Project Based Learning In Science

Extended Research and Projects in the
Foundation Centre
Catherine Marshall
Megan Bruce
Sam Nolan
Why do a project?
General Studies does not predict Final Degree classification
(Smithers and Robinson, 1993)
Could be argued to be a measure of cultural capital
Many Universities do not use it∂
Studies on the International Baccalaureate indicate that the
Extended Essay is a good preparation for the self-directed
Cultural Capital
Bourdieu – Education reproduces and maintains the social status quo
leading to inequity in educational experience and reproduction of the
class system rather than offering a mechanism of social mobility
(Bourdieu, 1976)
∂ children enables them to access
Cultural Capital - given to middle class
the education offered by the system
Children of lower social classes must acquire, through education, certain
knowledge, language and ways of behaving, which children of higher
social class receive as a matter of course through their upbringing
Enforced by parental attitude, peer groups and teachers.
Consequently a child of lower socioeconomic class must do far better
than a child of higher class to reap the same rewards
Sternberg Triarchic Abilities Test Sternberg (2008)
Measured creative, analytical and practical skills (SAT just
∂ of College outcome than SAT
STAT more consistent predictor
White middle-class students more likely to do well on
analytical skills; ethnic background and lower SEC more
likely to develop creative and practical skills
A more meritocratic system?
Gardner, (1991) noted, students may be able to give the correct
response when asked about a particular concept, but will then
not use that same concept, but revert to intuitive responses
when trying to apply knowledge in new contexts that do not
∂ formats. e.g. 70% of physics
resemble the standard learning
students who had taken a mechanics course erroneously
described a tossed coin as having two forces acting on it
Consequently it is important not only to test concepts, but assess
how they are applied in a project
Foundation centre
In-house, year 0 preparation for degree study for nontraditional, local, mature students
Also some international students whose National Education
System does not reach A-level
∂ standard
Progression to all departments in the University
Combination of Knowledge and Skills
Foundation Programme Success
In order to evaluate the success of Foundation Programme
teaching, it is important to articulate what change is
needed in students’ knowledge and skills during the
Foundation year that will indicate
that a student is
appropriately prepared to begin their degree programme
Research-led teaching
Higher Education is generally characterised by utilising
research-led teaching
For many years there has been∂ a belief that being a good
researcher leads naturally to being a good teacher
Relationship between Research
and Teaching
There have been numerous attempts to establish a positive
correlation between the two
A meta-analysis carried out by∂Hattie and Marsh (1996)
based on 58 articles found the overall correlation to be
Infusion of teaching with research
There is evidence more likely that the learning and teaching
process in Higher Education is enhanced by being infused
with research in some way, e.g. having research as part of
the learning experience ∂
Significance is not the transmission of the substantive
knowledge as the most important outcome of researchled teaching, rather it is the thinking processes that lead
to good research i.e. that research-led teaching is showing
students how to think as researchers
Communities of practice
Brew (2012)suggested that there should be a model of
undergraduate education based on the concept of
inducting students into ‘communities of practice’ with a
move away from information-transmission
and more
towards conceptual change
Explicit vs implicit
Ideas around research, evidence and understanding how
knowledge is acquired is often part of the hidden
Students are expected to “pick it up as they go along”
Concepts of evidence
Gott et al. argued that these concepts should be taught
Concepts of evidence arose out of research into the way
adults used science in science-based
employment and in
everyday life and identified certain concepts of evidence
such as validity, reliability, uncertainty and risk as being
Developed a model demonstrating that these ideas of the
concepts of evidence can be used at different levels
Bull’s-Eye Model
(Gott & Duggan, 2007; Gott & Roberts, 2008)
Link between Project and
Academic Success
If being able to demonstrate an application of concepts of
evidence is an indication of successful preparation for
induction into the community of practice of a research-led
university, there should be a correlation
performance on a project, performance at Foundation level
and degree outcome.
Correlations Between Evidence Exam Score, Project
Evidence Score and Foundation Average Score
Post Test of
Use of
Concepts of
Post Test of Use of
Concepts of Evidence
Pearson Correlation
Evidence marks for
Sig. (2-tailed)
Pearson Correlation
Foundation Average
marks for
Sig. (2-tailed)
Pearson Correlation
Sig. (2-tailed)
**. Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).
Foundation success and degree
The Foundation average means were compared with degree
outcome using an ANOVA analysis which showed a
significant correlation (p=0.000). The analysis showed
that an average score of around
65% and above at
Foundation level correlated with degree achievement of
between a 2:1 classification and a 2:2 classification.
