Bridges to Science : effects of a science outreach program on high school students' understanding of science concepts
Many of my students are not prepared for postsecondary education because they feel unprepared in terms of experience and knowledge. This project focused on evaluating the impact the Bridges to Science outreach program had on students' understanding of science concepts. Students' level of understanding, attitude and motivation, and thoughts about science careers were considered as well. This project also investigated the impact on classroom teachers' professionalism, on the program staffs' pedagogy, and on my own professionalism and involvement with the program. The Bridges to Science program offered by the University of Lethbridge targets urban high school students in biology, chemistry, and physics, and attempts to increase their interest in science by providing engaging lab activities implemented by graduate students. Students' understanding of science concepts was assessed by comparing nontreatment lab activities conducted by classroom teachers to treatment lab activities conducted by the outreach volunteers. Pre and postassessment data for nontreatment and treatment units were collected using concept questions, interviews with concept maps, and teacher observations. Other forms of data collection such as surveys, journals and personal observations were used to assess students' level of understanding, attitude and motivation, knowledge about career options, teachers' professionalism, volunteers' pedagogy, and my own professionalism and involvement with the outreach program. The results indicated a greater increase in students' understanding and level of understanding through the implementation of the program compared with classroom activities. Not only did students' motivation and attitude improve, but their knowledge of career options increased as well. Pedagogical improvement occurred with volunteers, but there was little impact on teachers' sense of professionalism. My involvement with Bridges to Science had a positive impact on my relationships, professionalism, and involvement with the program.