In2science Wins Australasian Peer Leader Award

By | News
In2science team members Joanna Oreo (2nd from left), Dr Maddy Yewers, Oliver Barrand and Artem Bourov accept the 2017 Australasian Peer Leader Award for Outstanding Peer Educator Team, with Melissa Zaccagnini (end left) and Melissa Stephen (end right) of the National Centre for Peer Assisted Study Sessions, University of Wollongong.

In2science team members Joanna Oreo (2nd from left), Dr Maddy Yewers, Oliver Barrand and Artem Bourov accept the 2017 Australasian Peer Leader Award for Outstanding Peer Educator Team, with Melissa Zaccagnini (end left) and Melissa Stephen (end right) of the National Centre for Peer Assisted Study Sessions, University of Wollongong.

This week In2science was proud to accept the 2017 Australasian Peer Leader Award for Outstanding Peer Educator Team, presented by the National Centre for Peer Assisted Study Sessions (PASS) of the University of Wollongong. The award was presented at the prestigious annual PASS and Peer Learning Conference in Melbourne, whose theme was creating connections, celebrating partnerships. The PASS Conference and Awards bring together university educators and students from across Australasia to showcase best practice and innovation in peer assisted learning.

The In2science team was recognised for the innovation they have shown in developing a unique university-school peer mentoring program that increases student engagement and aspirations in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM). This collaborative multi-university partnership, governed by an In2science advisory board chaired by the Hon Prof John Brumby AO, demonstrates an effective strategic direction for increasing STEM engagement among students.

The In2science program places volunteer STEM university students into science and maths classes in low Socio-Economic Status (SES) high schools. The volunteers act as role models and peer mentors for the secondary students, working with them once per week over a 10-week period. In2science was recognised for creating collaborative partnerships between universities and schools via metropolitan in-class mentoring and regional online eMentoring. In2science has maintained partnerships with four universities (La Trobe, Melbourne, RMIT and Swinburne) and 61 schools in the past three years. The program has coordinated over 2,500 mentor placements and helped support over 59,000 students over the last 13 years.

The judges of the award applied a number of criteria in making their decision. Winners were selected for their quality contribution to student learning and developing a culture of peer learning; as well as demonstrating  a strong understanding and delivery of peer learning theories and research within their own mentoring program. The Award winners  were also recognised for their outstanding performance, commitment and leadership.

Women in STEM: from the 1903 laboratory to the 2017 classroom

By | Events

By Rachael McCullough

In the lead-up to the In2science event Supporting girls in STEM: Strategies for the Classroom and Beyond, we reflect on the position of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, the role of outreach programs and the importance of role models and mentors.

 

Marie Curie

Marie Curie was the first person in history to win two Nobel Prizes. Image credit: The Wellcome Trust.

A Historical Challenge

Think of a famous woman in science. What’s the first name that comes into your head?

It’s likely you thought of Marie Curie, one of the most famous scientists of all time.

Marie Curie won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903 for her groundbreaking research on radioactivity. In 1911, she received her second Nobel, this time in Chemistry. She was the first person to win twice, and remains the only person to have won the prize in two different sciences.

Marie’s scientific prowess was incredible. But what is equally incredible is the scientific community’s reaction to her achievements. Even after making history by winning both prizes, Marie was rejected from membership into the French Royal Academy of Sciences in 1911. Instead, the Academy elected Édouard Branly, a man who helped with the early development of the wireless telegraph.

Marie’s story highlights just some of the historical obstacles that prevented many women from pursuing careers in science and maths. Throughout history, there have been countless other women whose contributions to science were overlooked, neglected or credited to others.

Women in STEM today

We have come a long way since Marie Curie’s rejection from the Royal Academy. Women all over the world can now vote, graduate from university, hold academic positions, run businesses and are leaders in every field of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). However, the shadow of inequity and discrimination still lingers over STEM in the 21st century.

In 2016, only 32% of STEM academic and research staff at Australian universities were women. This statistic mirrors that of STEM degree enrolments. Only 33% of STEM Bachelor degree enrolments in 2016 were women. 

