ESERA 2009 submission
From informing to (reforming) learning: new strategies for European research and dissemination of good methods in Science Education.
Professor Geir Karlsen (1) and Dr Peter Gray, (1), Professor Doris Jorde (2)
(1) Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim
(2) University of Oslo
Contact email addresses
Prof. Geir Karlsen/ Dr Peter Gray
b) Type of presentation preferred
11. Educational Policy
Policy and Practice issues: local, regional, national, or international issues of policy related to sci-ence education
ABSTRACT (186 words)
This paper outlines the philosophy and ideas behind the creation of two major projects in the field of science education. The S-TEAM (Science-Teaching Advanced Methods) and INQUEST (In-quiry Now! Quality Enhancement in Science Teaching) projects are both responses to Calls within the Science in Society (SiS) strand of FP7 . These calls seek to drastically increase the dissemina-tion of inquiry-based science teaching methods throughout Europe.
The paper argues that researchers and teacher educators can use the opportunities presented by these Calls to take an active position within an emerging European pedagogical field, in order to achieve long-term improvements in the teaching and learning of science. In order to do this, it is necessary to adopt indicators and instruments which help to illuminate the problem as well as con-tribute to its solution, and to take account of moral and ethical debates about science in society. The paper outlines our approach to developing indicators and instruments and shows how science education research will benefit from the two projects.
Synopsis (1499 words)
This paper describes the creation and philosophy of two Framework Programme (FP)7 projects in the field of science education. The S-TEAM (Science-Teaching Advanced Methods) and INQUEST (Inquiry Now! Quality Enhancement in Science Teaching) projects are both responses to Calls within the Science in Society (SiS) strand of FP7. S-TEAM started in May 2009.
These calls concern the dissemination of inquiry-based science teaching (IBST) methods throughout Europe. They provide opportunities for researchers to take an active position within an emerging European Pedagogical Field, in order to achieve long-term improvements in pupil attitudes towards science. A recent tender document , states that:
... impact[of earlier projects] on the broader community of science teachers and other users in Europe - those not directly involved in specific projects (and in fact the over-whelming majority) - is far from being optimal.
The paper suggests ways in which this problem can be addressed.
The Calls make three assumptions:
(1) improved scientific literacy is assumed to be a public good;
(2) It is desirable that more students enter scientific, technological, engineering or mathematics (STEM) careers (EC, 2004);
(3) Inquiry-based science teaching (IBST) is assumed to be capable of producing the desired results
There is no necessary link between these components. As Osborne & Dillon (2008) point out, (2) might be framed as a a problem of the labour market rather than a problem for education, whilst (1) is subject to debate as to the nature of scientific literacy and its purpose within civil society (Gräber et al 2002; Evans 1997). There are therefore some difficulties to overcome in both dissemination and measurement.
Scientific and empirical aspects
Our initial problem in designing a scientifically justified and empirically successful project is therefore to find a way of correlating four disparate phenomena, viz:
1. Inquiry-based methods of science teaching
2. Scientific literacy
3. Labour market conditions for STEM graduates
4. Teacher-led inquiry in professional development
The paper argues that teacher-led inquiry may open up the area of moral purpose within science education, whilst the process of creating indicators for contentious concepts within science educa-tion is itself a political and ethical challenge. Current debates around public perceptions of science (e.g. Wilsdon et al, 2005) provide an argument for bringing the political and ethical dimensions of science into science teaching, and the phenomena towards which S-TEAM is directed. Meanwhile, we need a way of connecting existing methods and research with national contexts.
The Pedagogical Field
Current evidence from projects such as ROSE (Relevance of Science Education) is that pupil interest in science is declining. Meanwhile TIMMS and PISA have created competition between education systems. The problem for EU action on science education is that there is currently no space for collaboration equivalent to, e.g. the European Higher Education Area . The Principle of Subsidiarity makes member states responsible for their own education systems, and the trend towards standards, accountability, 'evidence-based practice' and other instruments of management (Patrick et al 2003) increasingly determines who has the power to affect pedagogy. As differences between national systems become apparent however, so do the possibilities for European collaboration.
