to be taken. It allows you to be involved in inspiring possible future STEM students and is rewarding in a way that is hard to explain. There is a feeling of achievement and pride when a students says they understand something or want to know more.
Want to become an In2science mentor? Click here!
What are you studying, and what do you like about it? I am currently in my third year studying Bachelor of Aviation Management/Bachelor of Business at Swinburne University of Technology. I am interested in the workings of the aviation industry as its development is fast paced and very dynamic, but above all I like the degree I am doing because it involves planes.
Why did you become an In2science mentor? I have always loved mathematics, ever since primary school. I feel this was mostly thanks to the awesome mathematics teachers I had and the fact that I found maths straightforward. I became an In2science mentor because I wanted to give back to the community. I want to help younger students with mathematics, making sure that they enjoy studying it and that they see how it can allow them to pursue their dreams.
Tell us about your In2science placement. This semester I am volunteering in a year 8 maths & coding class at Bayswater Secondary College. My placement so far has been more about coding than maths, which felt terrifying at first because I had no previous experience in coding. However, I am learning the various programs and I’ve become convinced that coding is actually pretty amazing. It’s also been a great conversation starter with the students. For example, the students were recently programming their own websites and I would assist them in coming up with ideas. Moreover, the teacher Amanda has been very understanding and has incorporated me in the classroom despite my lack of formal expertise.
How do maths and coding combine in the classroom? To understand coding you need to have a basic maths background, since most coding is essentially logical thinking.
What’s the best thing about In2science? The fact that I get to enhance and influence someone’s future in a positive way is the biggest positive for me.
What’s the biggest challenge about In2science? Building rapport with unwilling students can very challenging and requires lots of patience.
What inspired you to study what you are studying? I am interested in piloting but also want to have a degree related to the aviation sector more broadly.
What message do you hope to pass onto the students in your In2science class? Working to accomplish your dreams and desires in life is never easy, but it’s worth it.
If you could have an hour to chat with any scientist, mathematician or engineer, who would it be and why? Captain Irene Koki Mutungi. She was the first female on the African continent to become certified as a Captain of the Boeing 787 “Dreamliner” aircraft. I would love to meet her and speak with her about her experience in the aviation sector, especially as a woman.
What advice would you give other students looking to get involved in the In2science program? In2science has been a very rewarding program. I have been able to make an impact in someone’s life and give back to the community, all while gaining professional skills and attending useful workshops [such as the ACER ‘Having Fun With Maths’ workshop]. I would therefore advise any and all students to take a chance with In2science and watch how it changes their lives for the better.
Want to become an In2science mentor? Click here!
This year In2science is fortunate to receive financial support from the Selby Scientific Foundation to provide mentors with professional development opportunities. The aim of the Foundation is to support scientific education and research in Australia. They provide grants, fellowships and awards to support science education and research from the secondary school level through to advanced research by distinguished international scientists.
In addition to benefiting secondary students from disadvantaged backgrounds, a key feature of In2science is the benefits and improved educational outcomes for university students who volunteer their time to be mentors. During classroom placements, mentors develop their confidence, communication, interpersonal and professional skills, while gaining first-hand experience of teaching to consider it as a vocational pathway.
The grant from the Selby Scientific Foundation allows In2science to expand the quality and range of professional development sessions provided to mentors. Professional development sessions provide high quality communication and professional skills for mentors to use not only during placements, but also in their studies and into employment. Furthermore it is a fantastic opportunity to acknowledge the sustained voluntary commitment of mentors and their contribution to high school students’ science and maths education.
Thanks to the generous support of the Selby Foundation, we are also excited to introduce you to our new staff member Rachael McCullough! Rachael will be leading our new mentor professional development sessions.
Rachael is no stranger to In2science. She has completed two in-class mentoring placements at Maribyrnong College and John Fawkner College and is currently studying a Bachelor of Science majoring in Ecology and Evolution with a concurrent diploma in Mathematical Sciences at The University of Melbourne.
Rachael is well placed to share her experiences to make professional development opportunities as relevant and productive as possible for mentors. She is passionate about science and maths education and particularly wants to encourage girls to thrive in STEM. She wants to provide mentors with as many opportunities as possible with the thought that even small workshops or activities can turn into quite important elements of their future studies and career.
Look out for stories on our mentor professional development events in future newsletters!
What have you studied, and why did you like it? I studied a Graduate Certificate in Science (Pure Mathematics) at The University of Melbourne. I am a mechanical engineer but my real passion has always been mathematics, so I decided to stop working as an engineer and went back to university to study pure mathematics.