Foundation Average vs Degree
Extended project qualification
AQA EPQ allows each student to embark on a largely selfdirected and self-motivated project. Students must choose
a topic, plan, research and develop their idea and decide
on their finished product.
We encourage creativity and curiosity. A project topic may be
directly related to a student's main study programme, but
should look beyond the specification. A finished
product may take the form of a:∂
– research based written report
– production* (eg charity event, fashion show or sports event etc)
– an artefact* (eg piece of art, a computer game or realised
• *A written report must accompany these options.
Students must also record their project process in their
Production Log. The process of recording and completing a
project is as important as the finished product. Both the
Production Log and Product will be assessed.
What the students need to do
Choose an area of interest and draft their project title and
Plan, research and carry out their project.
Keep a production log of all stages
of the project production,
reviewing and evaluating their progress.
Complete the project product.
Prepare and deliver a presentation.
Review the outcome of their project and presentation.
Teacher/Supervisor role
Register to offer in the EPQ if you intend to enter with AQA.
Enter your students to do the EPQ as you would for any Alevel.
∂ Learning Hours, focusing
Teach about 30 of the 120 Guided
on research, project management and other relevant
Supervise each student's EPQ.
Assess each student's completed production log, project
product and presentation at the end of the process.
What are the advantages of having students engage with the
Extended Project Qualification?
What are the challenges involved in the process?
Draw up a list of Learning Outcomes
for the EPQ
AQA Learning Outcomes
manage – identify, design, plan, and complete a project (or task
within a group project), applying organisational skills and
strategies to meet their stated objectives
use resources/research – obtain and select information from a
range of sources, analyse data, apply it relevantly, and
demonstrate understanding of∂ any appropriate connections
and complexities of their topic
develop and realise – use a range of skills, including using new
technologies, to solve problems, to take decisions critically,
creatively and flexibly, and to achieve their aims
review – evaluate the outcome, including their learning and
Projects Address Each Area
Preparing for Higher Education
Example 1: Arts and
Humanities projects
The library based project
Megan Bruce
Administrative structure
4 modules involved:
• Academic Practice in Arts and Humanities
• Academic Practice in Social Sciences
∂ all Arts & Soc Sci students)
• Extended Research (taken by
• Extended Essay in History
Academic Practice has separate assessments but partly
provides support for Extended Research and Extended
Breakdown of assessment
Extended Research
Extended Essay - History
Essay (3,500
Summative (75%)
Essay (5,000
Summative (60%)
Summative (15%)
Lit Review
Summative (20%)
Summative (10%)
Summative (20%)
Reflective diary
Summative (10%)
Action plan
Summative (10%)
Action plan
Research proposal
Annotated bibliog
Lit Review
Reflective diary
Writing task based Formative
on diary entries
Library based essays
Key interventions for successful project completion:
What do we do?
Set soft deadlines
Helps students to plan their time
without penalising the final grade
Library tour/training before project
Ensures familiarity with how to search
for good quality academic sources
Formative annotated bibliography
Helps ascertain that good quality
sources exist and that work has begun
on research
Summative AP presentation
Checks that the RQ is appropriate
AP test question
March test performance identifies
those who aren’t on schedule
Where do library based essays
usually go wrong?
• Several generic reasons why this assignment can go
wrong, also applicable to all other academic work.
∂ are 3 key pitfalls:
• Specific to library essays there
• Lack of appropriate thesis. Essay is purely descriptive.
• Scope is too broad.
• Sources are inappropriate.
Pitfall 1: the descriptive essay
Student A
• Failed to hand in her formative annotated bibliography
after the Xmas break (red flag!).
• Her summative AP presentation
described K Pop but had
no argument structure or thesis.
• After intervention from her AP tutor and Academic
Advisor, she changed topic and looked at Chinese foot
binding. Again, purely descriptive. She failed initially.
• She redid the assignment and finally produced an
argumentative essay.
Pitfall 2: the PhD-esque scope
Student B took the History Essay module.
• 5,000 word target seemed huge.
• Planned to compare Poland with East Germany in 3 areas
creating too broad a scope.∂
• Took advice from both EAP tutor and Advisor regarding
thesis suitability.
