Not Prepared? -David Bruns

What is the best way to help prepare students for a the college level sciences? As Gabby         Blackburn, a junior from Wacounda, writes in her lab notebook, is she helping herself to be better prepared for the college level sciences?

Junior Gabby Blackburn writing in her lab notebook. Photo by David Bruns

As high schoolers pursue a degree in STEM at an increasing rate, are they ready to succeed in the college level sciences? In a 2016 study, 48% of high schoolers that took the ACT expressed an interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), yet only 26% met or exceeded the STEM College Readiness Benchmark.

 

According to Todd Spinner, Academic Advisor to the School of Chemical Sciences, self-assessment can be challenging. Listen.  “Biggest problem with most students coming into the sciences or mathematics is that they overestimate their skill set.”

Do High Schools adequately prepare students for success in the college science classroom?  Molecular and Cellular Biology Professor, Melissa Reedy, doesn’t think so. Listen  “I don’t think students are prepared when they come in as freshman for a biology class mostly because they haven’t had much biology throughout their high school careers.”

While some on the college side of the view agrees that students need to be better prepared, what do students think? Listen       

Blackburn said “ I think the chemistry course is rather lacking” and Fotios Vakakis from Centennial High School said “In Biology we didn’t do much in lab, in chemistry and then physics it was more lab involved.” With students and professors recognizing that there is an issue, what can be done to fix this gap in education?

Student extracting their own DNA at Illini Summer Academies. Photo by David Bruns

Reedy believes camps like the 4-H Illini Summer Academy can help to expose students to opportunities needed to succeed. This falls right in line with what a Freshman from Plainfield Central High School says schools could do to help increase college readiness. Another observation made by all the students was that the teachers were not the best and the lab time was not enough. 

Professor Melissa Reddy helping two students at the 4-H Illini Summer Academies. Photo by David Bruns

With the prevalence of hands on STEM camps on the rise, will we see an increase in the amount of students scoring higher on the ACT STEM College Readiness benchmark? It all depends on whether or not schools will take the initiative and work harder to get qualified science teachers that will give the students the right amount of lab exposure that will help to drive the lesson home. And of course there is also the element of self-assessment, students need to be be confident and not cocky, rather than cocky and not confident, Spinner explained. With the increased interest in STEM, hopefully schools will invest in the future of tomorrow and provide better preparation for the STEM field. 

 

David Bruns

Reflection

When I first heard of this Academy being offered, I leapt at the chance. I envisioned us learning about video journalism and video editing, and while that is what we did, we did so much more. When we arrived there was a camera, headphones, mic, recorder, and a bag. After the instructor explained what everything was, we picked a topic to report on and set out on  getting interviews and photos for our story. The aspect of giving us a project and while doing it learning everything we needed to learn is something that I like. One of the most memorable experiences I had was when I was interviewing somebody and the photographer from Illinois 4-H took my photo. Even though this academy is to learn and we had an assignment, I kept thinking this is not a project that is for just a teacher, I am doing actual journalism that could impact someone.This academy was everything I imagined while being so much more.

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