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This page is for my comments about the state of the project, where we are and what we are doing.

 When they got here, all exhausted
 On the roof leaks they got started
 And now when the rain comes
 We can be thankful

(From "Roscoe" by Midlake, from the album the trials of van occupanther (2006)

25th September

The Scottish workshop took place in Glasgow on Wednesday 23rd Sept.  It was useful to hear the comments of participants on the state of inquiry-based science teaching in Scotland.  The report will be available towards the end of December. There were two emerging themes which in my view will be crucial to how S-TEAM functions.  One is the question of indicators and the other is the  question of access, or flows of information between teachers and the research community.

We have begun to have an internal debate about indicators but so far it has not resulted in any strong conclusions.  In fact we have seen the question develop a life of its own and threaten to be divisive.  The obvious starting point for the debate is the nature of IBST and whether we have an agreed definition. It is easy to produce a rather general typology, as we did in the proposal:

 Generally, inquiry-based science teaching and education engages students in:   (info) authentic, problem-based learning activities where there may not be a correct  answer   (ii)  experimental procedures, experiments and "hands on" activities, including  searching for information   (iii)  self-regulated learning sequences where student autonomy is emphasised  (iv) discursive argumentation and communication with peers ("talking science") 

The main problem with this definition is that it does not contextualise IBST into the multiple educational systems of which it is a component. In particular it does not take account of the curriculum and assessment systems which 'surround' IBST. In various papers etc we have used the term 'pedagogical field' as a spatial metaphor. Using this metaphorical schema, the implementation of IBST is determined by the interaction of different discourses in the classroom and elsewhere. These discourses include, but are not limited to:

  • Teachers' repertoires of actions, in turn determined by their education and professional development, values, beliefs etc.
  • Government policies
  • Scientific community views of what constitutes the science curriculum
  • Prevailing pupil opinion as to what constitutes 'science' and their current understandings of how science works
  • Assessment systems, in turn determined by the requirements of employers and universities etc.
  • School resources and practices, including health and safety, equity and scheduling.

All these discourses appeared at various stages of the Scottish workshop, and no doubt have been mentioned in other workshop reports. The point here is that, like roof-tiles, they should all interlock to form a cohesive whole, but, like the song says, they often don't, and work is required to fix the leaks, even when we don't really want to get up there asnd do it.

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