Deakin University
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Growing tall poppies: Findings from a partnership program between students and scientists

Version 2 2024-06-18, 06:57
Version 1 2018-02-14, 13:53
conference contribution
posted on 2024-06-18, 06:57 authored by PETER Hubber, E Barone-Nugent
There is widespread concern about the engagement of students with school science and uptake of Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines in the post compulsory years of schooling. Within the subject area of physics there is further concern that significantly fewer females pursue the subject in the post compulsory years resulting in calls for gender equity strategies and policies to address issues of engagement in science. Researchers and policy makers have advocated more inquiry based approaches that better represent contemporary practice in the sciences. Student–scientist partnerships is one strategy that employs authentic, inquiry-based learning to provide students and teachers with access to the scientific community that also gives students insights that will enable them to make informed career choices. However there is a paucity of research about the role of scientists interacting with students to support change (Peker and Dolan, 2012). This paper describes an Australian four-year (2015-18) federally funded student-scientist partnership project in its first year of implementation. The project entails the widespread implementation of the Growing Tall Poppies (GTP) program where Year 10/11 students attend a science organisation for a 3 to 5 day period where they work with scientists in undertaking a research project directly related to a current research area. The students are expected to present their findings on a poster, which is uploaded to the GTP website (, and also give an oral presentation to peers, teachers and scientists. The GTP program was an initiative between a metropolitan girl’s school and a large collaborative research centre that was working at the interface of physics and biology. Since its implementation at the school in 2008 there was a statistically significant increase in girls retained into Year 12 Physics (Barone-Nugent et al., 2012). The aim of implementing the GTP program on a wider scale in Australia is to increase the retention of girls into Year 12 science and especially Physics by partnering more schools with science organisations. In 2015 seventeen schools and three science organisation participated in GTP programs and scientists, teachers and students from four schools and two science organisations were interviewed (semi-structured) about their experiences. The main benefits/outcomes for the GTP participants include: • Science organisations increased capacity to fulfil outreach commitments required as part of their research funding; • Scientists gained - experience in science communication skills to enhance their curriculum vitae to pursue career advancement, satisfaction in being able to explain their work to a general audience, and providing mentoring to young aspiring scientists; • Schools were able to provide quality opportunities to satisfy national science curriculum requirements that demonstrate the ‘nature of science’ and ‘science as a human endeavour’; and • Students gained enhanced understanding of - the personal histories and every-day activities of contemporary physicists, careers related to physics, and how contemporary physics research is interdisciplinary and socially constructed and relevant. In conclusion, the evidence indicates that providing students with planned, short but intense experiences with scientists can motivate and increase the likelihood of girls to continue their study of physics. Thus the GTP program’s success on a small scale is being supported as a model for wider implementation. The programs support recognises that ongoing research and exploration is needed to clarify pathways for scientists and schools to collaborate to produce authentic learning experiences that underpin socially relevant contemporary science as a means of engaging and motivating students to study physics.





Sao Paolo, Brazil

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EN Other conference paper


Pietrocola M, Gurgel I, Leite C

Title of proceedings

Contemporary science education and challenges in the present society: Perspectives in physics teaching and learning


Physics Education. World Conference (2016 : 2nd : Sao Paolo, Brazil)


Faculty of Education University of Sao Paolo

Place of publication

Sao Paolo, Brazil

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