Faculty of Science placeholder
Faculty of Science placeholder

Strengthening Research Practicals in Secondary Education

Duration
2023 until 2026
Project member(s)
Barbara Evertsen (Radboud Insitiute for Science Education) , Jeroen Sijbers (C3) , Emiel de Kleijn (SLO)
Project type
Education

To enthuse students for science and technology, it's crucial they have opportunities to apply their knowledge and skills in practice. Practical assignments at school are an excellent opportunity for this. They encourage students to be actively involved: combining thinking and doing.

The European Olympiad of Experimental Science (EOES) is an Olympiad focused on practical assignments aimed at challenging, stimulating, and fostering collaboration among upper secondary students. The tasks for the EOES include biological, chemical, and physical experiments related to a societal context. The EOES challenges students to work in teams, applying their knowledge and skills to develop science and technology solutions. The competitive element acts as a catalyst.

This proposal contributes to improving the quality of school experiments and supports schools in implementing the Olympiad into their curriculum. Moreover, more students gain practical laboratory experience. To achieve this, practical assignments are made accessible, and students and their experiences are highlighted. This increases participation chances. Former participants are used as role models.

Project Goals

Students get a realistic view of interdisciplinary collaboration, research, and experimentation in a laboratory; they have the chance to participate in an Olympiad and discover their own talents. Students experience how the disciplines interconnect through authentic practical assignments related to current societal issues. Furthermore, this project aims to retain students in a science profile, encouraging them to choose a science-related higher education.

Integration with Regular School Curriculum

Practical, experimental (laboratory) skills, and research abilities are part of the secondary education curriculum. In daily school practice, these often face challenges. Final exams and their syllabuses are frequently cited as reasons for the limited scope teachers feel in conducting practicals (Pieters et al., 2020). This contrasts with what science faculties desire. This project provides schools with context-rich practical materials that align with the secondary education curriculum. Adding a competitive element through the EOES will serve as a motivator for both schools and individual students.

Interaction with Schools

The interaction with schools occurs in two ways:

  1. Selecting and adapting EOES practical tasks for secondary education in collaboration with subject teachers. This makes it easy to incorporate the tasks into the curriculum.
  2. Students register for the preliminary rounds through their (science) teachers. All secondary schools in the Netherlands receive information about the project every September. Participating teachers are generally very involved with their students, especially during the final rounds and prize-giving ceremonies. Moreover, teachers often assist students in their preparations.

Activities

We develop 4 activities:

  • Making research practicals available in schools using international tasks from the EOES.
  • Developing supporting (video) material for instruction.
  • Developing video material to enthuse students (using role models).
  • Encouraging participation in the EOES.

Results

  • Adapted international practical tasks suitable for schools and students. 
  • Categorised by topics that align with the educational programme.
  • An expansion of the EOES project (see numerical substantiation). 
  • This means more universities participating, more schools involved, and more students gaining laboratory experience.
  • 3–6 videos where laboratory staff explain practical skills and equipment, supporting the event.
  • 6 videos showcasing participating students.
  • Workshops with dissemination of results for chemistry and physics teachers (e.g., at Woudschoten conferences and Study Days).

Partners