Welcome to the Cell EXPLORERS research page!
Our research aims and scope:
We investigate the learning and teaching of informal science education, particularly modern biology, using methods drawn from discipline-based education research, the learning sciences, social sciences and science education. Note that ‘informal science education’ is often referred to as ‘public engagement’ or ‘science outreach’. We define 'informal science education' as science education that is voluntary, student-led and not formally assessed, regardless of the setting.
The research group activity is linked to the Cell EXPLORERS programme. The group applies evidence from research to improve the design and assessment of informal science programmes like Cell EXPLORERS. We also investigate the impact these programmes can have on its participants, such as children, volunteer scientists (students and staff), and the higher education institutions (HEIs) which facilitate them (both universities and ITs).
In recent years, our work has concentrated on researching children’s perceptions about science and scientists. Further efforts have involved the development of learning materials and the training and support of HEI students, staff, and faculty members on best practices for informal science.
Current team members:
Dr Muriel Grenon
Cell EXPLORERS Director
Dr Sarah Carroll
Summer research intern
Past team members:
Dr Tereza Brumovská
Postdoctoral researcher 2019-2021
Dr Shane McGuinness
National Coordinator 2018-2019
Dr Claudia Fracchiolla
Postdoctoral researcher 2017-2018
The Cell EXPLORERS informal science research group is based at the NUI Galway team.
The Cell EXPLORERS research group is looking to expand!
Informal inquiries about possible postdoctoral/PhD positions/collaborations can be made by emailing Dr Muriel Grenon at email@example.com
The group also works in collaboration with Dr Veronica Mc Cauley, Andrea Higgins from NUI Galway School of Education, Dr Jerome Sheahan from the school of Mathematics and Dr Claudia Fracchiolla from UCD School of Education.
Our current research projects:
Primary pupils attitudes towards science & scientists
In 2019 we started to further investigate children’s attitudes to science and scientists through an empirical research study, led by one of our postdoctoral researchers, Dr Tereza Brumovská.
Study background: This explorative qualitative study employs an interpretive research paradigm through a constructivist view. In other words, the study builds an understanding of children’s attitude to science/scientists from the study of their subjective experience based on their personal and/or social experiences.
Methods: More specifically, we will explore in-depth participating children´s attitudes to science with the aim to give children the voice and space to express their experiences (Lundy, 2007) both in their own language and non-verbally. Explorative qualitative methods will involve child-centred interviews and arts-based participatory research method in line with and often used in the interpretive ontological paradigm (Kuhn, 1967).
Data will be collected via semi-structured interviews with children (11-12 year olds) before and after participation in Fantastic DNA. Children will be asked to narrate their experiences with science both in and out of school, their interest in science and their perception of scientists. Emergent themes from the pre- and post- interviews will be compared to identify any changes after participation in Fantastic DNA. To triangulate this and to further contextualise data, post-session interviews will also be conducted with children’s teachers and parents, to add their perceptions on any changes in children’s attitudes to science and scientists.
Progress: Semi-structured interviews before participation in Fantastic DNA have been collected and analysed Interviews are now being conducted online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are currently preparing a manuscript describing childrens' perceptions of scientists.
Fantastic DNA Studies :
Evaluation Research study:
As part of our commitment to excel, Cell EXPLORERS carry out evaluation research to both assess the quality of our programme, and to understand the impact that participation in the Fantastic DNA session has on children's perceptions of science and scientists.
To do this, we collect questionnaire data from the participants, including children, their teachers, and our scientist volunteers. All our data is collected after the Fantastic DNA session.
We invite children to complete anonymously a questionnaire. Children are asked about their experience in the session, their thoughts about the content of the session and their reaction to working with real scientists. They are also asked to draw a scientist (DAST). Teachers are also asked questions related to their perception of the content of the session and the perceived benefit it has for children taking part. Our scientist volunteers are asked to complete an online questionnaire. Volunteers are asked to comment on the organisation and structure of session, including suggestions for improvement, as well as any interesting questions that the children may have asked.
As part of the study, some of the information collected might be presented in research conferences or published in research journals. The information is anonymous and participation (or otherwise) in the study does not affect the child's participation on the session. We provide a link to the questionnaire that children are invited to complete if they participate in the study. If you have more questions or would like more information, you can contact us directly.
Children Science Self-Efficacy:
In addition to the Fantastic DNA study, a branch of our research effort focuses on the impact of participation in our programme on children’s science self-efficacy. Science self-efficacy can be described as the self-belief an individual has in completing specific science-related tasks successfully. Those with high science self-efficacy are more likely to do well in science at school, participate in science events, and pursue science at third-level.
