Participatory Engagement with Scientific and Technological Research through Performance

Young people often have a narrow concept of science and this can limit their future engagement with the subject. Many also struggle to identify, on a cultural level, with science and hence do not aspire to scientific careers. This lack of aspiration is particularly seen among girls and those from low socio-economic backgrounds. Young people do have interest in science, particularly with phenomena that relate to everyday life, and in the way that science helps to make sense of the world. Yet studies have shown that across Europe interest in science has declined in recent years and that there are problems with engagement and participation in the subject.

The PERFORM project aims to develop secondary school students’ conceptions and awareness of science, scientists and scientific research. It looks to move beyond merely increasing scientific and technological knowledge to developing a reflective knowing of science in which young people can consider its purposes, values, and how it becomes reality. Learning science involves a re-structuring of perception and through this students might come into new relationships with the subject, and perhaps themselves, in establishing their identity with the subject.
To these ends PERFORM actively involves students, teachers and early career researchers in inquiry-based learning about scientific topics through the use of artistic performances at schools. Stand-up comedy, busking theatre and clown based on improvisational theatre are creatively applied as science education methods putting students at the centre of the learning process to engage them in STEM. As for researchers and teachers, PERFORM is developing training programmes based on Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) values to support them in improving their engagement and communication skills. We are assessing if this collaboration increases young people’s engagement with science, its values and the processes of research.