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Junior school pupils get a taste of university

Groundbreaking partnership is underway between University of Glasgow and Kelvinside Academy

Posted by Hannah Vickers | April 18, 2017 | Teaching

It may still be a long way in the distance, but pupils from Kelvinside Academy’s Junior School will have a good idea of what to expect at university after working on their own research project. 

In a unique partnership with the University of Glasgow, Junior six pupils embarked on a project with Dr Niamh Stack, a Senior Lecturer in the School of Psychology, to become researchers and investigate issues important to them and their school community.  

Each pupil was challenged to design their own independent research project, create their own questions and conduct their own analysis in a project aimed to develop creativity, critical thinking, numeracy, literacy, communication skills and analytical capability. 

Andrew Dickenson, Head of Kelvinside Academy’s Junior School, said: “Children usually think of research as visiting websites, they don’t see it as generating their own knowledge. This has been an incredibly revealing learning curve for our pupils. 

“It’s fantastic to see the results of the initiative as there really are no limitations. The only thing that can hold them back is their own curiosity. The response from the children has been marvellous to watch.”

Pupils visited the University of Glasgow to hear academic psychologists discuss their own research into such subjects as face recognition or the links between social media and changing sleep patterns in young people. Here they got an insight into how experienced researchers go about their business. 

At the beginning of the project, pupils were taught about the nature of research, ethics and framing a research question. With the support of University of Glasgow fourth year student Bethan Howells, they were then guided through best practice in data collection and analysis. 

Pupils reported on their findings at a morning conference at the University of Glasgow after being tasked to strip out any bias from their research, analyse their results and communicate their findings in a way that engages their audience.  

We know that independence, autonomy and the ability to control learning experiences can be powerful in inspiring motivation and academic engagement, but the Junior 6 pupils have exceeded all expectations in this project - Dr Niamh Stack, a Senior Lecturer in the School of Psychology

“We know that independence, autonomy and the ability to control learning experiences can be powerful in inspiring motivation and academic engagement, but the Junior 6 pupils have exceeded all expectations in this project”, said Dr Stack. 

“They have independently chosen topics like the effects of testing on pupils, social media use among young people, Brexit, that are currently taxing Educationalists, Psychologists and Governments and said we want to contribute our voices to these discussions which is extremely impressive”, 

“It has been quite inspiring to follow their progress through the process and witness first-hand how engaged, motivated and thoughtful they are – they have asked some really hard questions about the research process!  I think we are often guilty of under estimating young people and what they can achieve if given the right opportunities and appropriate challenges.” 

Junior six pupil Louise Kemp added: “We were working by ourselves on our projects which was challenging, but if you were organised you found that it was much easier and we did have plenty of help from our teachers and the university staff.”

As well as conducting their own research the children are also the subject of Bethan Howell’s research project; “Exploring children’s perceptions of the learning and motivational benefits associated with undertaking their own research”. 

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