Through the millennia of human history societies which have mastered key technologies have grown, expanded and emerged as the sculptors of their civilisations. Our present time can, arguably, be classed as the Information Age and as a consequence it is vital that students become adept at accessing, creating, evaluating and communicating information. Developing these skills is at the heart of the Inquiry Project program for Year 10 and 11 students.
Year 11 students have started their Stage 2 Research Project. This essentially means that they have started their first Year 12 subject. The grade that students achieve for their Research Project is utilised, together with their Year 12 subject grades, to determine their Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR). Passing Research Project is also compulsory in order for a student to achieve their South Australian Certificate of Education (SACE). Beyond this our partner university, Flinders University, has recognised that students who do well in Research Project are more likely to do well at university and will boost a student’s entrance score for Flinders based upon excellent Research Project results. The skills developed via conducting a project from initial ideation through to resolution of a refined question are those students will utilise both in future study but also in their working life.
Our Year 10 students have also started inquiry projects and will be assessed utilised the SACE Stage 1 Research Practices framework. By working through the same stages of inquiry that they will in the following year, students are able to try new independent learning strategies and develop their inquiry skills before starting their Stage 2 Research Project.
Students are requested to choose Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM) related topics in keeping with the overall ethos of the ASMS. We also suggest to students that they filter their preferred topic area by considering the feasible and ethical research methods available to them. The key message is that doing well is more about demonstrating the development of excellence in research skills, management of information and communication. Hence simple, clearly defined and testable topics often have the greatest success. Students may limit themselves if they insist on topics which, by their nature, limit research methods such as topics regarding complex medical issues.
The ‘research phase’ of the project will finish next term in Week 9. By this time students need to have gathered their data from methods such as experiments, surveys, observations, interviews, focus groups, prototyping and literature review that will allow them to resolve their question.
When students return to school next term they will need to prepare and present a 3-minute overview of their intended research plan. For Year 11 students, this will be presented to a multi-discipline panel of teachers; Year 10s will present their ideas to their class. These ‘Panel Presentations’ are intended to push students to clarify their ideas and to provide an opportunity for students to receive feedback on their ideas.