And what’s more, women are more likely to underestimate their own abilities in STEM subjects than men. One study into a phenomenon known as stereotype threat showed that women performed worse than men on a maths test when told that gender is a predictor of their test score. However, when this stereotype threat was eliminated, the difference in performances between men and women was eliminated.

What we can do

IMG_126 cropped

Science outreach programs and role models encourage increased STEM engagement by girls.

Gender equity in STEM is a multi-faceted and historical problem that can’t be solved overnight. While there are still many obstacles in our path to an inclusive and diverse STEM community, we can see initiatives that are gently but steadily moving us in the right direction by sharing inspiring science through role models and activities. Science outreach programs like Robogals, that specifically aim to inspire young girls in STEM, are active in many cities in Australia and in many countries around the world. Films like Hidden Figures (2017) highlight the untold stories of marginalised mathematicians and engineers in America’s mission to the Moon. And Science and Technology Australia’s recently launched Superstars of STEM program places outstanding role models in front of aspiring scientists, mathematicians, inventors and innovators across the country.

In2science is committed to gender equity in STEM in Australia. Classrooms and online mentoring platforms can be positive environments for young girls to be exposed to new ideas, inspired and encouraged by mentors to pursue whatever sparks their interest. There are also many programs and initiatives that can complement school based STEM learning.

To highlight just some of the resources available to educators and mentors to support girls in STEM, the In2science team is excited to be hosting a panel discussion and networking event on Thursday 7th September.

Join the discussion

Supporting girls in STEM: Strategies for the Classroom and Beyond will take place on Thursday 7th of September 2017 and feature an expert panel discussion, followed by break-out discussion groups and a networking expo featuring a range of organisations and programs committed to STEM outreach and gender equity available to talk to at the conclusion of the event. If you are a university student, mentor, teacher or simply interested in promoting gender equality and diversity in STEM, we encourage you to join the discussion. This event is made possible by the generous support of the Selby Scientific Foundation. 

 

Register for the event here! http://bit.ly/In2scigirls

Meet a Mentor: Julie Kheng

By | Profiles

In2science mentor Julie Kheng

What are you studying and what do you like about it? I’m currently studying a Bachelor of Science (Biomedical Science) at Swinburne University of Technology. I enjoy learning about the physiological aspects of the human body as well as learning how to use medical instruments that you would find in hospitals.

Why did you become an In2science mentor? I became an In2science mentor because I was curious to see why there was a decline in students studying science after year 9 and hoped to try and get students to see that science can be amazing and fun! I want to encourage students to continue with their scientific endeavours and to allow them to see that science is everywhere, even in things you wouldn’t necessarily think it would be found.

Tell us about your In2science placement. I undertook placement in a year 8 science class at Brighton Secondary College in semester 1 2017. It was an interesting class ranging from students who were really interested and loved science to those who didn’t enjoy it at all. It was an amazing experience getting to know the students and having them interact with me and asking me questions that I never would have thought of asking when I was in year 8. In semester 2 2017 I’m mentoring a new group of year 8 students at the same school.

What’s the best thing about In2science? The best thing about In2science was being surprised at the knowledge the students had of cells and the human body – some of the things that they knew I didn’t learn until further study in high school, so that was impressive. It was also great to get to know the individual students and their passions.

What’s one of the biggest challenges about In2science? One of the biggest challenges would probably have to be learning all the student’s names! It did get easier after spending a couple weeks with them in the classroom.

What inspired you to study what you are studying? I have always been interested in the human body, how everything worked and how I could use that knowledge to help others in the health sector.

What message do you hope to pass onto the students in your In2science class? Don’t give up on science and your passion. Although there will be times where you may question why you should continue, in the end it will all be worth it and that there is a wonder of knowledge to discover in science and STEM based subjects. It’s not all just old men with crazy hair!

What do you want to do after you finish university and why? I’m hoping to further my study into pharmacy and from there study medicine.

If you could have an hour to chat with any scientist, mathematician or engineer, who would it be and why? Professor Brian Cox!! He is my idol, and I’m not ashamed to say it. I find him so captivating and has a way in explaining something so complex into basic terms that people like me, who have no physics background, can understand.

What advice would you give other students looking to get involved in In2science? I would highly recommend the program. It not only develops your science communication skills but also quite rewarding knowing that you have inspired students into continuing with science or sparked an interest in them. Who knows, one day some of the students may be a leading scientist!

