Sarah CARROLL, Biochemistry, College of Science and Engineering, National University of Ireland Galway, Ireland
Grenon MURIEL, Biochemistry, College of Science and Engineering, National University of Ireland Galway, Ireland
The importance of scientists facilitating Public Engagement in Science (PES) activities has been widely recognised since Thomas and Durants’ influential 1987 piece ‘Why should we promote the public engagement of science’. Scientists engaging in PES activities has multiple benefits –it can positively contribute towards participants’ science literacy, perceived value of science, and trust in both science and scientists. This is particularly important in a post-truth world where information is more abundant than ever, highlighting the need for critical thinking and confident engagement with socio-scientific topics. Due to an emphasis on evidence-based practice in PES, the rate of research relating to science communication and education research has been steadily increasing over the last 20 years. However, practical recommendations, tailored to PES facilitators’ needs and contexts, can be difficult to obtain due to the transdisciplinary and fragmented nature of research in science communication. The relevant research communities, spanning a range of disciplines including media studies, marketing, social sciences, educational psychology and science education, often use a variety of different terms to describe their methodology, conceptual frameworks and findings. Moreover, their results and findings are often presented within different circles. This can make it exceedingly difficult for PES facilitators to navigate relevant studies, and often results in a lack of translation between the research findings and implementation into practice.
A key motivational construct which is recurrent in science education research, is science self-efficacy. Science self-efficacy can be described as the self-belief a person has in their perceived abilities to complete specific scientific tasks successfully. Those with higher science self-efficacy are more likely to engage in science activities, have a higher interest in science, and perform better academically in science tests and assessments. As these overlap with desirable outcomes for many PES activities, facilitators may benefit from an increased awareness on how to effectively tap into the sources of young peoples’ science self-efficacy beliefs. PES facilitators can positively affect science self-efficacy by demonstrating scientific tasks and praising the effort of participants in their activities. By doing this, they act as what can be termed as ‘Social Models’. Scientists are uniquely placed to act as social models, as they are often perceived as experts in science, which is a key factor in positively affecting science self-efficacy beliefs. This presentation will contribute towards bridging the gap between research and practice. It will give ten practical recommendations drawn from our recent research conducted within the PES space. These recommendations aim to positively impact young peoples' science self-efficacy beliefs and are tailored to the context of scientists facilitating hands-on PES activities.