Review of practical research projects in science

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A good report to show senior leaders in order to gain the necessary support to allow students to carry out extended projects and independent research projects (IRP).

The evidence shows gains in students’ learning, improvements in students’ attitudes to science, suggestions that increased numbers are likely to consider careers in science as a result of their participation in IRPs, and particular benefits for students from traditionally under-represented backgrounds.

Students reported that their IRP work had made them aware of a broader range of careers and specialisms available in STEM subjects and STEM-related areas. They also felt it had helped them to make decisions about future work and study, and that they had a better idea of the attributes for which employers are looking. Additional reported benefits included the development of self-esteem, independence and autonomy, self-regulation, tenacity, time management skills, a spirit of co-inquiry with teachers and a sense of scientific identity, improved presentation skills, confidence, ability to work in a team and employability skills.

Independent research projects are challenging for teachers, partners and students, though all groups felt that the benefits very much outweigh possible drawbacks. The challenges were associated with resource constraints, teacher preparation (both in terms of time and knowledge), teacher confidence in supervising IRPs, identifying potential partners for IRP work, teacher workload and time constraints, and some concern over the potential sacrificing of students’ breadth of knowledge for depth in a particular area if students participated in an IRP.

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