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WP 6c & 6d: dialogic inquiry in science classrooms

Work packages 6c and 6d constitute two complementary parts of an overall product  designed to encourage and support teachers in engaging students in dialogic inquiry in science classrooms.

The concept of 'dialogic inquiry' follows from research work into  characterizing the talk of science classrooms and, in particular, making the distinction between authoritative talk, where the focus is on the scientific point of view, and dialogic talk where the classroom interactions are open to all points of view, with  those of the students made prominent (see:  Mortimer and Scott, 2003).  The approach taken in these work packages is that in learning science, both authoritative and dialogic approaches are essential as teaching and learning progress, at times  closing in on the accepted science point of view, at other times opening up for debate and discussion (see:  Scott et al, 2006).

This is in contrast to much existing science teaching which follows a strictly transmissive, authoritative route, excluding the  student's voice  As such we see close links between this work on dialogic inquiry and inquiry-based science teaching and learning (IBSTAL), with the key common purpose of engaging students in real dialogue and thinking about science content and other  scientific issues.  Furthermore, we see this kind of engagement as being of fundamental importance in motivating students to take a personal interest, and to participate, in science.    The team working on this theme of dialogic inquiry has been instrumental in developing the basic ideas involved in the field and as such is ideally placed to take a lead.  For example: Scott and Ametller (2006) have recently completed a UK  Research Council (ESRC) project on Dialogic Teaching;  Enghag's (2007) dissertation about Student Ownership of Learning, addresses student empowerment and motivation and how student ideas as the driving force in classroom discourse  challenge traditional teaching (see: Enghag and Niedderer, 2007) ;  Sund's (2008) dissertation concerns socializing content for Education for Sustainable Development;  Viiri and his colleagues have developed various dialogic teaching sequences, e.g.  Savinainen et al. (2005), and  they have experience in training student teachers in dialogic teaching approaches (Viiri & Saari, 2006).

Work package 6c will involve collaborative work between science teachers in primary and secondary schools and university-based science educators.  The focus of this collaboration will be on jointly developing four short teaching sequences (6/7  hours duration) aimed at lower secondary/primary school which are based on the principles of dialogic inquiry and which are well tuned to the demands of real classrooms.  The sequences can either be used as complete entities, or specific  'dialogic activities' can be taken from them to be integrated with schools' existing teaching schemes.  Through this work two significant outcomes are anticipated.  Firstly, the participating teachers will be exposed to the thinking and practices of  dialogic inquiry, thereby widening their teaching repertoires.  Secondly, four dialogic inquiry teaching sequences (and the constituent 'dialogic activities') will be developed and trialed.  It is anticipated that these sequences will be based in the physical  sciences and the field of sustainable development (see WP 6d below).  The process of trialing and review of the sequences will be a key part of their development:  a 'one-shot' curriculum development approach will not be taken.  The project team  already has some experience in developing 'effective practice' teaching sequences, with evidence of a positive impact on student learning and a positive response from teachers (Leach et al, 2006).

Work package 6d will complement the activity of WP 6c by developing workshop materials and activities focusing on the general theme of dialogic inquiry and how this might appear in the science classroom.  The materials and activities will  be designed for use in a range of contexts:  initial teacher training; school-based teacher development; wider teacher development events.  They will include simple tools for analysing classroom talk (see Mortimer and Scott, 2003) with the aim of  getting teachers to a point where they can reflect on their own teaching practices and see how these might be refined to include more dialogic interaction with students.     The team has significant experience of working with teachers on dialogic inquiry in both pre-service and in-service training contexts.  For example, pilot work on dialogic inquiry in the context of pre-service training in Finland has been carried out. This has  involved a specific teaching programme about classroom interaction and teacher's talk as an integrated section in the normal curriculum of science teacher training (Lehesvuori et al, in press).     A novel feature of the WP 6d work is that some of the materials will focus on supporting teachers in opening up issues relating to aspects of sustainable  development such as economic use of fuels, recycling, technical energy systems and climate change. Teacher education at Mälardalen University includes courses in education for sustainable development.  The educational approach itself needs to be  changed to offer students of all ages better opportunities to critically discern the surrounding world in a more fruitful way, according to their own interests, and in all school subjects (Sund & Wickman, 2008).  It is not difficult to see how dialogic inquiry  approaches, focusing on the student voice and other perspectives, will be key to working in this field.

