For his PhD research, University of Cape Town (UCT) doctoral student Leonard Molefe shows how collaboration between stakeholders - science curriculum developers, schools, science teachers, and Eskom - can contribute to the development of students' skills in an environment that supports creativity, responsibility and growing confidence.
Dr. Molefe's thesis, "A study of life sciences projects in science talent quest competitions in the Western Cape, South Africa, with special reference to scientific skills and knowledge", explores factors that shaped high school students' participation in the Eskom Expo for Young Scientists. The thesis investigated how participation in the expo facilitated the students' development of particular scientific skills (i.e. process skills, scientific inquiry, problem solving and critical thinking skills) and knowledge in Life Sciences.
Application of concepts in society
His study, which comprised five grade 10 and 11 learners from three schools in the Western Cape also explored factors that shaped the students' participation in the expos. These cases were selected from a pool of learners who showcased their projects at the two main exhibition venues in the province in 2007.
The results of the study highlight the importance of making what students learn relevant to their lives. In relation to the students' skills and knowledge, the results showed the students' proficiency in critical inquiry, reflection, understanding of Life Sciences concepts and processes, as well as their application in society. The study further revealed that there is articulation between the intentions of expos and those of South Africa's National Curriculum Statement policy in relation to students' learning in Life Sciences.
"Previous studies on extracurricular science activities have not reported on school students' development of educational outcomes in tandem with their life histories. This research also fills a gap in literature in this area," Dr. Molefe said. "The study also makes an important contribution to the field of science education in the country by providing evidence from a South African context about the dynamics of the connection between educational content, personal development and process skills used by high school students participating in expos."
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