Teaching Innovation Awards Winner
Wellcome Connecting Science
Wellcome Connecting Science acknowledges that access to science education is not equal and we are committed to raising the career aspirations of young people. We developed this new offering in order to empower students to explore varied careers in genomics and increase their knowledge and confidence relating to science careers, whilst reducing stereotypes of who can be a scientist or what working in science looks like.
To achieve these aims, we utilised a number of LabSims to give students an interactive experience and increase their lab skills and confidence, especially as many may not have access to biology labs. To contextualise the LabSims, we first created a video tour of a cell biology lab, allowing students to see and hear about the techniques and equipment used. We then selected cell biology LabSims to enable students to have a go at techniques they’d just learnt about. This reinforced their knowledge and increased their confidence with lab equipment.
Another aim of the course was to reduce stereotypes, such as the stereotype that all biology jobs are lab based. To showcase a non-lab role, we invited a Senior Health and Safety Adviser to introduce her role and some key concepts such as COSHH and risk matrices. To bring this role to life, we then utilised the health and safety LabSims, and then the LearnSci Direct question builder to create drop-and-drag questions where students needed to recall their knowledge of the COSHH scale and risk matrices.
This was the first time we have provided this type of experience for young people nationally, removing financial, geographical and other barriers associated with in-person opportunities. We reached over 1,400 students aged 14-18, exceeding the benchmark indicated by Springpod ten-fold. We were able to reach students who don’t have connections to people in science, with 31% of participants indicating that they are the first in their family planning to go to University.
In assessing the impact of the course, student feedback indicated the LabSims as a highlight of the course: “I loved the activities that were detailed meticulously to help me out if I was stuck or confused”; “I enjoyed the LearnSci activities as they were fun and interactive to do and you learnt important things at the same time”.
At the end of the course, students felt more connected to people who work in STEM (34% increase), had more confidence about finding a job in the future (45% increase), and felt they had a better understanding of what people who work in genomics do day-to-day (79% increase). Students also indicated that from the course they had found new passions and career ambitions: “Thank you so much for this opportunity to learn so many new things about an area of science that I have never learnt about. You have given me a strong insight into what I want to do in the future and it has been incredible.”
The course is set to run twice in the current academic year, becoming a cornerstone of our careers education programme.