Tell us about your In2science placement. My placement was at Mt Alexander College. I enjoyed working with students from different ethnic backgrounds and they were always very respectful towards me. I believe that I helped the students not only with their understanding of mathematics, but also with their perception that people who like mathematics are boring and uninteresting. I learned so much about myself and about teaching. Thanks to the In2science experience, I decided to change my career from engineering to education.
Why did you become an In2science mentor? I wanted to make a positive contribution to society through education and also to promote STEM careers. In2science was the perfect opportunity for me in order to achieve these goals.
What’s the best thing about In2science? To be able to help students from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds. I had the opportunity to be in a high school classroom and this led me to consider a career in education.
What’s the most challenging thing about In2science? My experience with In2science was very positive. The worst thing was having to leave the classroom at the end of the placement after having developed positive relationships with the students.
What inspired you to study a STEM field? In my opinion, mathematics is one of the most coherent, solid, fascinating and beautiful human endeavors that I know of.
What did you want to do after university and why? This year, I am teaching Mathematics at Cranbourne Secondary College as part of a Master of Teaching (Secondary) Internship at the University of Melbourne. After having completed my In2science placement, I discovered that I am very passionate about education and decided to change careers to become a school teacher!
If you could have an hour to chat with any scientist or mathematician, who would it be and why? It would be the mathematician Alexander Grothendieck. He was not only one of the greatest mathematicians of the twentieth century, but he was also a person concerned about social issues and he was a political activist and pacifist.
Want to become an In2science mentor? Click here!
After recruiting and interviewing undergraduate STEM students who can’t wait to share their enthusiasm for science, In2science training prepared mentors to enter the classroom. A total of 128 new in-person mentors and eMentors were trained in the final stage of mentor induction before being matched with schools to begin placements.
The sessions at each of the four partner universities covered a range of topics to equip new mentors with the skills for maximising their impact on placements. They ranged from explaining science and maths to make them relevant to the lives of young people, to awareness of the various learning styles of students and tips for working with a teacher in the classroom.
The new mentors were fortunate to be visited from representatives of Teach For Australia, Josh Farr, who visited Swinburne University of Technology, The University of Melbourne, and RMIT University, and Lauren Smith at La Trobe University. Josh and Lauren gave the mentors an excellent insight into the perspective of teachers, fostering a growth mindset in students, and preparing for various behaviors of students.
The training for new eMentors was delivered on the same online video platform that they will be using to connect with their mentees at regional schools during placement. The eMentors were given first hand practice at communicating via the platform and using its features, such as screen sharing, drawing and the use of virtual rooms for breakout discussions. It was also a good opportunity for eMentors to encounter some limitations of the medium and learn strategies to overcome them.
The mentors now get to use their skills and enthusiasm where it counts – in the classroom.
Want to become an In2science mentor? Click here!
Students learn better when they are having fun, so learning how to make maths fun is a serious business. Mentors from The University of Melbourne, Swinburne University of Technology and RMIT University attended a professional development workshop provided by the Australian Council of Educational Research (ACER) that provided practical methods for increasing the fun of maths in the classroom.
The day provided mentors with some great examples of language use and activities from everyday life to make maths more engaging and accessible for everyone in the classroom.
“This was a fresh perspective instead of the usual focus on content,” said Abhi Gupta, a mentor from The University of Melbourne who is working with students at Mercy College.
“Dave Tout engaged us on how maths can be better taught, especially for students who have a challenged background: by using mathematical concepts from day to day experiences, getting them to solve logic problems cooperatively, playing competitive games which rely on maths and digging deep into their understanding bottlenecks. Thanks to the In2science program for the opportunity!”
Swinburne mentor Margaret Ngugi, who mentors at Bayswater Secondary College said it changed her perspective on how maths can be taught. “It was really great and an eye opener into how the teaching system can be much more engaging and enjoyable.”
Activities included written and numerical logic problems to be completed cooperatively as well as ideas for games and resources. For example, did you know a smartie weighs exactly 1 gram with huge variation in the number and type found in a packet?
Not only did the workshop arm mentors with skills, ideas and tools for the classroom but it also provided further maths-specific conversation points and tips to be covered in the training provided to all mentors before placements.
Thanks to Dave Tout from ACER for providing the training, and the Selby Scientific Foundation for financially supporting the professional development of our mentors.