We entered 2021 feeling optimistic and hopeful of a return to relative normality and, while many In2science university student mentors continued their studies online, coordinators were liaising with teachers to facilitate mentor placements in the classroom. Fortunately, despite some minor disruptions, most mentors were able to return to face-to-face mentoring, ensuring semester 1 was a great success. A return to an extended period of remote learning meant semester 2 threw up yet more challenges. However, mentors continued to demonstrate their commitment, passion, flexibility and generosity as we explored innovative ways to keep secondary school students engaged in their STEM studies.
Once again required to adapt and innovate to maintain engagement, In2science maintained strong engagement with teachers and students, facilitating 187 mentor placements in 54 partner schools to reach 3,521 students.
Feedback and survey data again confirmed that benefits of participating in In2science extend to all involved, including teachers, mentors and students. Teachers again reported that In2science mentors had positive impacts on their students, with 92% agreeing that mentors contributed additional specialised subject knowledge and/or real-life examples. While 87% noticed students were more engaged in the lesson when the mentor was present.
In2science Mentors again faced many challenges, however, their enthusiasm was not dampened and they continued to innovate in their interactions with their mentees. The capacity to adapt their approaches has provided the opportunity to build professional skills, with 93% of mentors reporting that In2science developed skills they will use in the future, while 85% of mentors felt they had a positive impact.
Importantly, at the conclusion of their mentoring placement, 42% of mentors reported that they are considering teaching as a career. Approximately 10% of university STEM-qualified workers are employed in the education sector [Australia’s STEM Workforce Report, 2020], and therefore, In2science evidently provides university students with a positive and affirming experience in the classroom. With a shortage of STEM-specialist teachers, In2science can provide a critical pathway to a career in education.
Ultimately, students again experienced substantial benefits from interacting with a mentor, with 71% reporting increased confidence in science/maths. Consistent with past evaluations, the frequency of interaction with the mentor correlated positively with their attitudes and confidence levels in STEM studies and careers (see below).
|“I love my interactions with my science mentor, it was the highlight of my week. He taught me things in science and math and gave me advice on everything he could, which I deeply appreciate.” – Year 9 student, Virtual School Victoria.|
Once again, In2science would like to express our sincere gratitude for the commitment and support of our outstanding partner schools, teachers and mentors, and look forward to building student aspirations in STEM in 2022.