This research is the PhD project of our postgraduate researcher, Sarah Carroll, who is also the Cell EXPLORERS NUI Galway volunteer coordinator. Specifically, Sarah is looking at whether the interaction between the local scientist volunteers and children in the Fantastic DNA session improves children’s science self-efficacy.
To do this, she has developed and validated a questionnaire: the Irish Science Self-Efficacy Children's Questionnaire (IS-SEC-Q), which assesses the strengths and influencers of children’s science self-efficacy beliefs.
If your child participated in this validation study - Thank you!
Sarah's latest study, which involves assessing children’s science self-efficacy before and after participating in the Fantastic DNA session, finished data collection in June 2019. In addition to completion of the IS-SEC-Q before and after, these Fantastic DNA sessions were also recorded (video and audio) to look at the interactions between the children and the Cell EXPLORERS scientists. A sample of children also completed interviews, to further examine any induced changes to their science self-efficacy and to explore their perceptions of the Cell EXPLORERS scientists. Only pupils attending invited schools and with full parental/guardian consent participated in these studies. The quantitative findings relating to this study are currently being written up as a manuscript.
If you or your child(ren) participated in either the (1) IS-SEC-Q validation study or the (2) Mixed Methods Pre-Post Study, Thank you!
We hope that the findings of this study will serve to inform other science outreach practitioners, like in Cell EXPLORERS, on best practice on increasing pupil's confidence in science.
S. Carroll, V. McCauley, and M.Grenon (2021). "A scientist knows what s/he's doing: Exploring the effect of scientist-led outreach on primary children's science self-efficacy beliefs". Conference Proceedings, Strands 16: Science in the Primary School. In conference proceedings for ESERA 2019: The beauty and pleasure of understanding: engaging with contemporary challenges through science education, Bologna.
S. Carroll, J. Sheahan, V. McCauley, M. Grenon (2020). "Development and validation of the Irish Science Self-Efficacy Children's Questionnaire to assess short-term influence of scientists facilitating outreach". Manuscript preprint on BioRxiv pre-print server for biology. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.01.25.919357
S.Carroll, V. McCauley & M. Grenon. "A scientist knows what s/he's doing: Exploring the effect of scientist-led outreach on primary children's science self-efficacy beliefs". Oral presentation at ESERA 2019 conference, Strand 16: Children's ideas about science and scientists, Bologna, August 29th 2019
S. Carroll, M. Grenon, A. Nistor, V. James, S. McGuinness. et al. The sustainability of STEM education projects. Scientix observatory report, September 2019
Nistor A., Angelopoulos P., Gras-Velazquez A., Grenon M. et al. STEM in primary education. Scientix observatory report. August 2019
M. Grenon, S. Carroll, C. Fracchiolla & C. Concannon 'The Cell EXPLORERS programme – piloting a STEM engagement programme in Ireland'. Conference Proceedings of the 2017 European Science Education Research Association Conference (ESERA). Strand 12, p1620-1630 (2018)
M. Grenon, C. Fracchiolla, S. Carroll, C. Concannon. Multiple benefits of the Cell EXPLORERS programme – a STEM public engagement model in Ireland. Conference proceedings. Published in Pixel (Ed.), New perspectives in science education, 7th edition (2018)
P. Charlton, A. Kumpis, C. Kouroupetroglou, M. Grenon “Wunderkammers: Powerful metaphors for ‘tangible’ experiential knowledge building” Multimodal Technologies and Interaction 2 (3), 34. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/mti2030034 (2018)
S. Carroll, V. McCauley & M. Grenon. Investigating the effect of scientist demonstrators on primary children’s science self efficacy. Published in Pixel (Ed.), New perspectives in science education, 7th edition (2018)
C. Concannon & M. Grenon. Researchers: share your passion for science! Biochemical Society Transaction44 (5), 1507-1515. DOI: 10.1042/BST20160086 (2016)
C. O'Connell, Research lifes, Dr Muriel Grenon: Exploring a hands-on approach to engaging with science. The Irish Times, February 13th 2020
M. Grenon, 'Try Everything' in Burke E. (Author) 7 secrets of successful science communication. Silicon Republic advice column, November 2019
S. Carroll, C. Fracchiolla, M. Grenon,“Why science education is for life and not just a week in November”Brainstorm RTÉ, 17th Nov 2017