High School Students Need More Engagement in Science, Report Says

(Photo: Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

American teenagers were part of a new survey from the Amgen Foundation and the organization Change the Equation that found that teenagers commonly like science, and especially biology. They also understand the importance of this field of study and how it impacts people’s lives. Students know when the teaching of biology is being done well, so they want more opportunities for hands-on science in their classrooms.

Unfortunately, according to the survey, teens have little access to appealing, real-life science activities. And this lack of entree limits their chances to continue in science studies.

The results of this survey mean that those who are committed to establishing the next generation of American scientists and groundbreaking researchers need to find a way to make learning science more appealing. The Amgen-sponsored study notes that leaders in the areas of education, government, and industry need to join collectively to improve science teaching and enrichment opportunities for students that allow them to be involved in science experiences outside of the classroom.

The survey showed that a majority of teens believe that science is interesting and relevant. This fact opens the door for teens to find science exciting and makes young people ripe for being engaged in the subject area. But along with this enthusiasm about the topic, many high school students rate their science classes below the other courses they are taking.

When the participants were asked what could be added to their biology course to make it more interesting, they responded that hands-on experiments, extra field trips, projects that link biology to the real world, virtual experiments and having a say in what topics they would like to explore more thoroughly would be appreciated.

Students revealed that hands-on experiments are a standard teaching tool, but teaching from the textbook is also a staple in science class — a method that researchers say is not engaging to teens.

The report says that classroom discussions and creating hypotheses are must-haves and not negotiable with students, but pupils want more chances for real-world learning.

A science class provides most high school students’ only opportunity be exposed to biology. Particularly for low-income teens, high school is the time when science should be taught in a way that captivates them. But extracurricular science activities for these students is less likely than for their higher-income classmates.

Often, students have high expectations when deciding on a career choice, but many times young people do not know how to prepare themselves for the careers to which they aspire. The reality is few high school students have access to the people and resources that would assist them in planning the steps needed for the career they want. Low-income teens have the fewest resources to help them acquire careers in science.

The researchers say that states, districts, and schools need to choose curricula and teaching resources that involve hands-on, inquiry-based science classes. Teachers must receive professional development and excellent teaching materials to develop more engaging lessons.

Teens need extracurricular activities in science, after-school and summer science activity options, and other out-of-school learning opportunities.

Science professionals and science mentors are necessary, along with real-world, cutting-edge science opportunities. Schools and districts also need to work with employers to provide career integration possibilities in their career counseling programs.

The study was commissioned by the Amgen Foundation and Change the Equation and was administered by C+R Research Services, which is a marketing research firm specializing in youth opinions and attitudes. A sample of 1,569 high school students between the ages of 14 to 18 was given an online questionnaire in November 2015.

A US human therapeutics company, Amgen was formerly known as Applied Molecular Genetics. Change the Equation is an organization of business leaders concerned with STEM education in America.