Research aims

Good evidence shows lack of adequate experimental work in schools is a serious deficiency in science education. It results in a lack of interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects.

When it opened in 2010, our Reach Out Lab was a first for the sector. Since then thousands of students from schools across London and more widely, have visited the lab to take part in a wide range of hands-on STEM activities.

Very few exercises in public engagement of this sort have been subjected to rigorous research to assess impact.

While the Reach Out Lab is, in part, run purely as an educational exercise, it also provides a great research base for us to investigate what activities work best in inspiring school children.

To this end, teaching exercises and presentations by school students can be recorded on closed circuit televison and archived for later assessments or follow up.

Key research questions

Some of the key questions that our research will address can be found below.

Accordion widget - Key research questions

Does practical science inspire the next generation?

Children attending the Wohl Reach Out Lab are being assessed at various stages during their school career. Their progess and aspirations will be compared with matched cohorts who did not attend the Wohl Reach Out Lab.

Our archived video recordings of their work and communication skills will be a valuable resource during follow up at five and 10 years after exposure to the Wohl Reach Out Lab work.

Follow up work will also assess whether such exposure has had a significant impact with the College’s Widening Participation programme.

What effect do we have on science teaching in schools?

Attending school teachers are invited to contribute to assessments to evaluate whether contact with Imperial through the Wohl Reach Out Lab has been helpful in changing their teaching methods and improving their own professional career development.

A further arm of the study will be aimed at encouraging some of the teachers to become 'researchers in residence' during their contact with the College.

Will more top science graduates consider a career in teaching?

Undergraduate and postgraduate students participating in the Wohl Reach Out Lab activities are being followed over three to five years to assess their career intentions.

They will be invited to contribute to questionnaire-based inquiries before, during and after working within the Wohl Reach Out Lab. A cohort of non-participating students will be compared as a control.

What practical teaching is most inspiring for children?

We offer complete science courses in STEM subjects to some participating school children, whilst others have just one or two days' exposure to the Lab’s activities.

We expect that our research will allow better assessment about the ideal amount of contact time, the most appropriate content of the teaching material for different STEM subjects, and what works best with different age groups.

For more information, please contact Helen Drummond, Assistant to the Chair of Science and Society, at h.drummond@imperial.ac.uk.