The power of out of school engagements: Developing high school students’ identities as forensic scientists



forensic science, High School, science identity, diversity


In response to job markets, organizations are seeking to design educational opportunities that may influence students to pursue careers in forensic science. More research is needed that explores whether out of school engagements develop students’ identities as forensic scientists. This article examines how high school students described their evolving identities as forensic scientists before and after participating in an out of school engagement. Three key factors shaped the out of school engagement described in this study: a) student social interaction with peers, b) student directed decision making, and c) student inquiry facilitated by experts. The out of school engagement also provided students with opportunities to experiment with ways of communicating science. Pre and post engagement survey results suggest that the out of school engagement appeared to change some students’ perceptions as to whether they would consider themselves forensic scientists. Based on the results of the study, it is suggested that out of school engagements provide valuable opportunities to help high school students develop their identities as forensic scientists. By examining the design of the out of school engagement described in this article, science educators, administrators, parents, and other stakeholders may develop ideas as to how to develop students’ identities as forensic scientists.


Author Biography

  • Kelly M. Elkins, Towson University

    Dr. Kelly Elkins is the author and editor of several books including Introduction to Forensic ChemistryForensic DNA Biology: A Laboratory ManualNext Generation Sequencing in Forensic Science: A PrimerInternational Ethics in Chemistry: Developing Common Values Across CulturesTrends in Counterfeit Drugs, and NGS Technology in DNA Analysis. Dr. Elkins is a Professor of Chemistry at Towson University and the author more than 55 papers and invited book chapters on her research. Her work has been published the Journal of Forensic SciencesAnalytical Biochemistry, Drug Testing and Analysis, and Medicine, Science and the Law. She has taught courses in forensic chemistry and forensic biology under various course numbers at four colleges and universities since 2006. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, a member of the American Chemical Society, and a member of the Council of Forensic Science Educators and served as its President in 2012. She consults on forensic cases.