Rushton EAC, Charters L & Reiss MJ (2021) The experiences of active participation in academic conferences for high school science students. Research in Science & Technological Education, 39 (1), pp. 90-108. https://doi.org/10.1080/02635143.2019.1657395
Background: A diverse range of opportunities for high school students to undertake Independent Research Projects (IRPs) in science and this is a beneficial aspect of high school science provision. In Higher Education, the importance of students undertaking research as part of their learning, including presenting at authentic, academic conferences, is increasingly recognised.
Purpose: To date, research has little considered the experiences of high school students who present their scientific research at conferences, to audiences of academics and peers, and this study seeks to contribute to understanding in this area.
Sample: Twenty seven high school science students from four state-maintained schools.
Design and methods: This qualitative research incorporates the ‘Students as Partners’ (SaP) approach. SaP is present in the ways in which teachers and students worked in research and in contributing to authentic conferences. SaP is also reflected in the composition of the author team of this article; the first author worked for the organisation that delivered the conferences, the second author was a school student who participated in a focus group, having previously presented her research at one of these conferences, and the third author is based in a higher education institution. Student experiences were shared through five focus groups held at the students’ schools and thematic analysis was used to explore these experiences.
Results: High school students benefit from the opportunity to present their research at academic conferences, but they need support and guidance in the pre-conference and post-conference phases as well as at the conference to gain the most from the experience.
Conclusion: Future research must consider the ways in which students from under-represented groups can be supported to view IRPs and presenting research at conferences as opportunities that are open to them if these opportunities are to be genuinely open to all students.
High school science students; academic conferences; independent research projects (IRPs); student researcher; teacher scientist
Research in Science & Technological Education: Volume 39, Issue 1