University of South Australia (AUSTRALIA)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN16 Proceedings
Publication year: 2016
Pages: 3021-3028
ISBN: 978-84-608-8860-4
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2016.0166
Conference name: 8th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 4-6 July, 2016
Location: Barcelona, Spain
With national shortages of scientists and health professionals, our regional university campus initiated an introductory program for school students to expose them to science, the health professions, and the university. The University Science Experience Program is a collaborative project between secondary schools at Whyalla, the Nursing and Rural Health Unit, and the Health Services. School students undertaking work experience at the local hospital were enrolled in the science enrichment program with the objectives of highlighting the importance of science to health professions. The program, free of charge to participating students, aimed to elaborate on some important scientific principles applied in health professions, familiarise school students to health science careers, encourage them to pursue science after high school, and provide an opportunity to experience university.

The participants attended university-level sessions taught by faculty members and took part in complete hands-on activities. They also listened to personal experiences of current university staff, scientists and health professionals and were mentored by university students. During the one-day intensive program, students learnt about sciences applied to the human body: vital signs (Physiology/Pathophysiology), heart and lung function (Anatomy/Physiology), hidden sugars, cholesterol (Chemistry), microorganisms and diseases (Microbiology), and fractures and wounds (Physics). They viewed educational videos/clips, accessed readings, evaluated the program, and were provided with opportunities to think critically and problem solve.

A 30-item survey instrument determined the perceptions of participants about the program, encompassing the overall experience of the academic visit, learning opportunities, and impact of the experience. The participants’ socio-demographic data were also obtained, as well as their future career plans after high school. The items querying students’ perceived value of the learning experience required participants to respond to a set of criteria using a Likert scale from ‘strongly disagree’ to ‘strongly agree’. Other items were closed questions requiring the participants to select from pre-determined choices, while the remaining items were open-ended questions that sought information and opinions about pertinent topics.

Seventy-six (76) promising high school students participated in the science enrichment program from 2006 to 2014. Overall, perceptions about the program were positive and encouraging. The majority of students ‘agreed’ (34%) or ‘strongly agreed’ (57%) that the academic visit was a positive learning experience and that there were many learning opportunities available to them during the visit (Agree – 50%; Strongly agree – 42%). The majority reported that they had a better understanding of some science concepts (66%; 24%), the scientific concepts used within varying health professions (42%; 53%), and the link between science and the work of health professionals (63%; 26%). As a result of their experience, all felt positive about university (66%; 34%) and might consider pursuing university (37%; 45%). The majority of the participants thought that other high school students would benefit from the experience (42%; 55%). Finally, the best things about the university experience were: the practicals and the new, interesting and hands-on science activities, ‘new things’, and the friendly staff.
High school students, Engagement, Sciences.