The measurable impacts of Discovery have been shared internationally through several conferences and news articles. We are so confident in the value of this program for students that we've put all of our results in one place for easy access.
The onset of COVID-19 and subsequent cancellation of regularly-scheduled on-campus Discovery activities in Spring 2020 provided an opportunity to pivot learning objectives to the virtual environment. The instructional team sought to develop challenging yet feasible virtual projects in keeping with the experiential learning of Discovery. Emphasis was placed on critical thinking and quantitative analysis, with maintenance of the degree of autonomy and creativity inherent to a traditional engineering or science pursuit. As a result of partnership with local schools, Discovery content must meet Ontario STEM curriculum learning outcomes and promote development of scientific investigation and career exploration skills. Spring 2020 presented an additional challenge to program engagement given that the Ministry of Education mandated that student course grades would not decrease, but could increase, from pre-COVID levels post-school closure. Although students were aware that Discovery engagement tends toward an increase in final grades,1 the challenge remained to ensure subject matter was sufficiently relevant and interesting for students to retain motivation and engage maximally with the program.
Discovery: Virtual Implementation of Inquiry-Based Remote Learning for Secondary STEM Students During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Graduate Student Pedagogical Impact Through Development and Delivery of a Collaborative Inquiry-Focused High School STEM Program
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 skillset. 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.
Discovery: Differential Student Impact is Evident Within an Inquiry-Focused Secondary/Post-Secondary Collaborative STEM Program
Secondary school science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) curricula generally focus
on delivery of knowledge in an effort to ensure achievement of learning outcomes related to
important scientific concepts, in preparation for post-secondary study. Considering a global
learning environment of rapid technological change at the cutting edge, this knowledge quickly
loses its relevance to application, highlighting the importance in focusing on development of a
critical thinking framework for students... Following 5 terms of activity impacting approximately 500 students, the program has now expanded to include participation of a second school from a different
socioeconomic region identified as having fewer external challenges to learning, allowing for
assessment of cultural impact of learning. Preliminary assessment of multi-school participation
(1 term) presents very different student outcomes, as students from the new school demonstrated
no difference in performance between traditional classroom and Discovery settings, and notably
lower engagement in the inquiry-focused program structure. This differential impact may result
from cultural elements; in this study, we attempt to explain this gap in benefit from, and
acceptance of, a problem-based learning framework using grade data, student surveys, and
formal educator interviews...
Expanded Cross-Discipline Implementation Strategy of Discovery: A Biomedical Engineering-Themed Education Program Bridging Secondary and Post-Secondary Learning
High school science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) curricula are generally knowledge-based in methodology and focus on content delivery in preparation for post-secondary study. However, the rapid technological change at the cutting edge and the rate of global integration in STEM highlight the importance in developing a holistic critical thinking framework for student learning... Aligning with demonstrated evidence that inquiry-based active learning approaches are more effective in enhancing student learning than traditional teaching methods, evaluation in Discovery reinforces the value of a differential learning environment for high school STEM students who struggle in a knowledge-focused classroom. In addition, the Discovery model is shown to enhance student attitudes towards STEM and post-secondary education, meanwhile providing robust opportunity for graduate trainees to develop and apply pedagogical skills through development of curricula appropriate for university-preparatory students. Program impact provides opportunities to discuss this unique learning framework, collaborative delivery strategy, and implementation strategy of Discovery as a resource for translation to disciplines beyond BME, and institutions beyond the University of Toronto.
Enhancing Senior Highschool Student Engagement and Academic Performance Using an Inclusive and Scaleable Inquiry-Based Program
The multi-disciplinary nature of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers often renders difficulty for high school students navigating from classroom knowledge to post-secondary pursuits. Discrepancies between the knowledge-based high school learning approach and the experiential approach of undergraduate studies leaves some students disillusioned by STEM. We present Discovery, a semester-long inquiry-focused learning model delivered by STEM graduate students in collaboration with high school educators, in the context of biomedical engineering. Entire classes of high school STEM students representing diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds engaged in iterative, problem-based learning designed to emphasize critical thinking concomitantly within the secondary school and university environments. Assessment of grades and survey data suggested positive impact of this learning model on students’ STEM pursuits, notably in under-performing cohorts, as well as repeating cohorts that engage in the program on more than one occasion. Discovery presents a scalable platform blurring the divide between secondary and post-secondary learning, providing valuable learning opportunities and capturing cohorts of students that might otherwise be under-engaged in STEM.
IBBME Discovery: Biomedical Engineering-based Iterative Learning in a High School STEM Curriculum (Evaluation)
Senior high school students often struggle with recognizing the link between human health care and engineering, resulting in limited recruitment for post-secondary biomedical engineering (BME) study. To enhance student comprehension and recruitment in the field, BME graduate student instructors have developed and launched Discovery, a collaborative high school outreach program that promotes and engages students in the application of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) concepts.
Discovery Program: Integrating Biomedical Engineering Graduate Instructors with High School STEM Curriculum
With the diverse nature of the biomedical engineering (BME) field, high school students are often limited in their understanding of the area during consideration for post-secondary study. In effort to improve student comprehension, as well as provide a unique learning opportunity in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) curriculum, graduate students at the Institute of Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering (IBBME; University of Toronto) have developed and launched the IBBME Discovery Program. In strong collaboration with high school educators, graduate student instructors designed and executed activity- and designbased learning focused on applicable topics in BME aligned with Ontario high school science curriculum learning outcomes. Results from this pilot suggest strong student engagement in data-based experimental learning, and graduate student development in knowledge translation and activity design through collaboration. These results provide a strong foundation for program growth and quantitative assessment.