As schools, teachers, students and their families navigate the new world of remote learning, we are reflecting on the impact that In2science mentors have on students’ confidence and attitudes towards science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). At In2science, we are leveraging the knowledge and lessons learned in over 15 years of mentoring to support students as they continue their education through remote learning.
In 2019, In2science continued to expand its reach and 5,882 Victorian high school students studying STEM at 58 schools reaped the benefits of interacting with In2science mentors. In2science recruited 318 mentors from our partner universities – La Trobe University, The University of Melbourne, RMIT University, Swinburne University of Technology and Monash University. These mentors connected with students over a total of 20 weeks to help build students’ enthusiasm for STEM and encourage them to consider studying science and maths into VCE and beyond.
The In2science peer mentoring model remains a powerful mechanism for improving students’ attitudes towards STEM study. The most dramatic improvement in attitudes occurred when students had regular and direct interactions with their mentor over the 10-week placement period.
The impact of In2science mentoring on girls is particularly empowering. Girls who regularly interacted with their mentor were significantly more likely to report that they would like to go to university. Moreover, girls who did not regularly interact with their mentor were significantly less likely to report positive attitudes towards STEM study and careers than boys with minimal interaction. However, not only did attitudes significantly improve when boys and girls regularly interacted with their mentor, any difference in attitudes between the genders disappeared. This feedback confirms the effectiveness of In2science peer mentoring for increasing participation for groups traditionally underrepresented in STEM.
As we prepare to support In2science partner schools and their students’ online, it is also timely to reflect on the outstanding outcomes of eMentoring for regional and rural students. The regular interactions with their eMentor via weekly online meetings has a particularly profound impact on students from regional and rural areas. More than 91% of eMentees agreed that after regular interactions with their mentor, they:
(i) have more confidence doing science;
(ii) feel that studying science or maths in VCE in achievable;
(iii) have a better understanding of how many jobs rely on science; and
(iv) would like to go to university.
The topics regional and rural students liked to discuss with their mentors also reflects their curiosity and excitement about pathways leading to higher education. All eMentees report that they enjoy talking about life at university and 90% enjoy discussions about future studies after school.
Teachers also report outstanding outcomes for their students: 86% notice that certain students engage more in the lesson with a mentor present, with 95% agreeing that the mentor is a good role model for students. Importantly, when teachers are asked if they would recommend In2science to their colleagues they are enormously enthusiastic. This feedback is reflected in a net promoter score of 72.9. This places In2science firmly in the world-class category and is testament to the enthusiasm and commitment of mentors and the support they receive from the program.
Importantly, our outstanding mentors, while having an impressive impact on Victorian school students, also experience numerous benefits by volunteering with In2science, with 94% agreeing that participation in In2science developed skills they will use in the future. Moreover, 92% of mentors felt they had a positive impact during their placement.
Evidently, the connections the mentors forge with their mentees can have an important positive impact on students’ attitudes towards STEM and STEM careers. In2science remains committed to supporting schools and students as they navigate this new world of remote learning, building upon the knowledge gained over 15 years of mentoring.