Here, we introduce the concept of the pedagogical field. Drawing upon Bourdieu (1991) we define the pedagogical field as the totality of forces (discursive, normative, governmental etc) generated by actors within educational systems and which affect the pedagogical principles and practices adopted in a given context (Gray, 2008). The strongest pedagogical fields are at national level, combining general aspects with subject-specific ideas, for example the combination of student-centred, con-structivist teaching and learning with inquiry-based teaching, or 'investigative' science (McNally 2006).
Indicators as formative, and as political and ethical instruments
In this section of the paper, we discuss empirical issues surrounding measurement, which is neces-sary if either S-TEAM or INQUEST are to have scientific credibility. For example, it is difficult to produce convincing indicators and instruments for scientific literacy, due to the difficulty of relating science topics in the curriculum to possible test items in a consistent way across contexts (OECD 2006). There is even doubt concerning numbers of science teachers and students in partner coun-tries. A further problem is introduced by the need for indicators which are valid and reliable within project timescales (3-4 yrs).
Whilst the two projects are 'support actions', having no research role, they will nevertheless gener-ate empirical data for researchers. The nature of this empirical data and its significance will be de-termined by:
1. The need to demonstrate the effectiveness of project actions
2. The resulting need to identify suitable indicators and instruments, in line with EC policy
3. The nature of these indicators and instruments
4. The nature of any analysis
5. The subsequent use of these analyses in academic articles and policy documents
The paper will develop the relationship between these factors.
To give an example, the paper describe the hypothetical process of deriving indicators in relation to an S-TEAM sub-package:
WP5b (NTNU) will develop the use of practice placements in initial teacher education (ITE)...for the development of new methods in science education...through a DVD (with University of Strathclyde and Université Pierre Mendes-France) as a tool for reflection in ITE...[it] will be used as a basis for discussing relationships between teaching method and learning outcome.
The paper will discuss how the process of developing effective, inter-related indicators can have a formative role in science education itself. This process will require new kinds of partnership be-tween stakeholders in science education. The kind of partnerships which will be created within the S-TEAM and INQUEST projects are therefore:
® Partnerships between science education researchers and teacher educators
® Partnerships between schools, teachers and teacher educators
® Partnerships between natural science, social science and humanities subjects
These ideas are not new in themselves, but within the S-TEAM and INQUEST projects, they will contribute to a European Pedagogical Field. Such a field is not simply a forum for exchanging 'best practice',. By collaborating across borders, science teachers and teacher educators can work their way around some of the constraints of national systems and 're-enter' the national pedagogical field as stronger and more influential players.
These partnerships will thus be both the creators and disseminators of 'good' methods in science education. We use the word 'good' here in the particular sense of having a moral purpose:
...Research with an ambition to discover a difference that makes a difference, and with an ambition to improve the life-conditions for living persons. Somehow this has to be the le-gitimate basis of all educational activity...(Karlsen 2008)
Science on its own has been unable to provide answers, and we are thus entering the domain of philosophy and of democratic consensus. The process of defining, enhancing and sustaining a European Pedagogical Field provides a space for debate. It should not be a vehicle for the top-down dissemination of fixed ideas about science teaching but a bottom-up, democratic laboratory for inquiry-based learning.
Bourdieu, Pierre (1991) Language and Symbolic Power Harvard University Press
EC (European Commission) (2004) Increasing Human Resources for Science and Technology in Europe: Report to be presented at the EC Conference "Europe needs More Scientists" Brussels, European Commission.
Evans, R. H. (1997). A challenge to the science education community: Morris H. Shamos' The Myth of Scientific Literacy, in Gräber, W. & Bolte, C. (Eds.), Scientific Literacy (pp. 103-120). Kiel, Germany, IPN.
Gräber, W., Nentwig, P., Koballa, T. & Evans, R. (Hrsg.) (2002): Scientific Literacy. Der Beitrag der Naturwissenschaften zur Allgemeinen Bildung. (Scientific Literacy: The Value of Science in General Education) Opladen: Leske + Budrich
Gray, Peter (2008) Pedagogy and the Scottish Education System: an overview, report produced for the Norwegian Council of Higher Education Institutions, Oslo
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