Communicating Science to the Public
Communicating science to the general public is an important responsibility of scientists, yet is rarely a part of scientific training. With funding from the Great Lakes College Association New Directions Initiative and the Kenyon College Provost's Office, the Natural Science Division at Kenyon has developed a program for training undergraduate research students to better communicate their work to general audiences. The goal is for each student to produce a short essay on their research suitable for publication on the Kenyon website.
We tested this program in Summer 2010. Four dinner meetings were attended by faculty mentors and Kenyon Summer Science Scholars. Participants were randomly divided into groups of 2 to 3 students and at least one faculty member. The emphasis in these meetings was to help students discuss their work in ways that are both understandable and compelling to non-scientists.
Follow the links below to the curriculum for the meetings:
We assessed the program with an anonymous online survey and informal discussions with student participants. Eleven students responded to the survey. All respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the workshops were effective, improved their ability to communicate to non-scientists, and fostered valuable interactions between students and faculty. Less than half of respondents felt the workshops improved their ability to communicate with non-scientists, and 82% felt that the workshops will be helpful in presenting the work at the October poster session.
Narrative comments emphasized the benefits of an informal atmosphere created by starting with a casual meal. While the comments were overwhelmingly positive, some respondents felt that the freewriting exercise in Week 3 was less useful than other activities.
Faculty participants report gaining new ideas for teaching students to think critically and write effectively, a better ability to express their research to beginning students, and renewed motivation to communicate to the general public.
For more information contact:
Wade Powell - firstname.lastname@example.org
Chris Gillen - email@example.com