"Out of the Classroom - into the Lab!" Under this motto students at DLR_School_Lab can carry out their own experiments originating from the research fields of the German Aerospace Center (DLR). One of the most important goals of these primarily one-day events is to foster the interest of young people in the natural sciences and technology. An extensive effectiveness study carried out by the Leibniz Institute for Science and Mathematics Education (IPN) verified the surprisingly great success of DLR_School_Labs.
For the study, 734 students from the 9th grade up to senior natural science classes were asked to fill out questionnaires at the beginning, end, and six to eight weeks after their participation in DLR_School_Labs in Berlin, Göttingen, Köln and Oberpfaffenhofen (References 1 and 2). For 83 students there was a forth survey by questionnaire one year later (Reference 2).
The survey by questionnaire could confirm the role of DLR_School_Labs in nurturing the next generations of scientists.
The most significant results are briefly presented below.
The DLR_School_Labs studied were popular with almost all students and teachers. Their effectiveness for the young participants was attributed to the comprehensibility, type of supervision, atmosphere, and authenticity of the event. It was considered noteworthy that this positive effect was almost independent of the question whether the student had a prior special interest in the natural sciences and technology. Although the program usually lasted only one day, it was clearly a formative experience. Many students had a very positive memory of their visit to the DLR_School_Lab even many months after the event. It was considered to be personally relevant, and according to the questionnaire had been fun, and led to continued involvement in the subjects covered. Self-confidence was also nurtured: both on the short- and long-term many students evaluated their own abilities in the natural sciences higher than before their visit, - especially for the girls an especially positive aspect!
In general it could be shown that a visit to a DLR_School_Lab positively influences the interest of young people in the natural sciences and technology - and indeed long-term. To summarize the results, DLR_School_Labs have a noteworthy sustained positive effect, at various levels and in different ways which lasted for months, on the interest of young people in natural sciences and technology. According to recognized theories in pedagogy and psychology, this approach can, among other effects, encourage interest-based and self-regulating learning, improve the quality of learning, and increase school performance. This in turn influences how the students select courses and make career decisions. Thus, the visit to one of the student labs of the German Aerospace Center is a meaningful supplement to classroom instruction. DLR_School_Labs make an important and sustained contribution to fostering the next generation of scientists and making society fit for the future. And it offers interesting professional options for interested young people.
References (German only):
1) Pawek, C. (2009). Schülerlabore als interessefördernde außerschulische Lernumgebungen für Schülerinnen und Schüler aus der Mittel- und Oberstufe. Online http://eldiss.uni-kiel.de/macau/receive/dissertation_diss_00003669
2) Pawek, C. (2012). Schülerlabore als interessefördernde außerschulische Lernumgebungen. In Brovelli, D., Fuchs, K., Niederhäusern, R. von & Rempfler, A. (Hrsg.). Kompetenzentwicklung an Außerschulischen Lernorten. Tagungsband zur 2. Tagung Außerschulische Lernorte der PHZ Luzern vom 24. September 2011. In Außerschulische Lernorte - Beiträge zur Didaktik, Bd. 2. Münster/Wien/Zürich: LIT (im Erscheinen).