Dissemination WP6c and 6d The teachers involved in the work of 6c will be exposed to the materials developed in  6d as part of their activity in developing teaching sequences.  Conversely, the teaching sequences developed through 6c will be referred to as exemplary materials in working through the workshop materials developed in WP 6d.  Video and powerpoint materials presented on a DVD platform will be used to capture and exemplify key aspects of the ways in which teachers launch and sustain dialogic inquiry in the science classroom.  Dissemination activities will take place in England, Finland and Sweden in the first instance (products 6.5 and 6.6)

New description added 30/06/09
Mälardalen University
Short description of the training package that will be developed
Type of deliverable (e.g., training module, teacher guide etc): Training module in which we develop short teaching sequences, or 'dialogic activities 'together together with teachers in school
Length (in months) of the training package:   One semester
          Dialogic inquiry
Focus area (dialogic inquiry, argumentation, motivation):
School level (e.g. primary school, secondary school):   Primary and secondary
Science content (e.g. chemistry, biology, physics)   Physical science

Work package 6c will involve collaborative work between science teachers in
primary and secondary schools and university-based science educators. The focus
of this collaboration will be on jointly developing four short teaching sequences (6/7
hours duration) aimed at lower secondary/primary school which are based on the
principles of dialogic inquiry and which are well tuned to the demands of real
classrooms. The sequences can either be used as complete entities, or specific
'dialogic activities' can be taken from them to be integrated with schools' existing
teaching schemes.
--
Work package 6d will complement the activity of WP 6c by developing
workshop materials and activities focusing on the general theme of dialogic inquiry
and how this might appear in the science classroom. The materials and activities will
be designed for use in a range of contexts: initial teacher training; school-based
teacher development; wider teacher development events. They will include simple
tools for analysing classroom talk (see Mortimer and Scott, 2003) with the aim of
getting teachers to a point where they can reflect on their own teaching practices and
see how these might be refined to include more dialogic interaction with students.
---
A novel feature of the WP 6d work is that some of the materials will focus on
supporting teachers in opening up issues relating to aspects of sustainable
development such as economic use of fuels, recycling, technical energy systems and
climate change.

       In the same way that participation and inquiry has become important in education in general, we think that this also is the situation for teacher education and teachers professional development (PD). A way to include teachers a participators and owner of their PD, is to ask for best-practice experiences, and with this as starting-point together develop teaching further with input from research based ideas and results. At MDU we have intended to reach teams of teachers at school that are willing to work together with us, by presenting some of our ideas in seminaries, that are arranged in cooperation with our regional developing centres.
    1     The Regional development centre (RUC) is a link between the teacher education of each Swedish university and the school communities. (Funding for these seminars has to be external, but we have managed to get funding for four seminars, of which we now already have finished three). (16 - 20 teachers have attended three times)
    2     NTA-meetings. NTA (Science and technology for all) is a national project in which teachers without science education during three days of education for each experimental box, get some confidence to use these boxes in their teaching. We then have opportunity to have 20 - 30 minutes talks times four of us with different specialties (dialogic teaching, education for sustainable development, new energy systems, writing in science) during this education days. This has not yet started, but days in August - September are decided. ( The education concerns approx. 80 teachers, se here is space for experiment groups and control groups if that is what we like)
     Our Training module TM, will be arranged based on our view of teachers PD as a network enterprise between teachers, teacher educators and researchers. Three steps will be characteristic;
First, teachers will get to know about us in our presentation in the RUC seminar series, or at the NTA start-up education days. We will give short presentations about 1) dialogic teaching/ communicative approaches, 2)  ESD (Education for sustainable development) and the importance of teaching for sustainable  energy, and 3) how writing is a part of dialogue, and a way to learn.
Secondly, we will meet teams of teachers that are interested to work with us at their school, and have a good talk with them about their experiences of teaching, and how they look upon the situation in their classrooms today. We will ask for resource- sheets and their reflections over their teaching in the light of ESD. We will decide about joint activities, literature to read, and main ideas to focus upon. This important part of sharing ideas will be the basis for PD to take place.
Thirdly, we will map the activity in the classroom at the beginning of this TM, both regarding activities going on and the communicative approaches used. An action plan is set up.  Some lessons will be followed, and we will come back and listen to teacher and learner experiences after six weeks.
At last, we come back for a last mapping, and for evaluation of teacher and learners experiences Questionnaires and interviews will be used.
This TM is set up individually for each school-teacher team for the duration of one semester. We hope to follow four - eight teams during 2009/2010.

Figure 1: MDU Training Module for each teacher team with the duration of one semester (4 month)

       The Resource- sheets. To make teacher to reflect and write down best-practice to build on for PD activities, we use resource-sheets. Resource-sheets is one way to teacher empowerment, to get credibility for best-practice activities already developed, and the activity to reflect upon what, why and how, give a new dimension that often cause changes in reasoning to take place. Sharing this in group can end up in a Learning study, evaluating the activity in different classes.

For S-TEAM Mälardalen University

Margareta Enghag
Susanne Engström
Birgitta Norberg Brorsson
Jutta Lesell

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