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HiSPARC in England ; A pilot study investigating the status of the high-school project on astrophysics research with cosmics in Bristol and the Vicinity

Osinga, Gerard (2014) HiSPARC in England ; A pilot study investigating the status of the high-school project on astrophysics research with cosmics in Bristol and the Vicinity.

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Abstract:Studies have highlighted an alarming decline in young people’s interest for science studies and mathematics in Europe (OECD, 2006; Osborne et al. 2003; Krapp & Prezel 2011; Dinescu et al. 2011). Despite the growing enrolment rates in science and technology, the relative numbers among the overall student population have been decreasing. The High School Project on Astrophysics Research with Cosmics (HiSPARC) is an example of a motivational approach for high-school students, with the aim of encouraging them to choose a scientific career. It is a Dutch astroparticle-physics experiment in which high-school students are included in real scientific research. HiSPARC’s educational goals are to offer the intellectual and technical challenges of scientific research to high-school students, to update science teachers on modern developments and to develop new teaching material for high-schools (Van Eijk et al. 2004). The project expanded to England in the academic year 2012/2013. Now, eleven English high-schools are participating and this number is growing. This thesis contains a pilot study investigating the status of the HiSPARC experiment in England. The first research questions is: What have students, participating in HiSPARC in the academic year 2012/2013 learned? The research question was answered by means of interviews with five students. It seems that most students are not able to explain what cosmic rays are. They do know that these particles come from space, but are not able to give specific sources. Also, most of the students cannot explain the technology used in the HiSPARC detectors in order to measure cosmic rays, and how one is able to deduce shower direction. Students have been working on their assignments without fully understanding the physical principles involved, meaning that most of them have been working at a superficial level which led to not keeping on to the acquired knowledge (Ebbens and Ettekoven, 2009). The second research question of this thesis is: Why do students participate in HiSPARC? This question was answered with the aid of a questionnaire. The majority of the students participate in HiSPARC because they experience the content as exciting. Students state that they like the fact that they are contributing to cutting-edge physics which is beyond the normal remit of science courses. Therefore, the second most important reasons to participate is because HiSPARC differentiates itself from other science courses. It challenges the students, and therefore, they think they will have an advantage over others when applying for university. Why do teachers participate in HiSPARC? is the third research question. In order to answer this research question interviews with 5 teachers were conducted. Teachers state that they participate in HiSPARC because they want to offer real science to high-school students. Being involved in cutting-edge physics projects is not only fun for the students but can also help them to get into good universities. Teachers think that the most important goals of HiSPARC are to engage students in astrophysics research, to network with other schools, and to partner with a leading university. The last research question is: To what extent are the educational goals of HiSPARC reached? The intellectual and technical challenges are being brought to high-school students participating in HiSPARC in England. The goals set by teachers are in agreement with this. Some teachers however, state that they lack the knowledge about cosmic rays which they need to fully support their students. Whether participation in HiSPARC stimulates pupils to choose for a career in science or technology cannot be concluded from this research.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:81 education, teaching
Programme:Science Education and Communication MSc (60708)
Link to this item:http://purl.utwente.nl/essays/65045
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