 

Want to become an In2science mentor? Click here!

Meet an eMentor: Scott Gigante

By | Profiles

What are you studying, and what do you like about it? I study Pure Mathematics at The University of Melbourne. Mathematics drew my attention in my first year of university as an area which emphasised creative approaches to problem solving and rigorous explanations for phenomena which I found lacking in other subjects I was studying. To me, mathematics is about “learning how to learn”, and I have seen the capabilities that I have developed in my degree prove useful time and time again outside of my studies.

Why did you become an In2science mentor? I became an In2science mentor because I have seen too many students in early to mid-high school lose enthusiasm for mathematics. Whether it be due to students falling behind in class, a lack of engaging content, or mathematics not being ‘cool’, the presence of a young engaged mentor who advocates for STEM could make the difference for young students with scientific potential.

Tell us about your In2science placement. I mentor four students from Ararat College. We meet online for thirty minutes each week, where we talk about university life, my research experience, exciting scientific discoveries, how to get a part-time job and more. The students are engaged and always excited to learn something new.

What’s the best thing about In2science? In2science gives me a unique opportunity to share my passion for science. In my day-to-day life, I mostly associate with people who work or study in STEM. By engaging with students who come from rural Victoria and who have not yet chosen their career paths, I can share my enthusiasm with those who will benefit from it most.

What’s one of the biggest challenges about In2science? It’s just too hard to keep the sessions within thirty minutes – there’s always more to say, I don’t think we’ve finished on time even once!

What inspired you to study what you are studying? I was inspired by my mathematics lecturer in the first year of my Bachelor of Science at the University of Melbourne. His approach to problem solving and learning was unique, dedicated and awe-inspiring, and led me to develop my own problem solving capabilities in similar ways.

What advice would you give to your fifteen year old self? Keep your options open, and take every opportunity. Join the school band, the cricket team, the debating club and the school play. When planning for Year 12 / university / your career, make the decision that allows you to make the decision later. Get involved. There’s always more time in the day!

What do you want to do after you finish university and why? I hope to work in computational biology research, using my mathematical and computational skills to solve problems in biomedicine. I love the challenge and the rigour of the mathematics, the power of computer science, and the real-world application of solving medical problems, and research in this field allows me to combine all three!

If you could have an hour to chat with any scientist, mathematician or engineer, who would it be and why? I would like to speak with Évariste Galois – a young mathematician who died tragically at the age of 20, he contributed more to his field than most scientists would in a lifetime. It would be incredible to see into the brilliant mind of this young genius, whose ideas could have revolutionised the way we think about mathematics.

What advice would you give other students looking to get involved in the In2science program? In2science is a rewarding and unique experience, and I strongly encourage any science enthusiast to get involved. eMentoring has been particularly rewarding – I have the opportunity to build strong relationships with a number of talented young people from rural Victoria, and I strongly believe that the In2science program will change the lives of many of the participating students.

Want to become an In2science mentor? Click here!

Mentor Training and Support to Increase Impact in the Classroom

By | News

When university students first sign up to be In2science mentors, they are often driven by a passion to pass on their enthusiasm for STEM to secondary students. But it takes a lot more than enthusiasm to be fully prepared to step back into the classroom and make a genuine connection with year 8 and 9 students. In2science coordinators train and support mentors for the ten weeks of placement to ensure they leave a lasting impression on their mentees.

Pre-placement training

Mentors at Swinburne University of Technology practice a simple hands-on demonstration.

Before mentors step into a classroom, they undertake a five hour training session led by an In2science coordinator from each of the four partner universities. This pre-placement training prepares them for their role in the classroom. Mentors learn about the current trend in Australia of declining engagement of students in VCE STEM studies and the low university enrolments by students from low socio-economic areas that In2science seeks to addresses.

