Promoting engagement in science education
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Over the past 20 years, there has been a disturbing trend in science in many different countries; declining enrolments in science courses at both high school and university levels (Adamuti-Trache, Bluman &Tiedje, 2013; Goodrum, Druham & Apps, 2012; Rice, Thomas & O'Toole, 2009). This is despite the 'Science for All' mantra from 20 years ago (Mutegi, 2011). The 'leaky pipeline' means that up to 50% fewer students now undertake senior science subjects in undergraduate and high school science relative to 20 years ago. For example, in Australia, high school participation rates are at their lowest point in 20 years (Office of the Chief Scientist, 2014). The leaky pipeline trend continues into post-doctoral research and tenure-track academic positions (US National Research Council, 2009), which are the main pathways to developing the next generation of researchers, technicians, science discipline academics and, of course, science teachers. The reasons for the trend are many, including length of qualification period, perceived difficulty of science and gender bias, at least in some cultural contexts (Handel, Duan, Sutherland & Ziegler, 2014). Davis, Petish and Smithey (2006) blame the commonly used 'stand-and-deliver' science teaching methods; most students find the traditional lecture format to be boring and tedious and they become disengaged when asked to memorise and regurgitate vast quantities of information. There is very little excitement and 'real science' in this way of learning. Becoming disinterested in high school science leads to lack of engagement with the advanced levels (where, arguably, the more interesting science is encountered), resulting in progressively declining science enrolments. At the university level, in the discipline of science, Nobel Laureate Carl Wieman (201 0) noted that while science knowledge continues to grow expansively, university science education has often not utilised contemporary learning or information technologies to become relevant or effective for the twenty-first century.