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IMPRESS: International Modern Physics & Research in Education Seminar Series

Motivational outcomes of the science outreach lab S'Cool LAB at CERN: A multilevel analysis

by Dr Julia Woithe (CERN)


From the big bang to black holes, from elementary particles and the fundamental interactions that govern our universe to the world's largest and most complex scientific instruments, our knowledge of the world builds on modern physics. To make our current-best understanding available to all, we need to invest in educational research and bridge the gap between those who know science, those who teach science, and those who learn science. 

This month, we are going to discuss a paper by Julia Woithe et al. on motivational outcomes of the hands-on particle physics learning lab S'Cool LAB at CERN:

Previous studies highlight the positive effects of science outreach labs, in particular on students' motivational variables. However, out-of-school learning is generally associated with high novelty and specific setting characteristics that can impact learning and development. Indeed, previous studies call for further research on students' perception of the learning settings to ensure the best possible use of science outreach labs. This study aims to take this call up by analyzing motivational outcomes (situational interest and self-concept) together with an unprecedented number of carefully chosen student and setting factors supposed to contribute to students' experience at science outreach labs. This study involved 509 high-school students from 13 countries who took part in a half-day hands-on session at the particle physics outreach lab S'Cool LAB at CERN and a single group longitudinal pre- and post-test research design. The results confirm that this intervention led to very high situational interest and self-concept, even for a student sample that showed higher-than-average dispositional interest and self-concept beforehand. Moreover, the initial motivational gender gap was closed after the intervention. To take the nested data into account, multilevel models were employed to study the predictive power of a set of student factors as well as students' perception of setting factors. Here, even after controlling for student factors such as their dispositional interest, support by the learning environment and educators was a crucial setting factor and was associated with especially high situational interest. Furthermore, students' cognitive preparedness and cognitive load were vital with respect to their situational self-concept. Overall, regression models account for almost 60% of the variance of both motivational outcomes. We conclude that a systematic measurement of student and setting factors together with a multilevel approach provides highly valuable information about science outreach labs and how to optimize their effectiveness.


Woithe, J., Müller, A., Schmeling, S., & Kuhn, J. (2022). Motivational outcomes of the science outreach lab S'Cool LAB at CERN: A multilevel analysis. Journal of Research in Science Teaching. https://doi.org/10.1002/tea.21748 (open access)

Organized by

Magdalena Kersting (Department of Science Education, University of Copenhagen, Denmark) and Julia Woithe (Science Gateway Education, CERN, Switzerland)

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