Mentors are taken through what their role in the classroom does and doesn’t involve, for example, they are not disciplinarians, but they are there to help students engage. They are  given practical strategies and communication tips to understand students’ needs and help students to see the relevance of science and maths to their own lives. There are many interactive tasks that enable mentors to start putting these ideas/strategies into practise, such as demonstrating and explaining a simple scientific concept to a Year 8 or 9 level audience. They also workshop ways to introduce themselves to the class, to explain their role as In2science mentors, and to share their own experiences of studying STEM. In the past, many secondary students have engaged much more readily with their mentor when they realised the mentor was not actually a teacher. New mentors also hear the experiences of prior mentors and ask questions for a better understanding of the realities of the classroom as well as hearing about challenges and successes.

For eMentors involved in online mentoring of regional students, there is an additional training session conducted via the same online video platform that they will use to connect with the students. They are given strategies for establishing a rapport with the students, overcoming some of the communication barriers inherent in the online format. eMentors are also shown through a range of resources that they can use throughout their placement to give sessions structure and clear objectives.

Mid-placement visits

Secondary students benefit from the one on one support In2science mentors provide.

Once mentors have made their first few visits to their year 8 or 9 maths or science class, the coordinators from each university will visit each mentor to see how they are working with the students and the teacher. This is a good opportunity for the coordinators to see first-hand the makeup of the class and to meet the students the mentor is working with, in order to offer specific advice about how the mentor can maximise their impact with the students. The coordinator can also speak to the students to find out how they are benefiting from having a mentor, and to help emphasise the mentor’s role in the students’ minds.

In the case of eMentors, who have weekly sessions with the same two or three students ranging from year 7 to year 12, the eMentoring coordinator can join in on the session to observe the interaction, and offer the mentor advice after the session.

 

Mid-placement training

Mid-placement training is an opportunity for mentors to meet halfway through the semester to share stories from the classroom and learn from each others’ challenges and successes. The coordinators facilitate the mentors to reflect on the experience they have had with their mentees so far and help them frame some goals that they would like to achieve in the remaining weeks of placement. Past experience has shown that students’ perceptions of the relevance to science and maths to the real world increases when the mentors give a presentation to the class, so extra guidance and ideas are also provided to help mentors plan a presentation toward the end of their placements.

End of placement career skills PD

After the ten weeks of placement are over, and mentors have finished university exams, they are treated to a morning tea to thank them for their efforts. They are given a workshop that encourages them to reflect on their achievements during placement and translate the skills they have developed, such as communication and problem solving, into experience they can demonstrate to future employers. The mentors practice answering part of a job application citing experience they have gained from mentoring.

Volunteering as an In2science mentor is a great experience with just as many benefits for the mentors as there are for their mentees.

 

Want to become an In2science mentor? Click here!

eMentoring boosts regional STEM engagement

By | News

After a successful pilot in 2016, In2science launched the eMentoring program for 2017 and is now delighted to be working with 15 regional schools across Victoria.  

Over the Semester 1 program, eMentors demonstrated an enormous amount of initiative and creativity to talk with their students about topics such as how to write practical reports, studying for exams, identifying their own learning style, the importance of referencing, exchange opportunities, open days at University, VCE subject choices, how to apply to uni and the vast array of careers available with a STEM education. One eMentor also took the initiative to assist his student to write a resume and conducted a mock interview for them.

Using the online video platform Zoom, various eMentors also took their students on a virtual tour of their university, showing them their labs, common rooms, libraries, collaborative spaces and lecture halls!

 

eMentors Yvette and Marie share their experiences of their Semester 1 placements.

A returning In2science mentor from La Trobe University developed such a great rapport with his students that he shared at the end of placement, “I actually became a little emotional today (internally!) when I had to farewell one of the eMentees”.

Feedback from teachers has been overwhelmingly positive. Maree Timms, Link Teacher from new partner school, Galen Catholic College, informed us their students  “have only said positive things about their experience with the program…you’d be happy to hear, [two of our students] stood up at assembly on Wednesday and spoke about the program and what they got out of it, and also to encourage others to do next semester’s program.”

The program is having a significant positive impact on all those involved.  Preliminary survey results from 2017 semester 1 show that the university mentors are able to establish effective mentoring relationships on an online environment.

Based on survey responses from eMentors during Semester 1 2017.

 

Placement Profile: Pascoe Vale Girls Secondary College

By | Profiles

Mentoring comes full circle

For In2science mentor Rayan Hayek, a chance encounter with a mentor in year 12 has come full circle, leading her to become a mentor at her former school.