• Revised thesis.
• Performed excellently in final assessments.
Original email re thesis
Dear Megan, Sorry to bother you again, but I am having a
little difficulty with the length of my thesis statement. The
handout suggests 100 words, but I am finding mine is
nearly 200. This is because ∂my essay is more an analysis
than an attempt to prove a statement right or wrong. As
I am looking at various aspects of the Socialist system in
Poland and East Germany, and how successful they were, I
have quite a few points to make. Will I be marked down
for writing too much? And is it OK if my thesis changes
later on due to research I have done?
My reply
I think it's inevitable at this stage that your thesis will change
as your research develops. The length isn't too much of a
problem either, but what does concern me is that you say
your essay is more of an analysis
and therefore doesn't
have an explicit thesis. What we're looking for at this level
isn't just an analysis of various arguments, but more of a
critical approach where you apply that analysis to a thesis
of your choosing.
If you're not sure you're on the right lines, please come and
have a chat with me or Collette and we'll give you a few
more pointers.
Student B’s solution
He came to see me and we discussed narrowing his scope to
just one country rather than two. Also focused on one
aspect rather than three
He also liaised with his advisor to cover all bases:
Thanks for your message. I am going to try and condense the
thesis, and have broken my main question down into
several smaller ones. I think I have a good idea of the
conclusion I plan to reach, but perhaps I could have a chat
with you at the tutorial next Monday just to ensure I am
doing the right thing?
Pitfall 3: inappropriate sources
Student C wrote a biography of Marie Antoinette:
• All her sources were biographies of Marie Antoinette
• She had no thesis
• She failed the assignment ∂
• She received feedback from her tutor regarding
weaknesses of the assignment, and resubmitted a
different version
• She passed the resubmission
A selection of titles from 2013-14
The Historical Significance of Running in Cultures around the World
Chinese Foot Binding
Landscape and Cosmology: influential in Greek Cultural and Religious Development
To what extent did Diocletian’s split of the Empire contribute to the Fall of Rome?
Anglo Saxon Burial Rites and Rituals
Compare and contrast how the emperor, the Christian religion and the aristocratic
class affected the separatist movement in the Roman and Holy Roman Empires
To what extent was the use of repression the key element in imposing and
sustaining Communist power in East Germany in the years 1945 to 1953
Can we attribute Marie Antoinette’s reputation to her own wrong-doing and how
fair or accurate is it?
To what extent can the Trial and Execution of Charles I be considered justified?
Example 2: Social Sciences
The data collection project
Catherine Marshall
Social science students
Real research arises out of other people’s work leading to
novel research questions
Students given appropriate articles to start the process
Medicine – National Geographic article on alcohol
Psychology – New Scientist article on weird ways of thinking
Education – Times Education Supplement article on
Skill based Learning Outcomes
On successful completion the student will:
communicate effectively both orally, visually and in writing
apply number both in the tackling of numerical problems and in
the collecting, recording, interpreting and presenting of data
∂ with others
have demonstrated an ability to work
have improved their own learning and performance through
reflective practice
demonstrate problem solving skills
demonstrate critical thinking skills
use IT confidently and competently
Outline of the Assignment
Critically analyse the article
Site the article in a relevant body of literature
Develop a research question from the article that you wish to
∂ will help you answer your
Design a research project that
Carry out the research
Write up your project which will include the background
information that you have read, a critical analysis of the
original document, a report on your research with an analysis
of your own research
Critically analyse the article
Site the article in a relevant body
of literature
Students each brought a relevant article which they shared
with the other students and discussed the article, applying
critical analysis
Articles were shared on the virtual
learning site
Develop a research question from
the article that you wish to
Very difficult:
“Ask what different students think about drinking”
∂ show that drinking costs the
“Analyse hospital admissions to
NHS a large amount of money”
Design a research project that will
help you answer your question
Questionnaire or Ethnography
Not interviews
Iterative Design
∂ the difficulties in
Helping students understand
constructing a questionnaire
• Understand the importance of sampling
Bull’s-Eye Model
(Gott & Duggan, 2007; Gott & Roberts, 2008)
Carry out the research
Ensure students have considered the following
– Health and Safety
• Need to have their plan approved by supervisor
• Limit participants to friends, family, fellow students
– Ethics
• Ethics form
• Particularly important for education students who must also get
ethics form signed by head teacher
Write up your project…
The project counts for 50% of the module
The reporting consists of a written report and a Powerpoint
Examples of projects 2013-14
A study measuring student understanding of the units system of alcohol ranking
and government advised limits of alcohol consumption.
