Research Line Science communication and extracurricular learning
Creating an educational ecosystem
In recent years, a growing range of extracurricular activities has developed - not least due to the shortage of STEM professionals. These are designed to get young people excited about STEM and to support them accordingly. However, many of these programs primarily reach those who are supported more effectively in school already. Therefore, in the research line Science Communication and Extracurricular Learning, the IPN is dedicated to systematically linking and researching extracurricular educational offerings with school-based learning for different groups of addressees with different educational prerequisites. This is intended to create an educational ecosystem in which the various programs are interlinked.
Groundbreaking Programs of the Research Line
Groundbreaking programs in the research line Science Communication and Extracurricular Learning include, for example.
the Science Olympiads as competitive promotion approaches for interested, in the higher rounds also for high-achieving young people,
Offers of the Kiel Science Outreach Lab (Kieler Forschungswerkstatt) as well as the Schleswig-Holstein Network of Student Research Centers (SFZ-SH) and the STEM Academy as interfaces between authentic research and student research
In addition, the network of Leibniz Research Museums is conceptually connected.
Central Goals of these Programs
One of the central goals of these programs is the ongoing development of co-design approaches. This means that the most authentic learning environments possible are created through the systematic collaboration of various experts from the disciplines, from educational and science communication research, and from the various fields of practice and people working there. To this end, the IPN cooperates, for example, with Kiel University (CAU), the Muthesius Academy of Fine Arts (MKH), and the Universities of Applied Sciences in Kiel and Lübeck.
However, the work of the research line is not only aimed at professionalizing development. Rather, the members want to advance the research itself and implement the findings in existing networks. After all, unlike in the school sector and in teacher training, practical experience in particular shapes the fields of science communication and extracurricular learning.
Research Topics and Key Questions
Three key questions serve as the basis for the research line. They are addressed by researchers in various projects across departments.
What factors influence participation in enrichment and outreach services, their use and impact?
In various research projects, members of the research line are looking, for example, at what actually proves beneficial for successful participation in enrichment and outreach activities. The researchers are also looking at questions of where further support measures should start or who has been supported by competitions such as the Science Olympiads so far. In this way, access to offers and differentiated support approaches are to be improved in a targeted manner.
With regard to the participants in the Physics Olympiad, studies show that it is above all certain personal characteristics that determine success or failure in participation. Consequently, the individual needs of learners play an increasingly important role in the development of new offerings when it comes to ensuring that all learners benefit equally from enrichment and outreach offerings. This applies to competitions as well as to offerings at extracurricular learning venues such as student labs.
How can current research content be transferred into effective outreach and enrichment activities with the involvement of different players?
The research line combines the large research and development area of mathematics and science education with the comparatively young field of science communication. With the involvement of various players, tailor-made outreach and enrichment activities for school and public target groups are to be developed.
The IPN benefits from its long-standing partnership with Kiel University. This close cooperation has been systematically expanded through various excellence and collaborative research programs and their outreach projects. Another building block is the KiSOC, which received funding from the Leibniz Association from 2016 to 2020. Scientists from both institutions jointly supervised research projects and additionally integrated external partners over the past years. This has resulted in a very close-knit network that puts research in the strongly interdisciplinary context of science outreach on a sustainable footing.
The aim is to make current socially relevant topics from research visible and accessible. To this end, specialist researchers, design experts from media and design, and increasingly the target groups themselves work together in theory-based collaborative and participatory design processes and are an active part of the development process. Since 2021, the KielSCN has been building on this experience.
How can sustainable impacts be achieved through systemic networking of outreach and enrichment activities?
Although out-of-school support has established quite a few concepts and structures in recent years, a systematic connection with school-based learning has hardly been established. In the sense of individual support counseling, this also applies to programs among themselves. Together with other providers, the IPN has therefore established structures and developed concepts that deal with exemplary models for educational ecosystems. The research line investigates under which conditions these models succeed and how they work.
Based on the Kiel Science Outreach Lab (Kieler Forschungswerkstatt), the IPN, with the support of the state of Schleswig-Holstein and the Joachim Herz Foundation, at first initiated and coordinated the Network of Student Research Centers (SFZ-SH). Here, interested young people receive a more advanced STEM offer beyond the existing programs for entire school classes. This takes into account the conditions of an extended area and is directly linked to school structures. The concept represents a new prototype of structures for student research that other German states could also use for orientation. Other networking structures such as the regional STEM cluster Science@Seas followed. With the MINT Academy, it was also possible to establish an umbrella format that links topic-related approaches along funding levels.
Another goal is to improve networking and the involvement of the young people themselves. Here, the focus is not only on structures, but rather on content. Young people should be given the chance to collaborate with each other as well as directly with science. Citizen science concepts for schools and young people also form an important approach to this. The Europe-wide youth campaign Plastic Pirates - Go Europe! successfully established such a concept on the topic of plastic waste. Further developments are currently taking place in other areas such as biodiversity and archaeology. In addition, the concepts are in exchange with other Citizen Science activities at the IPN, for example WTimpact.