CASE STUDIES - What techniques do you use to motivate your students with their research projects?

What techniques do you use to motivate your students with their research projects?

We have a systematic approach to it working from 7 through to 10. In Year 7 we utilise the Australian Science teachers association Spectra awards for students. So all students in year 7 take part in that programme where they elect to do a particular topic and they do that over two term period of time, where they do individual pieces of work as set by ASTA. So we use that as a way of using quite a good quality programme that as science teachers we don't have to spend a lot of time developing resources because we are using something that is already in place. we collect the work, we look at the work, and in terms of the enthusiasm for the students we have a programme were we display the better works at the end of the year. We find that gives them lots of confidence in managing something over a period of time which is an important part of doing a research project. The students do get a lot out of that. The fact that they have a wide range of choices of things they can do with that programme, we find that to be very beneficial and in Year 7 it gives them a good start to the idea of doing a project on their own, in their own time.

In Year 8 we use the period of time after the yearly exams, which can often be a dead period in schools, where the students work in groups on individual research projects. We take any form of assessment away from it other than just informal feedback so the students aren't pressured in the way they do the tasks. So they have a lot of choice in what they do they work in teams, they have the resources of the school and they have an extended period of time, between three and four weeks to get these projects done. So we find that motivates them because they have got a lot of choice, they can work in teams of their own choosing, and they've got the resources and the time at school to do it, because we find the students at our school have a lot of things that they have to do and it takes, a research project, a good quality research project takes time and this allows them time to do it at school. So they get to see what they can do in doing that particular process at school.

In Year 9 we extend the idea of the Year 8 project but we actually make it an assessment task. So we give it that spur it may not provide interest for them but it provides motivation for them. So again it is a group project where they work in groups, this time selected by teachers. They are given three periods of class to do it in. They have to design the project, they have to conduct the project and they have to present the project all within a three period, our periods are 55 minutes, three periods, about a weeks worth of work. And we find that gives them very good skills in getting things done, getting things done as a team, and also working withg people that they don't normally work with, the fact that the teacher picked the teams and we find that we get some very good quality work from that.

And that leads into Year 10 where they do a full on individual student research project. So they are given an extended period of time, they are given the project early in Year 10. They are given about two and a half terms to get it done and they have complete choice in what they do. The school gives them lots of support them, we there are check points along the way where they tell us how they are going with their project and we have our deadlines set so the projects are finished by the important competitions,like the Intel Young Scientist competition, BHP Billiton Awards, and things like that. So we use that as an extra incentive for the students to produce some good quality work. We have had some good success with students achieving the awards in those competitions in the the past few years. So we find that, that is, is building interest and the fact that we have had some high profile winners, that raises the profile of these competitions and the students are starting to think it might actually be a good idea to be involved in the projects because there are some pretty big rewards involved. Nina Pinto last year won the actual big prize in the Intel Young Scientist competition and went to America this year which was a great experience for her. So we're hoping to use Nina as a role-model to spur Year 10's next year into the Young Scientist competition.

One of students last year won the major prize in the Intel Young Scientist competition and that has helped raise the profile of that particular competition within the school and we are going to use that student to promote that competition to Year 10 next year to generate some more interest in students actually entering. That student actually attended a conference in America this year whuch she found to be very beneficial and we are going to use that excitement and enthusiasm to promote that event, and entering the competition, to the girls in Year 10.

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