In2science mentor Rayan Hayek has helped to extend year 8 maths students.

As a student at Pascoe Vale Girls Secondary College, a visit from an In2science mentor to her year 12 physics class was the moment Rayan decided to study biomedical engineering, “the In2science mentor was studying biomedical engineering at that time and inspired me to follow her footsteps. She helped me come to the realisation that engineering isn’t all about men in white caps, anyone can be an engineer you just have to put your mind to it.”

Rayan, in her fourth year of a Bachelor of Engineering (Biomedical Engineering) (Honours) at RMIT University, has now taken up the opportunity to become an In2science mentor herself, “I always thought teaching was not for me but I realised when you’re so passionate about something, you really want to send a message and help the younger generations aspire for what’s perceived as hard or impossible.”

Rayan’s special connection to Pascoe Vale Girls Secondary College as a former student also gave her a head start establishing a rapport with the students, “I could relate to what the students are going through because I already knew the rules and how particular things ran at the school.”

Mentors as role models make a difference in class

For science and maths teacher Catherine van Vliet, Rayan has been a huge help in her year 8 maths class, “Having her here is invaluable. In maths especially, I find having 25 girls and 50 minutes to see them all, to have that extra person in the class…helps me a lot.”

Catherine sees the impact Rayan has had on the students’ future aspirations beyond school, “In the science classes where we’ve talked a lot more about careers they really think, ‘oh maybe that’s a possibility for me, that’s something I could do,’ and they might not have thought that before they met Rayan.”

Catherine says the students have shown interest in Rayan’s path to university, and how they can get there too, “She did talk about what she’d been studying and what she did at school and they ask[ed] her lots of questions about how you get into uni.” With a chuckle Catherine recalled the students asking “‘Do you have to study maths?’”

Positive impact on students

The impact Rayan has had on the students is clear and the year 8 maths class looks forward to Rayan’s visits each week. “Every day they’ll ask ‘Is Rayan coming today?’” says Catherine.

“Rayan has helped the girls see what is attainable,” says teacher Catherine van Vliet.

Rayan uses her time in the class to mentor all students, but remembers a specific class when she helped students who were disengaged with the work, “Two students [were] constantly causing trouble and distracting the teacher and the students. I noticed this wasn’t because they [weren’t] interested in the subject, it was because they felt they were on a lower level than the rest of the class and gave up.

“I sat with the two and spoke to them about their future goals and how math is related to it. I proved to them that everything is hard until you work hard and make it easy for yourself. They seemed really motivated and the next class, they were constantly asking me questions about their homework and proved that they want to learn.”

Rayan hopes to leave the students with a desire to seek out more knowledge, “The most important thing for a student is to ask as many questions as possible. The more questions you ask, the more interesting it gets!”

 

Want to become an In2science mentor? Click here!

In2science Mentors get career ready

By | Events

With semester 1 coming to a close, mentors from our four partner universities were treated to a ‘thank-you’ morning tea and a special professional development session. The session was designed to improve the mentors’ awareness of employability skills they have developed while volunteering for the In2science program.

The mentor PD was developed with support from the Selby Scientific Foundation. The session highlighted to mentors the non-technical, ‘soft’ skills they put into practise during placement, including initiative, team work, improved communication and organisational skills. This is an important skill set for mentors to develop, as it is estimated by Deloitte Access Economics that soft skill intensive jobs in Australia will grow 2.5x faster than other jobs. Soft skill intensive jobs are expected to make up 63% of all jobs by 2030, which will include managers, engineers, ICT and science technicians.

The mentors brainstormed which of those skills they had developed in the classroom. They were shown examples for translating those experiences into responses to job selection criteria and interview questions, then practised responding to selection criteria for graduate roles at government and private organisations citing their In2science experience.

University members of the In2science advisory board were also in attendance to help congratulate mentors for their volunteering efforts and present them with certificates of recognition.

 

 

ACER Report Affirms Mentoring Impact

By | News

ACER logoThe 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:  https://in2science.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/In2science-ACER-evaluation-2017.pdf

Meet an eMentor: Jessica Li

By | Profiles

IMG_2899What 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!