Conducting Investigations Level 2


How can I use scientist mentors effectively in my classroom?

Watch an experienced teacher and a student talk about the value of mentors.

Mentors serve a dual purpose. Firstly, the extra bodies and sets of eyes are a key to synchronously conducting diverse investigations safely and efficiently. (Note: some teachers who cannot access the required number of mentors make use of staggered investigations so that each mentor may work with a number of groups of students to plan and conduct the investigation.) Most importantly, mentors can help student groups select a testable question that is practically suited to the demands of school classrooms and equipment and they can provide examples of current areas of science and career paths. As scientist mentors talk about their daily activities, students gain insights into career paths that may suit them and their interests. Scientist mentors help teachers address many of the content within Science as a Human Endeavour.

It is important that you communicate effectively with your Scientist Mentors. This could be by telephone or through a number of online methods such as email, wiki etc... Many mentors will have not been in a primary classroom since their own childhood days. They may have little understanding of the capabilities of your students, how primary schools/classrooms function, the types of science investigations that are ‘doable’ etc. This applies as much to setting the bar ‘too low’ as it does to setting it ‘too high’. Mentors will need guidance as to what to do when they first arrive at your school (where to sign in), how students should address them (first name... ?, Mr Smith... ?) etc. They need to know that the investigations that they are supporting are student centred/directed, that they should ask students open-ended questions that encourage problem solving. Mentors typically do not need to be forewarned of student behaviour issues since the type of learning experiences afforded through mentor involvement frequently lead to students being engaged and interested. As mentors meet and communicate with your students listen carefully to the types of science related questions that they ask – they could provide useful information for you as well. Offer your mentors information sources about the topics that students are investigating so that they better understand students’ reading and comprehension levels.

Another mentoring option that has worked particularly well in one MyScience hub is the use of MyStics who are year 9 and 10 students or MyScience Trainees in the classroom. This provides the opportunity for reciprocal learning and support in a buddy environment. They work in addition to scientist mentors and provide great benefits in transition to high school from many students. MyStics tend to be used after MyScience has become an accepted part of the school culture. Another mentoring option is the use of secondary teacher science undergraduates. In some cases even teachers from neighbouring high schools and laboratory technicians have been successfully used as mentors. These again provide reciprocal benefits but they are different from those of using career scientists.

CSIRO Scientists in Schools has information for teachers about how to use scientists in their classrooms.

The Australian Government Quality Teaching Program provides advice and support for the process of blogging using Edublog or go to this site.