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Participatory Engagement with Scientific and Technological Research through Performance

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - PERFORM (Participatory Engagement with Scientific and Technological Research through Performance)

Reporting period: 2017-02-01 to 2018-10-31

PERFORM is what happens when performing arts and scientific research are combined for the sake of innovating science education.
European adolescents often have a narrow concept of science and many also struggle to identify, on a cultural level, with science, which can limit their future engagement with the subject. This lack of aspiration is particularly seen among girls and adolescents from low socio-economic backgrounds. PERFORM takes action to overcome the remaining distance between young people and science, and to break the unidirectional model of scientific knowledge transfer still prevalent in science teaching and learning, through connecting science with the arts, from STEM to STEAM. To this end, this collaborative project actively involves secondary school students, their teachers, and early career researchers in inquiry-based learning about scientific topics by using clown based on improvisational theatre, stand-up comedy and science busking.
PERFORM’s overall objective consists of investigating the impact of innovative and participatory science education methods based on performing arts in fostering secondary school students’ engagement in science and STEM careers. Specific objectives are:
1) Explore new science education methods based on scenic arts leading students to understand and to learn about STEM.
2) Identify and challenge limitations faced by teachers and early career researchers in teaching and communicating STEM to young people.
3) Assess the impact of the participatory educational process in fosteringstudents’ motivations and engagement in science and with Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) values.
4) Implement a sound communication strategy for the dissemination and exploitation of the research results for widespread policy adoption and implementation across Europe.
During three years, PERFORM conducted participatory action research with around 3000 secondary school students, 100 teachers and 100 early career researchers in three piloting countries (France, Spain and the UK) to analyse the impact of researchers’ interaction and drama-based techniques when learning science on students’ views of science and their motivations for studying STEM careers.
First, PERFORM science communicators designed innovative performance-based science education activities (PERSEIAs) addressing the human dimension of science and RRI values by testing different approaches with students: clown based on improvisation theatre in France, stand-up comedy in Spain, and science busking in the UK. PERSEIAs were performed to 2,407 students in 35 secondary schools. These PERSEIAs included students’ perceptions about STEM careers, science related stereotypes and ethics and gender issues in science that were previously gathered from exploratory workshops conducted at their schools.
Based on this experience, and in a transdisciplinary community of practice, PERFORM science communicators supported by academic partners designed and implemented a participatory educational process that guided students to co-produce their own scientific monologues, busks and theatrical pieces with their teachers and participant researchers. This process consisted of a series of participatory workshops conducted with 250 students in 12 schools. Academic partners evaluated its impact on students’ learning and engagement in STEM according to a set of expert-based and participatory indicators assessing the inclusion of the RRI values, potential changes in students’ attitudes, knowledge and perceptions towards science and the acquisition of the transversal competences needed to pursue STEM careers. The conceptualisation and results of this assessment were included in three academic publications of international distribution and a policy brief. Also for assessment purposes, qualitative research was conducted on the role of social media in young people’s responses to PERSEIAs. As a last step, the science education drama-based approach was adapted to science museums through a pilot initiative in Barcelona.
In parallel, our consortium developed training toolkits addressed to early career researchers to develop reflexivity, understanding of RRI values and creative approaches to public engagement, which were informed by pilot trainings conducted in Paris, Barcelona and Bristol. Similarly, pilot trainings addressed to secondary school teachers informed the development of training toolkits to equip science teachers with the tools to improve their skills on science communication, performance and reflexivity.
The consortium also produced two policy briefs offering policies to include researchers and teachers in new educational processes to motivate, inspire, and encourage reflection from young people. Our partner UNESCO generated a position paper to maximize the policy impact of the project and thus ensuring its sustainability and legacy beyond the project time frame.
PERFORM results show how the inclusion of the human dimension of science in performance-based science education activities (PERSEIAs) performed by the science communicators is key for raising students’ interest in scientific issues.
PERFORM findings also suggest that the participatory educational process is a highly engaging and inclusive educational approach that provide opportunities for students to generate new rapports with science learning and critical reflections about science as a practice embedded in social contexts. When co-creating and performing their shows with the support of teachers and early career researchers, students reflect on their role in the interaction between science and society, while scientists experience the benefits of integrating RRI aspects into their academic careers. The potential and power of the reflexive training conducted with researchers in a cohort model, in relation to responsibility, wellbeing and peer support, is also a remarkable result. The training toolkits developed for both researchers and teachers in RRI, public engagement and communication skills can be used and adapted to the specific educational contexts in different countries. Such evidence further identify valuable policy recommendations addressed both at formal and informal educational and research institutions to transfer the learnings generated through the project and encourage a wider implementation of this kind of approaches.
Further, the science education assessment framework integrating RRI elements developed in PERFORM highlights the relevance of experiential aspects and active engagement in science learning and provides a solid framework ready for implementation, which will contribute to move beyond the state of the art in science education assessments.
PERFORM research also yields key new insights about social media’s role in European young people’s engagement with science. The results highlight the key barriers to social media sharing and the most promising platforms to focus on for future science education initiatives aimed at developing a flow of impact through young people’s networks.
To ensure an uptake of the project’s results across Europe PERFORM participated in more than 80 national, European and international conferences, meetings and activities on STEM education, RRI and/or science communication, including those linked to Scientix. We are also disseminating these results through the project website ( and social media (Twitter and Facebook).
Training of secondary school teachers in Paris, France
Training of early career researchers in Bristol, UK
Participatory workshops in Bristol, UK
Students' scientific monologues performed at the Barcelona Science Festival
PERSEIA based on science busking in the UK
Students' scientific performance in Paris, France
Training of early career researchers in Barcelona, Spain
PERSEIA on clown based on improvisation theatre in France
Participatory workshops in Barcelona, Spain
PERFORM objectives and expected outcomes
PERSEIA based on stand-up comedy in Spain