Considering a changing academic landscape that desires skill development beyond that of traditional research, post-secondary STEM students now require broad opportunities to improve their translatable skill set. Notably, we routinely observe an increasing number of doctoral students focused on developing their teaching skills, given opportunities to pursue teaching-centred careers post-graduation; therefore, practice in innovative pedagogy is highly advantageous during graduate training. Discovery is a secondary school STEM education program wherein graduate students work collaboratively with secondary school educators to develop unique, inquiry focused programming that bridges the gap between secondary and post-secondary curriculum delivery and learning. Beyond meaningful impact to participating secondary students, the unique leadership, mentorship, and autonomy graduate students possess in the execution of this teaching model provides invaluable opportunity in pedagogical practice.
Depending upon the degree of involvement, graduate trainees may be involved in collaborative curriculum design, act as student group mentors, be points of contact to educators, and/or administrators to Discovery program operation. To date, 93 instructors have developed and delivered this unique educational program to more than 500 senior science secondary students. Quantified self-assessment reveals that the Discovery platform provides opportunities to improve instructor pedagogical skills while positively impacting the secondary school student STEM experience. Collaboration with experienced secondary school educators allows for instructors to combine their cutting-edge technological expertise with learned comprehension of effective teaching pedagogy appropriate for senior secondary school learning. This learning model provides opportunity for educators to share fundamental strategies in teaching with instructors that have a vested interest in developing this skill set. We observe a high level of overall personal satisfaction among trainee instructors, who further indicate a variety of goals for participation including improvement of teaching skills, knowledge translation, and development of community. Repeated instructor participation from term-to-term indicates positive self-perception of the program, in addition to direct impact on the secondary school STEM experience. The strong support and leadership of trainee instructors therefore allows Discovery to be a platform that blurs the divide between secondary and post-secondary learning, fostering the development of critical thinking skills crucial for the success of future STEM generations.
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