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S-TEAM - Theory and evidence in a European Pedagogical field,

Peter Gray, Norwegian University of Science & Technology

Pedagogical fields can be described as discursive spaces in which actors in policy, research, training and practice exert influence over the forms of pedagogy applied in a specific context. The European pedagogical field is an emerging entity which complements national pedagogical fields by providing a space for practitioner-researcher interaction freed from the constraints of national policy agendas. The entry of S-TEAM as a large collaborative project into this European field is significant because it will provide both the critical mass (15 countries, 25 institutions, over 100 staff) and the evidence base to change the nature of the field. As the previous contributions indicate, there are many considerations involved in designing research indicators and instruments. The underlying principle within S-TEAM should be that indicators are not merely the means of measuring ongoing processes, but should themselves contribute to the aims and objectives of the project by stimulating reflection, signalling the emergence of innovative practices and manouevering the relevant actors into positions where they can make useful contributions to the future of European science education and science teacher education.

Introduction

Within the power structures of the EU, education in general and science education in particular have taken on an almost apocalyptic importance for the future survival of 'Europe' as a political and economic entity (EC2 007; EC 2004).  Whilst this rhetorical imperative has not yet  resolved itself in terms of  economic results, it has huge implications for the  way in which science education will develop over the next few years.

Peter Gray
Pedagogical fields can be described as discursive spaces in which actors in policy, research, training and practice exert influence over the forms of pedagogy applied in a specific context. The European pedagogical field is an emerging entity which complements national pedagogical fields by providing a space for practitioner-researcher interaction freed from the constraints of national policy agendas.  The entry of S-TEAM as a large collaborative project into this European field is significant because it will provide both the critical mass (15 countries, 25 institutions, over 100 staff) and the evidence base to change the nature of the field.
As the previous contributions indicate, there are many considerations involved in designing research indicators and instruments.  The underlying principle within S-TEAM should be that indicators are not merely the means of measuring ongoing processes, but should themselves contribute to the aims and objectives of the project by stimulating reflection, signalling the emergence of innovative practices and manoeuvering the relevant actors into positions where they can make useful contributions to the future of European science education and science teacher education. In this sense, S-TEAM is a 'meta-cognitive' project in that it enables thinking about how to think about science education.
Structurally, S-TEAM enables an overview of a diverse set of pedagogical fields in the partner countries, through its programme of national workshops, which is currently up and running. By now, we will have held three workshops (Lithuania, Turkey, Scotland). The point of these workshops is not only to gain an overview of national policy, but also to provide a space in which that national policy can be challenged and changed.  This might seem surprising - surely policymakers do this sort of thing all the time? Our evidence so far is that they do not, and that there are gains to be made for science educators, simply by providing opportunities for discussion.

The Scottish workshop took place recently and provided just such an opportunity. One question which arose and is relevant for this paper is "what is it that learners actually gain from IBST?".

This is not obvious.  The normal measures of pupil attainment - examinations - are generally seen as a barrier to inquiry-based teaching, and in many cases, inquiry is dumped in favour of traditional 'chalk-based' methods as the exams loom nearer.  PISA results can provide a general sense of pupil achievement, but it would be very difficult to identify trends based on teaching methods from this data. A teacher at the workshop provided a good example of the opportunities created by a gap in the timetable, which enabled him to do sustained inquiry-based work with a class who were unlikely to continue science into upper secondary. The pupils' curiosity was stimulated, and they showed genuine interest, but there was nowhere for this to go once the 'gap' came to an end.

Some colleagues at the University of Aberdeen have come up with the idea of 'pupil gains' to describe a multi-dimensional model of outcomes from schooling.  Some of these gains can be realtional or emotional as well as cognitive, and in fact the concept can be compared to the seven dimensions of teacher development which were identified in the EPL project. Equally, we could see these in terms of Gardner's 'multiple intelligences'. These dimensions were:

  • Relational
  • Emotional
  • Physical
  • Temporal
  • Cognitive
  • Ethical
  • Structural

In terms of pupil gains, it is easy to see that there could be social or relational gains, e.g. being able to collaborate with others or to reduce challenging behaviours. Emotional gains could also be identified, e.g. gains in confidence or sense of self.  Physical or material gains might be in terms of spatiality, which can be analysed in terms of proximity, mobility and possession (Gray, 2004). The temporal dimension refers to perceptions of time 'flying past' or 'dragging', clearly an issue for school pupils. The ethical dimension refers to developing a sense of fairness, or perhaps new attitudes to issues of gender, ethnicity etc. The structural dimension refers to the influence of external regulation and order on pupils and can be detected in concepts such as 'pupil voice' which are enabled by discourses and decisions within and around institutions.

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