Three Minute Learning: astounding places, incredible science, inspirational people

Lead Research Organisation: Three Minute Learning
Department Name: Development


This proposed project supports the five key areas of the STFC public engagement strategy, as detailed, point by point, in the Case for Support.

Three Minute Learning is a social enterprise set up to engage young people with science and to improve literacy. We propose to extend beyond the classroom and to new audiences the use of our free online resource 3ml. Developed originally to help overcome poor readers' learning disadvantages, 3ml has been shown, by external evaluation, to interest and inspire all school pupils with cutting-edge science. The majority of 3ml content is aimed at upper primary and lower secondary school pupils. It has been used by pupils as young as 8, and we are currently working to make it more accessible to these younger children.

The combination built into 3ml of short, readable science articles with activities that improve understanding, literacy and recall is unique. 3ml has been very well received in schools. During development, several thousand pupils have used it, generating considerable enthusiasm among teachers. Providing feedback on a workshop we delivered to teachers at the invitation of the Scottish Schools Education Research Centre (SSERC), Head of Physics Gregor Steele said: "3ml has been exceptionally well received in its own right, let alone for a session that did not involve experimental work."

We propose to concentrate, in this project, on schools in areas of disadvantage, on looked-after and adopted children, and on those with additional support needs. We will strengthen features of 3ml that help children who struggle. We will enhance the story library with stories aimed at younger children.

We propose to develop a new library within 3ml, specifically about STFC sites around the UK and to ensure that the stories we write are used, in particular, by schoolchildren in the age group 8 to 13, with a focus on children who struggle with schoolwork. More accomplished pupils will also find plenty to interest them in the rich variety of articles we will create on STFC sites, people, science and engineering.

We propose to spend one to three days - depending on site personnel time and availability - at each UK STFC Laboratory. While exploring the science and engineering, we will attempt to cover as wide a range of roles as possible, for inclusion in the Careers section of 3ml. We will create an STFC anthology of stories on each laboratory and the people who work there.

Content will be designed to hold children's interest, rather than directly serve the curriculum, although curriculum tags on each story will enable teachers to find those relevant to the topic they are teaching at any time. Using our contacts in schools, we will work through heads of departments, pastoral care and special needs teachers to get the STFC stories used both in and out of school.

Some features from social media and computer games are already built into 3ml. These have proven popular with children unused to success, as points are gained for engagement as much as for achievement. We will enhance and develop these features.

Planned Impact

We have been working closely for several years with Gregor Steele, Head of Physics at the Scottish Schools Education Research Centre, with whom we recently agreed that 3ml would be free to all schools that are members of SSERC. On their part SSERC will now publicise 3ml throughout their network, share their experience of delivering online CPD with us, and support our use of their facilities and equipment to run 3ml teacher workshops.

We will use our learning during these CPD sessions to shape the further roll-out of 3ml. We will discuss further developments with contacts and colleagues in meetings and at education conferences. We will raise awareness of the project through public engagement networks, by attending education events and offering programme presentations.

Three Minute Learning works closely with the ASE and IoP Teacher Networks. We will discuss links with their CPD support programmes and presentations at SSERC summer schools and IoP conferences. We will offer to write articles for the STEM Learning and STEM Ambassadors communications.


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Description What were the most significant achievements from the award?

The key aim of our project was to create a library of STFC related short stories to be used within the 3ml online resource. Central to the resource is a set of 4 activities that have been proven to improve pupil literacy and retention of information. Our challenge was to create engaging STFC related stories to incorporate into that library and to develop the resource to be ready for wider school use.
During the STFC project we visited ROE, RAL, RAL Space, Chilbolton Observatory and Daresbury Laboratory and interviewed 16 STFC researchers. We wrote 185 stories from those interviews and created a separate anthology of stories for each researcher, together with a set of review questions to reinforce learning. Our audience numbers included 83 teachers who registered 1,303 pupil accounts. The new 3ml code developed is now a much more secure and robust learning resource than earlier versions. We have built a lasting resource whose use in schools will increase, year on year.
Feedback from the schools provides evidence that 3ml inspires teachers and meets their needs.

To what extent were the award objectives met?

The award objectives were successfully met.

1) Feedback shows users are generally very satisfied and feel that 3ml is accessible and welcoming.
We provide support to teachers and each user's 3ml experience can be personalised. Core to its design and purpose are that the resource is at the right level for all, from struggling readers to high achievers, with emphasis on the former.

