A Multifaceted Approach to Neuroscience Outreach: Meeting the Challenges

01 October 2007

Eleanor J. Dommett, Martin S. Westwell and Susan A. Greenfield

Neuroscientist vol. 13 no. 5 447-453 DOI: 10.1177/1073858407299942

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UK government targets aim for 50% of 18- to 30-year-olds entering higher education; however, with the vast choice of subjects to study available at this level, it is important to help pupils make informed decisions. As part of this process, awareness of newer fields such as neuroscience, which is not on the syllabus for science at school, needs to be promoted. Various challenges face neuroscientists working with visiting school pupils, including the lack of appropriate teaching resources, the culture and language barrier, and the risk of misinterpretation through oversimplification. The authors have designed a workshop to promote neuroscience and related scientific issues with school pupils aged 16 to 18 years. Pupil feedback showed that awareness of options within science increased after the workshop. The workshop also used resources taken from an undergraduate course successfully, demonstrating that appropriate resources are already available. A practical session using human brains was most popular, with all pupils believing it to be thought provoking and interesting. The final session aimed to challenge stereotypes within science, and despite the lowest pupil ratings overall, the majority agreed this aim was met. Pupils reported that the workshop was interesting and that the information about options within science useful. The most impressive outcome was that, although no pupil recorded less inclination to continue in science following the workshop, 46% said that they were more likely to do so. These data confirm the importance of outreach work for pupils' interest and career choice.