An investigation into the effect of alcohol consumption on the perceived quality
of sleep
An investigation into the awareness and behaviours of alcohol consumption
during pregnancy
The Role of Working Memory in Mental Arithmetic Strategy
Does the grading system set by the government accurately reflect a child’s
ability in Literacy?
An ethnographic look at able bodied participation in wheelchair basketball
A Replication of Tulving and Pearlstones (1966) Seminal Study ‘Availability versus
Accessibility of Information in Memory for Words’
The Effect of Punishment for Swearing in Childhood on Swearing in Adulthood
Example 3: Project Based
Learning In Science
Personal Experiences from its use in pre-University
Sam Nolan
• The Role of The Project
• The Students
• The Projects
• Costs
• Ideas
• Motivation
• Project Supervision
• The Outcomes
Projects in Physical Science
• Physical Science Students include:
Computer Scientists
• In 2013/4 approx 40 students undertook these projects
• Group were a mixture of mature local and younger
international students
Projects in Physical Science
• In Physical Sciences the Projects are Embedded within 4
Advanced Chemistry with project
Advanced Physics with project
Advanced Physics and Computer
∂ Science with project
Advanced Physics and Engineering with project
Projects in Physical Science
• Students spend 6hrs week in class studying Physics and
their progression subject
• Students spend 3hrs week for 4 weeks in class learning
project skills then 3hrs week∂ for 7 weeks in class
undertaking their project.
• More time is spend out of the classroom.
• Average student spends around 60 hrs on the project in
The Projects
Project Choice
• We developed 12 project outlines which students could
chose from
• Students were given two project supervisors:
• Primary Supervisor – Expert in
∂ the area
• Secondary Supervisor – Staff member with knowledge in the area
• Students met with one (or both) supervisors weekly.
• Projects were assessed through:
• Poster Presentation
• Written Report
Example Project – Build a
Example Project – Build a Robot
Example Project – SETI
Example Project – Win the Lottery
Some Example Costs are given below:
• Build a Radio - £12 equipment (+£50 oscilloscope
∂ (most reusable)
• Build a Robot - £40 equipment
• Solar Studies – 0 cost, use of IT facilities
• Lottery - 0 equipment cost, use of IT facilities
Students were incredibly motivated by the projects:
“Working on this project is brill, I’d
never realized research was so
interesting ”
“Having to explain this poster was
really hard, but it made me focus
on understanding the concepts,
which really helped.”
Poster Assessment
• We ran a 2 hours poster session, with all posters on
display and all physical science staff present.
• The posters were marked by the 1st and 2nd supervisors,
students being awarded marks
∂ for the poster itself and
their ability to answer questions on the topic
• Students themselves were asked to nominate:
• The Best Poster
• The Most Informed Presenter
• The Most Enthusiastic Presenter
• Prizes were given out.
The Staff Side – Project
• The Primary Supervisor was also the Student’s Academic
Advisor, their touchstone to academic life in the
• The Role of the Supervisor was:
• To support the student in developing skills
• To help give suggestions on how to develop the project with a
solid academic research-based background
• To help the student not take too many deadends
The Report
A selection of titles from 2013-14
The effect of signals on the randomness of radio noise
Mathematical modelling of a basketball freethrow
The Solar Neutrino Problem
Arduino Controlled RC Car ∂
Testing the quality of fuzzy logic control systems for
autonomous robots
• Modelling the development of intelligent civilisations within
our local galaxy
• Measuring the rotation speed of the Sun through optical
observations of solar prominences
Group work!
• Arrange into three groups (by Faculty?)
• Each group discusses:
• What is their role in the project?
• What do they hope to gain from
∂ the conference to take forward
in supporting projects in their institution?
• Brainstorm good ideas for projects in different subject areas.
Challenges of staffing projects
Key questions we have faced re staffing:
• Who is best (subject tutor or EAP/skills tutor)?
• How much support to give?
∂ Official timetabled sessions
• When to provide the support?
or not?
• How to keep projects aligned across subject areas for
quality assurance purposes.
Discussion on project staffing
Any questions?
[email protected]
[email protected][email protected]

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