2) The 3ml project aimed to help promote the role that science and technology play in our lives.
Our interviews with STFC researchers, and the 3ml stories we created from them, are particularly valuable for the variety of jobs, career paths and progressions they demonstrate.
We encouraged the female researchers interviewed to talk about the changing role of, challenges faced by, and growing opportunities for women in a world of work traditionally dominated by men. A number of our stories now address these issues in a way that should encourage and inform young women who might consider a career in science or engineering. Presenting science as an activity that is culturally, intellectually and even socially as valuable and rewarding as music, literature and the arts is another central aim of Three Minute Learning.

3) The core aim of 3ml is to promote pupil literacy skills.
We invited teachers to comment on how 3ml could be used/improved in their teaching practice. Feedback reflected how pleased they were with its support of the science curriculum as a whole. The contribution 3ml makes to reading and understanding of scientific texts, and to asking questions and summarising ideas, was commented upon favourably.
As an example of the comments received, primary headteacher Sophie Davies liked the " short burst learning and texts that help children explore scientific language and reading skills together, and the excellent links to the specific language and knowledge of the NC science curriculum."

4) Feedback shows users are generally very satisfied in 3ml's ability to promote understanding of scientific text.
3ml is a library of short, highly readable articles and a selective set of activities that engage readers with the content of each story. Established research shows these activities improve pupils' understanding of content. During the course of this project we have written 258 stories covering the UK STEM curricula in detail and a further 185 stories based on our visits to STFC facilities and interviews with researchers. We devised a system and presentation method of collecting stories together into anthologies. Realising, after conversations with teachers and monitoring of 3ml use, that teachers needed highly curriculum-centred content to justify initial and continuing use of 3ml, we wrote stories and created anthologies for each of the 25 organisers in the Scottish science broad general education and the English primary science curricula - in addition to the 16 anthologies already created for the STFC researchers.
Exploitation Route Building on our experience during this project, we will develop effective methods of guiding and supporting the wider UK population of schools to use 3ml in general, and the STFC stories in particular, both in class and at home. The entire set of new anthologies and related review questions will be made available to STFC as a package, for their public engagement purposes.
Sectors Education

Description Planning Daresbury area school use with Phill Day of the Daresbury Laboratory 
Organisation Daresbury Laboratory
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution The 3ml team visited Daresbury Laboratory from Glasgow four times during the course of the project. Public engagement manager, Phill Day was very supportive. He arranged for us to interview willing staff from a number of Daresbury divisions, including Computational chemistry, the Hartree Centre and Accelerator science and technology. We used the content of these interviews to write sets of 3ml stories about each researcher, and then to create individual anthologies for all of them. Having done so we then returned at a later date to run two CPD sessions on 3ml use, organised by Phill, for 15 local primary school teachers and heads. One further visit was arranged with a Warrington STEM specialist college, which was unfortunately cancelled on arrival due to a serious school issue.
Collaborator Contribution Phill Day organised all the interviews for us. He recruited a nice balance and diversity of researchers from across the divisions, and arranged the venue and timetables. He sat in on interviews and contirbuted constructively to them. Phil arranged and supported our CPD sessions with teachers.
Impact Success of the 3ml project.
Start Year 2018
Description Scottish Schools Education Research Centre 
Organisation Scottish Schools Education Research Centre
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution SSERC run a highly regarded national programme of professional development to support science and technology education in Scotland. Their professional development courses range from twilight events and day-courses through to residential meetings. In the past we have contributed a session to these courses, but not formed a major component. In 2018 SSERC decided to deliver an extended physics course through its e-learning systems and use Glow-meet technology. This course consisted of five Glow Meets and a study task. The teachers chose one of the session resources to take back to school, to use and reflect upon. This was then followed by a meet-up after the study task. to share the learning. The 3ml team ran one of eight sessions, which turned out to be one of the most popular. We agreed to make 3ml available to all Scottish Schools and support the teachers in their use. We then attended the final meeting to record all learning and recommendations. SSERC has agreed to work with us, share their expertise, and support our use of their facilities to deliver 3ml to all Scottish schools.
Collaborator Contribution As a national organisation, funded by the Scottish Government and local authorities, SSERC provides the e-learning platform and structure as part of their national programme of professional development. Their contact with schools is comprehensive and their curriculum coverage spans both primary and secondary sectors, offering events for teachers, trainee teachers and technicians. SSERC recruited the teachers for us, hosted the course and organised the feedback sessions.
Impact This partnership enables structured use and evaluation of 3ml, on a continuing basis, by science teachers across Scotland.
Start Year 2018