Swinburne eMentoring Astro Tour

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eMentoring secondary students from Traralgon Secondary College and the Distance Education Centre Victoria (DECV) were treated to a behind the scenes guided tour of the inner workings of the Centre for Astrophysics & Supercomputing at Swinburne University of Technology during the September school holiday.

eMentors Sarah Hegarty and Wael Farah, both completing PhDs in astrophysics, hosted three students from Traralgon Secondary College and two from DECV, who had made the trip to Swinburne’s Hawthorn campus for the day.

Sarah gave the students an insight into her PhD work of taking huge volumes of data collected from radio telescopes and finding ways to visualise it. She demonstrated to the students the computer code and software she had developed to analyse her data and probe it for insights into the mysteries of the universe.

Wael then led the group across campus to his office where he works on Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) and explained how he is developing a machine learning system to help solve the problem of extremely short cosmic radio signals being drowned out by radio noise generated on Earth.

The students also had a sneak peak at the virtual reality experiences under development at OzGrav, the Australian Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery.

Finally the students enjoyed a journey around the solar system in Swinburne’s 3D Astro Tour theatre. The day was a fantastic opportunity for students from regional areas to gain a first hand insight into life at university and real scientific research. It was a demonstration of the level of commitment shown by eMentors like Sarah and Wael and their willingness to go above and beyond to inspire their mentees.

Swinburne University of Technology eMentors Wael Farah (2nd from left), Sarah Hegarty (far right), Swinburne In2science Coordinator Artem Bourov with students from Traralgon Secondary College and Distance Education Centre Victoria.

In2science eMentoring recognised at Regional Leadership Award night

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In2science eMentoring Coordinator Robyn Gamble (left) and Program Manager Joanna Oreo (right) accept the nomination for the Regional Development Victoria Leadership and Innovation Award from Bank of Melbourne CEO Michelle Winzer. Credit: Victorian Regional Achievement Community Awards.

The In2science eMentoring program received a nomination for the prestigious Regional Development Victoria Leadership and Innovation Award at the recent Regional Achievement and Community Awards. The nomination was presented by Bank of Melbourne CEO Michelle Winzer at a gala event held in Flemington on October 13th 2017.

In2science eMentoring was recognised as the first successful online STEM mentoring program for regional Victoria. During the 10-week program, secondary students cover a range of topics with volunteer eMentors from La Trobe, RMIT, Swinburne and Melbourne Universities over an interactive platform, and take a virtual tour of their universities. This recognition was a significant acknowledgement of the success of the eMentoring program, which was among 220 nominations received from across Victoria.

The Victorian Regional Achievement and Community Awards started in 2002 and are designed to encourage, acknowledge and reward the valuable contributions that individuals, communities and businesses make throughout regional and rural Victoria. These awards aim to recognise their success and achievements, which contribute to making regional Victoria a better place.

Read more about the latest successes of the In2science eMentoring program here.

In2science Wins Australasian Peer Leader Award

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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.

Mentor Training and Support to Increase Impact in the Classroom

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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

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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.

 

ACER Report Affirms Mentoring Impact

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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

Selby Foundation Supporting Mentor Development

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The Selby Scientific Foundation was established in 1980 by E.J. Selby (left) supported by brother B.A. Selby (right). Images courtesy of the Selby Scientific Foundation.

The Selby Scientific Foundation was established in 1980 by E.J. Selby (left) supported by brother B.A. Selby (right). Images courtesy of the Selby Scientific Foundation.

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.

Veteran In2science mentor and new staff member, Rachael McCullough

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!

New Mentors Trained Up and Ready to Go

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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.

In2science mentors at La Trobe University getting to know each other

In2science mentors at La Trobe University getting to know each other

 

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.

Josh Farr from Teach For Australia gave new mentors an insight into the teachers perspective

Josh Farr from Teach For Australia gave new mentors an insight into the teachers perspective

 

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.

Lauren Smith from Teach for Australia

Lauren Smith from Teach for Australia

 

In2science mentors-in-training at Swinburne University of Technology test out some hands on demonstrations.

In2science mentors-in-training at Swinburne University of Technology test out some hands on demonstrations.

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!

In2science Engages Future Educators

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TFA expo Jan 2017Innovative approaches to teaching STEM was the topic of conversation at Deakin University, Waurn Ponds, in January. In2science was invited to share the benefits of peer mentoring with future secondary science and mathematics teachers at The Innovations in Education Marketplace, organised by Teach For Australia for its 2016 and 2017 Cohorts. The exhibition featured a range of innovative STEM education providers.

At the In2science stall, Program Manager Joanna Oreo and La Trobe University Coordinator Oliver Barrand, spoke with many Associates from Victoria and Interstate. The Associates were interested to hear about the impact of volunteer student mentors in keeping secondary students engaged with their STEM studies. 

“We focus specifically on low socioeconomic schools, so for many of the high school students it might be the first time they’ve had a meaningful encounter with a university student,” Jo told Associates.

A number of Associates were keen to sign up for updates on the program, with several Victorian Associates expressing interest in registering for the program.

The event brought together Teach For Australia Associates from across the country, and was an opportunity for them to get up to date on the latest innovations in STEM education that they could employ in the classroom.

 

Read more about the event on Teach For Australia’s news page.

2016 Reflections

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The number of mentor placements in 2016 by region.

The number of mentor placements in 2016 by region.

Welcome to the final post for 2016. The In2science Awards night was a fantastic way to celebrate the end of what has been a very busy, productive and successful year.

  • Specalised mentor training and support: the team has focused on specific mentor training based around growth mindset, mentoring, and enhancing science communication skills.
  • Staff professional development: the In2science team has attended numerous workshops and presented at conferences, all focused around increasing students’ engagement and aspirations in STEM.
  • Mentor manager and placement application: In 2017, coordinators will be able to visually see a mentor’s location in relation to a school and match mentors availability with teachers requests based on times and common interests.
  • Additional funding to launch and accelerate online mentoring for regional schools: Feedback from the 2016 pilot has been overwhelmingly positive.  We look forward to expanding this in 2017.

2016 numbersFeedback and support about the In2science program has been extremely positive.  Preliminary analysis of survey results reveal that, after having an In2science mentor, students:

  • are more confident in science and maths
  • are more likely to know how to find information to help them solve a science problem
  • enjoy finding out answers to science questions
  • identify that the problem solving skills they use in science can be helpful in everyday life; and
  • recognise that studying VCE science/maths subjects at year 12 will give them lots of options

What the students say

“The mentor didn’t give me the answers but helped me work through all the problems”
– Year 8 maths student

“I have learnt a lot from my mentor. Insights of uni life and her future career have been great to think about for my future”
– Year 8 science student

What the teachers say

“The mentor must have instilled something in the students that is very rare and hard to achieve in a secondary college – Intrinsic motivation”
– Kylie Lambert, Maffra Secondary College

What the mentors say

“Students became more engaged with the work when we worked together”
– Selda Ekri, In2science mentor

 

We would like to thank the Chair, The Honourable Professor John Brumby, for his support and leadership and all Advisory Board members for their ongoing commitment to ensuring the program is well governed.

In2science is fortunate to have a team of highly motivated and dedicated staff.  The team is looking forward to working with current and new partner schools and further expanding the program to support digital learning and girls in STEM in 2017.