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01-02-2013 | Issue 1/2013

Journal of Science Education and Technology 1/2013

Developing School-Scientist Partnerships: Lessons for Scientists from Forests-of-Life

Journal:
Journal of Science Education and Technology > Issue 1/2013
Authors:
Garry Falloon, Ann Trewern

Abstract

The concept of partnerships between schools and practicing scientists came to prominence in the United States in the mid 1980s. The call by government for greater private sector involvement in education to raise standards in science achievement saw a variety of programmes developed, ranging from short-term sponsorships through to longer-term, project-based interactions. Recently, school-scientist partnerships (SSPs) have been rekindled as a means of assisting schools to motivate and inspire students in science, improve levels of teachers’ science knowledge, and increase awareness of the type and variety of career opportunities available in the sciences (Rennie and Howitt, 2009). This article summarises research that used an interpretive case study method to examine the performance of a two-year SSP pilot between a government-owned science research institute, and 200 students from two Intermediate (years 7 and 8) schools in New Zealand. It explored the experiences of scientists involved in the partnerships, and revealed difficulties in bridging the void that existed between the outcomes-driven, commercially-focused world of research scientists, and the more process-oriented, tightly structured, and conservative world of teachers and schools. Findings highlight the pragmatic realities of establishing partnerships, from the perspective of scientists. These include acute awareness of the nature of school systems, conventions and environments; the science, technological and pedagogical knowledge of teachers; teacher workload issues and pressures, curriculum priorities and access to science resources. The article identifies areas where time and effort should be invested to ensure successful partnership outcomes.

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