• Susanne Weßnigk
In recent years, out-of-school-laboratories have been established as part of the educational innovation for promoting scientific and technical educational processes. Initially, these learning laboratories were mainly set up from a science point of view using scientific approaches. Meanwhile, the focus has now shifted to career orientation and economic issues. Experience-based access to natural sciences processes in research and development convey to students the interplay between different competencies, such as natural science, technology, economy and industry. In addition, they provide an insight into various professional fields. Besides promoting interest in the natural sciences as a primary aim for all out-of-school-laboratories, this career-oriented approach is intended to inspire more young people to pursue a profession in the natural sciences. One reason for students to decide against such a career choice and to dissociate themselves in particular from the subjects, physics and chemistry, is the negative image attached to both subjects. All too frequently, students consider these subjects as difficult, abstract, demanding and dry. In addition to a subject’s image, a positive self-concept for the subject also influences career orientation in the specific field. Positive self-concept has turned out to be a predictor for a career choice in these professions. Thus, an improved self-concept for physics and chemistry and an enhanced image are decisive factors for future developments in these fields. One aim of this study was to examine the effects of a visit to an industry-related out-of-school-laboratory on the following aspects: image, self-concept of physics and chemistry and career orientation. Thematically, the evaluated lab belongs to the interdisciplinary field of physics, chemistry and material science. The students worked cooperatively in different teams on the complex and real-life-related task of designing, producing and marketing a plastic product. In this context, it was interesting to investigate which students choose a special team and which students benefited most from the lab visit. Therefore, a student classification was carried out based on different occupational interest scales. Another focus of the investigation was profiling the teamwork. Thus, the features of the cooperative project determined the special characteristics of the laboratory visit. The survey was carried out with a pre-post-follow-up questionnaire using a pencil-and-paper test. The results revealed that the industry-oriented lab approach is effective: the concept of working cooperatively and procuring insights into an industrial enterprise with its manifold occupational fields was successful. The image of the ‘hard’ natural sciences physics and chemistry as well as the students’ self-concept improved significantly both – on a short and long term basis. The experience based project and the insights into different occupations contributed to a significant attitudinal turnaround for career choices in natural sciences. In this context, not only the scientifically oriented students were activated, but also those who have their main interests in other areas. Especially the girls tend to have profited more from the lab visit than the boys. Accordingly, the gender gap for relevant variables e.g. career orientation has been reduced. The present evaluation explores the cooperative work in an out-of-school-laboratory closely affiliated to industry under different points of view. Characterization of teamwork operations and extensive profiling of different student types regarding their preferential activities was concluded successfully. The effect of the lab visit on constructive elements such as ‘image‘‚ ‘self-concept’, and ‘career orientation‘ were also analyzed in detail. Furthermore, the analysis revealed which type of students can benefit most from this lab visit. A students’ classification confirmed that the students selected their lab activities according to their interests and affinities. In this context, it became evident that the scientifically oriented students also profited from the lab visit; in particular, technically experienced and keen students showed stable significant changes in their self-concept and career orientation. In summary, the study emphasizes an extended role for out-of-school laboratories: the project made evident that labs complement school education when helping students with carrier orientation decisions.
Translated title of the contributionCooperative learning at industry-related out-of-school-laboratories
Original languageGerman
Publication statusPublished - 2012

    Research areas

  • Competitions/out of school learning - learning laboratories, image, self-concept, career orientation

ID: 11482