REFLECTIVE ANALYSIS OF UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS WHEN WORKING ON NON-FORMAL SCIENCE ACTIVITIES
Two non-formal science activities were chosen as platforms for undergraduate students to improve their competencies, especially in communicating science. Students answered a list of reflective questions. Four complete units were chosen with which to analyze the students’ responses, that were afterwards classified into three methodological (description, argumentation and contribution) and three reflective (understanding, reflection and critical reflection) levels.
Reflection has the purpose of addressing consciousness and thoughtfulness about one’s actions. The process of reflection consists of a linear model of successive phases, moving from an initial interpretation of experiences through to defining hypotheses and testing or experimenting with them. Non-formal education is the learning that occurs in a formal learning environment but that is not formally recognized within a curriculum or syllabus framework. The ‘Resarchers’ Night’ and the ‘Science for All’ fair are social events open to people interested in Science in an attractive and engaging way. Both events use a method based on transmitting Science through ‘hands on’ experiments.
The experiment was carried out with a regular group of eight volunteer undergraduate students with the aim to improve their competencies in communicating science. Each student had to answer eight questions individually after performing the activity. The answers were afterwards analyzed by combining structural and descriptive coding processes that was considered to depend on two different and complementary categorization processes (methodological and reflective). The methodological categorization was based on the awareness of the learning process while developing the action (Description, Argumentation and Contribution), whereas the reflective categorization was established based on the degree of personal reflection (Understanding, Reflection and Critical Reflection).
There was a high level of participation in the activity; seven out of the eight students that attended the non-formal science events answered the questions. They were motivated during the event and also with the ensuing reflection activity. From the methodological categorization, students mainly described the activity carried out and only a small percentage (25%) managed to give an argument of their reflections. Several students contributed to the activity by pointing out the method they used to adapt the language to the audience and its needs, the way they obtained feedback from the audience or to how they managed to acquire the information required from the audience in order to be able to introduce the information needed to develop the experiment.
When the categorization was made in terms of the level of reflection, the majority of the students’ reflections about the activity were on the level of understanding. The majority of the answers to this indicator reflected scientific knowledge with only one student response about the methodology used during the activity. Furthermore, 32% pointed out that they had searched for new methods, not indicated by their teachers, to develop the non-formative event, indicating an important degree of creativity and critical reflection.