Widening participation in work experience: a case-study for engaging 16 to 18-year-olds in Physics
In this session we present a model for engaging 20 students in an in-depth, skills-based work experience program aimed at raising science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills and confidence, and addressing awareness and feelings of belonging in Higher Education (HE) and physics. We believe that this model is transferable across all subjects. To support this, we will quantify the time and staffing requirements of our model, with an indication of scalability.
We discuss our approach to targeting students from underrepresented groups, and how the project has evolved to adapt to the needs of our students. We show the results of our evaluation, share success stories, and what we hope to further achieve.
Opportunities for students to gain work experience in physics or astrophysics are rare. Where they do exist, they are often socially ring-fenced to those who already have connections.
This is compounded by the common social narratives of who physics is for. Stereotypes based upon gender, sexual orientation, disability, social background, and ethnicity can make studying physics at university, or pursuing a career in physics, feel daunting. For 10 years the National Schools’ Observatory, part of the Astrophysics Research Institute (ARI) at LJMU, has hosted a week-long Work Experience Program for students aged 16-18 from across the UK, with a focus on engaging students from underrepresented groups.
The program provides students with the opportunity to experience working in an astrophysics research setting whilst giving them a taste of university, including information and guidance on student finance, careers, and student life. Skills sessions equip students to undertake the focus of the week where they work in small groups, under the guidance of a supervisor, to analyse real data from the Liverpool Telescope. Students conduct research into their topic and present their research and analysis to a professional level.
Widening participation in work experience: a case-study for engaging 16 to 18-year-olds in Physics PowerPoint. Only LJMU staff and students have access to this resource.
Copyright (c) 2023 Emma Smith, Stacey Habergham-Mawson, Alison Keen
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