Summary of Lab in a Lorry Evaluation


In October 2005, researchers from Durham University were commissioned by the Institute of Physics to carry out an evaluation of Lab in a Lorry. 


What emerged very clearly from the evaluation was how positively pupils, teachers and volunteers perceived Lab in a Lorry.  It also became clear why pupils found Lab in a Lorry an enjoyable experience, with two consistent explanations standing out from the findings.  Pupils enjoyed the ‘hands-on’ nature of the activities on Lab in a Lorry and the ability of the volunteers to communicate science to them in an engaging and enthusiastic way.  The evaluation also found that the scheme had only a limited impact on the long-term attitudes of pupils towards science, despite its positive perception.  However, this is to be expected given that the Lab in a Lorry experience is just a small part of pupils’ wider experiences and that the main influence on pupils’ attitudes towards science is what they experience in class. 


Questionnaire findings


Six schools distributed a questionnaire to pupils looking specifically at their views of Lab in a Lorry.  In total, 500 pupils completed the questionnaire and the results show that they perceived their visit to Lab in a Lorry very favourably:


  • Over 85% agreed that volunteers knew a lot about and were good at explaining science. 
  • Over 80% of pupils thought that Lab in a Lorry was a good way of learning science.
  • Over 70% of pupils agreed that Lab in a Lorry was generally an enjoyable experience.
  • Over 65% agreed that they had enjoyed the experiments on the Lorry.


The perceptions of the pupils were less significant with regards to the impact of Lab in a Lorry on their future intentions and learning in science but they are still encouraging:


  • 44% of pupils agreed that because of Lab in a Lorry, they wanted to find out more about science. 
  • 38% of pupils agreed that the Lorry helped them with their science lessons. 
  • 37% of pupils agreed that they wanted to study more science in the future as a result of the visit. 
  • 14% agreed that it had made them want to become scientists in the future.


Interviews with pupils


Altogether, 44 pupils of varying academic ability were interviewed.  The overall impression that came through in these interviews was that pupils found visiting Lab in a Lorry interesting and enjoyable. The two main reasons for this were the opportunity to do ‘hands-on’ experiments, and the way in which the volunteers interacted with the pupils.


Interviews with volunteers


There were two main motivations for volunteers taking part in Lab in a Lorry.  First of all, there was a sense of responsibility for working for recruitment and creating a motivation for science. Secondly, volunteers emphasised their great pleasure in working with engaged and interested children. 


Interviews with teachers


Teachers of pupils who had taken part in the scheme also had a very positive view of Lab in a Lorry, saying that the pupils seemed to enjoy the experience, finding it interesting and exciting.  The teachers put this enjoyment down to a number of reasons, most notably that the volunteers were ‘real’ scientists, that the experiments were hands-on and practical, that there were links between the science and the outside world, that the equipment was professional and that there was good access for students.