The research-teaching nexus as a driver for science communication skills enhancement
AbstractScientists’ ability to communicate effectively is vital to their employment prospects, their contribution to society and to society’s reception of science. Our goals were to develop students’ communication skills and to enhance the teaching-research nexus. An engaging communication activity was introduced to a large enrolment first year physics service subject for science students. Audio and video ‘trigger’ material, created as stimuli for the students and based on original research occurring at our university, was a key innovation of the activity. Students submitted a short but structured written response to these triggers in which they gave their own perspective on the research – thus enhancing the teaching-research nexus. The activity was piloted with senior students, revised for delivery to the target students and evaluated via a student experience survey. Students reported that they valued the communication assignment for allowing them to learn more about scientific research at their university, to express their opinion of the research, and to practise communication skills. Students indicated that the triggers gave them insight into future career paths. The qualitative findings were reinforced by quantitative survey data which revealed strong support for including the activity in a physics subject. This study shows that a communication assignment builds bridges between undergraduates and researchers, thus enhancing the research-teaching nexus, and indicates that students find the assignment engaging and rewarding. While we are encouraged that students find the communication assignment a positive learning experience, the extent to which it enhances students’ science communication skills has yet to be established.