Science is not only knowledge; it is a whole state of mind!

10 September, 2021

 

By Sandrine Gallois, María Heras and Isabel Ruiz-Mallén researchers of the IN3’s TURBA Lab research group

 

Education is often evaluated in terms of learning outcomes, primarily interpreted as an increase in content knowledge. In the case of STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), the effectiveness of the teaching process is then judged in terms of content learning outcomes. However, the focus on transferring content knowledge from teachers to students, while very important, should not be the only variable considered. 

The different ways in which knowledge is acquired and transferred can have a major impact on students. The inquiry process in science, instilling in students the true spirit of discovery (hypothesis, observation, experimentation, failure, success and critical thinking), and also the collective processes and emotions involved when learning and teaching (such as excitement or boredom) are major factors to take into account to improve this learning process. What do these factors demand from a new generation of STEM teachers? How do these factors shape teacher training?

With these questions in mind, SPOON (STEM education and practices are not only about the content) a European project funded by the Erasmus+ programme coordinated by the University of Strasbourg (France), aimed to monitor and train teachers in inquiry-based learning approaches that focus on sharing with students the scientific process (and not only the content or scientific results), and the scientific way of thinking (critical thinking, inquiry-based, research spirit, cooperation).

SPOON began in September 2018 and ended in August 2021 and is being conducted in partnership with Boswell Beta (The Netherlands), The Elhuyar Foundation (Spain), Bojan Markicevic (Croatia) and the TURBA Lab research group at IN3-UOC (Spain), under the leadership of Isabel Ruiz-Mallén.

 

Training sessions throughout Europe to increase STEM teachers’ capabilities

During these three years, SPOON has developed specific training sessions throughout Europe to increase teachers’ capabilities, their cross-disciplinary skills and make them at ease with research-based STEM education by putting them in contact with science as practice and stimulating spaces for inspiration and discussion. These teachers’ workshops and training sessions took place in Strasbourg (France), Split (Croatia), Bilbao (Spain) and Utrecht (the Netherlands), through which SPOON partners have been exploring the interest of innovative methods in this field. 

Members of the TURBA Lab research group (IN3-UOC) developed and implemented an evaluation methodology exploring the effectiveness of these innovative workshops on training teachers’ competencies and skills for teaching science beyond the content.

Moreover, the evaluation scope also included the capacity of SPOON activities to embed the values of the Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) approach, as well as an exploration of teachers’ motivations and confidence towards implementing these kinds of innovative practices in their classrooms. The TURBA Lab research group has conducted the evaluations of the main training activities carried out in the framework of the SPOON project.

 

SPOONoBOOK: an online toolbox of resources for new ways of teching

As a result, the project has led to the creation and publication of different tools. All these resources and publications are free and creative commons, and validated by the consortium as “SPOON compatible”. They can be accessed on the platform SpoonObook. Designed as an online toolbox, SpoonObook shares all kinds of publications and practical resources carefully selected and approved by our partners to share new ways of teaching science.

If you are a researcher, a primary or secondary education teacher or an actor in scientific mediation, visit the SpoonObook platform to find turnkey activities, recommendations and good practices in STEM, as well as ideas for your classroom and examples of successful projects in other countries.

 

Impact assessment methodology to explore the effectiveness of the innovative STEM education

Members of the TURBA Lab research group (IN3-UOC) have designed and conducted an impact assessment methodology in order to explore the effectiveness of the innovative STEM education activities developed during SPOON training sessions in both teachers’ teaching skills and in their motivations to implement SPOON activities.

These training sessions aimed to strengthen teachers’ key and cross-disciplinary competencies when teaching, in order to foster students’ engagement in science and with the values of the guiding Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) of the H2020 programme, such as critical thinking, creativity, ethical integration, and gender equality. Two recent outputs have been published from this work:

 

  1. Evaluation results

These insights come from the evaluation of the workshops and training sessions conducted in Strasbourg, Split, Bilbao and Utrecht. Specifically, the aim was to answer the following questions: 

What have the main learnings and competencies acquired by the teachers who attended SPOON workshops been so far? What are the key aspects of these training sessions that have fostered teachers’ competencies? To what extent did teachers perceive the likelihood of implementing the competencies learned in their classroom?” 

The details of the methodological tools developed for this evaluation can be found in the report on the impact assessment methodology, and the specific results of the evaluation are detailed for each country: Croatia; Spain; the Netherlands; and France.

 

  1. Report on the impact assessment methodology for SPOON’s educational approach.

Based on UOC’s evaluation work, a guide has been created with the aim of helping anyone interested in evaluating their own training sessions, as well as in considering relevant pedagogical aspects while designing science teaching activities beyond the content. This guide contains SPOON’s evaluation framework and compiles information, resources and practical examples about SPOON’s approach to the evaluation of the training sessions shared by the different partners of this project. Specifically, it presents:

  • The different kinds of evaluation framework adapted to the specific areas of interest/goals (regarding teacher’s needs, training process, and training insights);
  • The resources and tools needed to evaluate the training according to the results, process and needs.
  • The different steps to take to design, implement and analyse an evaluation.

This document is also reinforced with concrete examples of the evaluations conducted in four different countries: Spain, France, Croatia and the Netherlands. It details the context of each training session, the evaluation scope, the methodological tools developed and the results of each evaluation.

 


Sandrine Gallois, María Heras and Isabel Ruiz-Mallén are members of the IN3’s Urban Transformation and Global Change Laboratory (TURBA Lab) research group that aims to explore the socio-environmental and technological urban transformations.