Handbook

Project overview - The Science Teachers' Competencies


1.1    Aims and objectives

The national teacher training systems in Europe are mainly based on traditional models, which do not take into account the outcomes of the research in the field of science teaching and practice. As a result, they are missing out on the chance to respond to the challenges of the 21st century and they are failing to capture young people's interest for scientific ideas. The European Project, Docente Europeo: Move'in Science2 aims at developing competences and knowledge in the educational field of INITIAL TEACHER EDUCATION OF SECONDARY SCHOOL TEACHERS IN SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY AREAS by taking into account the main results of research. The focus of the Project is on the transformation of the teacher education approach from a "transmissive paradigm", emphasising the transfer of knowledge from lecturer/trainer to trainee teachers (TT), to a constructive one where TTs are guided in their professional development of adequate competences.

In these last years, research results have well documented that TTs procedural learning is not adequate for teaching science. Different reasons have been identified and come together to point out the need for science teachers to develop specific competences. This would lead to a metareflection on the subject content as well as on the teaching/learning of such content. These competences go beyond the knowledge of disciplinary content, Subject Matter Knowledge (SMK) and Pedagogical Knowledge (PK), by integrating all three into Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK). Our project aims at presenting new approaches in science teacher education, by implementing a research path and developing materials within the perspective of the PCK development. Specifically, the MiS aims at:

The focus of the project is on observing and evaluating the pathways of science teacher education in partner institutions and therefore, design and test innovative and effective training frameworks by sharing good experiences. As a consequence, the project can contribute to the improvement of the quality of science teaching as well as contribute to the determination of some basic principles and standards for science teachers' training across Europe.

In the following we describe the ways in which the Project has been implemented and the theoretical framework grounding the Project choices.

1.2    Project implementation

The MiS project partnership is composed of seven Institutions from six different European Countries.

From Italy, the University of Palermo SISSIS (Sicilian multidisciplinary University School of Specialization for Secondary School teaching) is project applicant and SEND Associazione di Promozione Sociale in Palermo is the coordinating institution.

The partners are the following: from the Slovak Republic, the Comenius University of Bratislava, Faculty of Mathematics, Physics and Informatics; from Germany, the Ruhr-Universitšt in Bochum, Faculty of Physics and Astronomy; from Romania, the Andrei Saguna University in Constanta; from Lithuania, the Modern Didactics Centre in collaboration with the Vilnius Pedagogical University, Faculty of Physics and Technology and from Belgium, the Arteveldehogeschool, University College Artevelde in Ghent.

The MiS community contributes to reinforcing the International co-operation among educational institutions; specifically, the MiS Universities deal with the preparation of secondary school trainee teachers of scientific subjects. In addition, it is in the scope of these institutions involved to deal with research and training concerning didactics.

Within this framework, since the beginning of the project in January 2008, partners have agreed on sharing the PCK methodological and didactical approach and partaking in the common need to improve initial teacher training and intervene, indirectly, on pupil motivation towards scientific subjects at an EU level. This is why the general aim of the project is to make scientific careers, or the so-called "hard subjects", more attractive for new generations by improving their preparation and motivation.

All partners support and actively participate in the attainment of the project aims. In fact, the organisational methodology is based on the creation of working groups in each country, involving trainers of TTs and researchers in the field of didactics of scientific education. The project, therefore, is addressed to and involves Trainee Teachers (TTs) and University teachers/trainers. The project universities involve secondary schools in the project in order to provide TTs with direct practical teaching training in real classrooms. In the long term, in-service teachers and pupils, will be affected by the project results, as a natural consequence.

This methodology stems from the idea that training is an ongoing process of confrontation between different levels, and as mentioned in the research Science Teaching at School in Europe. Policies and Research by EURIDYCE, in many member states there is a lack of specific indications about knowledge and pedagogical-didactical competences within initial training of Trainee Teachers.

Moreover, working in groups, even in a European dimension, means choosing cooperative methodologies where decisions cannot be taken centrally, but instead are a collective elaboration. On an organisational level, the adoption of this method needs adequate time and an appropriate place. For this reason, throughout the duration of the project - 24 months - activities have been planned and developed through international meetings, involving the six partnership countries. During this time, the towns of Palermo, Bochum, Constanta, Ghent, Vilnius and Bratislava were visited. The participants, as members of the project's "Scientific Committee" and also as representatives of the work carried out locally, discussed, decided and coordinated, in detail, the different phases to be followed at their national level. In this sense, international meetings can also be considered the most evident example of the strict interconnection between the managerial and scientific levels. At a coordination level, a useful means adopted is the MiS website. This was specifically created for the management of the project and used as an area of exchange where materials produced could be shared and where this Handbook, as a final product, will be published and diffused.

The transversal and managerial activities, together with the role of facilitator of communicative and relational issues within the partnership, are supported by the coordinating organisation, Send. In fact, an effective project management system requires effective decisionmaking, operational and internal communication, development of solid work breakdown structures, schedules and sound administrative and financial control of the project. It is very important to give these elements the appropriate weight throughout the progress of the proposed project in order to fulfil the very demanding and ambitious tasks described above.

Looking at the implementation of the MiS project, the main relevant steps to be mentioned here refer to the construction of the EGPs "Examples of Good Practice", the Mobility of the students (TTs - Teacher trainees) and the realisation of the final publication, this Handbook.

The whole process of preparation of the EGPs, its progress and the different support given by the partners is clearly described in the part EGPs "Examples of Good Practice"; whereas, more detailed information on the different EGPs elaborated can be accessed in the areas dedicated to each workshop.

At this point, we would like focus specifically on the Mobility phase of the MiS project. Its general objective is to contribute to improving training, not only on a national level but on a wider geographical scale in order to successfully underline common problems and find conventional ways of tackling them. The European dimension is introduced within the initial training of TTs by prompting international cooperation and the mobility of the MiS target group, and influencing TTs' views about the geographical space available to plan the future, educationally and professionally speaking. In this sense, the mobility in the MiS project is an important training aspect, not only transversally, by improving the consciousness of the European citizenship, but also on didactical and disciplinary levels.

The beneficiaries of this action run a training program abroad where the model elaborated at a local level, the single EGP, is tested in different contexts and can be followed by an International class-group, in line with a project aimed at fine tuning science education across Europe.

Furthermore, real teaching practice is actively performed by beneficiaries (for some of them it will be their first time) in classrooms outside their home countries.

The selection of TTs is made through the publication of local open calls, taking into account their specialisation fields in connection to the training program prepared and the "EGPs" to be followed in the destination country.

Fifty-eight TTs will take part in the mobility activity, 28 men and 30 women. They will be supported by a "task force" of about 40 trainers, the so-called MiS community, involving researchers, University teachers' trainers and also local TTs. The program starts on the same day for all the partners, on Monday 9th March and ends on Sunday 5th April 2009, for a total of 28 days.

The organisation of this program takes into consideration different elements contributing to its success and to the satisfaction of the beneficiaries. Partners agree on the importance of preparing the beneficiaries before departure, therefore, a short induction course for the "mobility" beneficiaries is provided. The participation of the "hosting" colleagues and the local TTs is also foreseen in order to help the incoming group follow the organised activities. In fact, because of the short duration of the program, the integration of about ten "foreign" students, coming from six different countries is facilitated by the involvement of a group of "hosting" students.

Specific attention is also devoted to providing information about the reference framework of the program, within which this project is created; the LLP and the Comenius general aims and the basic ideas and theories underlying the MiS project.

In addition, Partners can concentrate on the importance of transparency and clarity of the program and its organization before its implementation, thanks to previous experience in international mobility programs and in line with the indications outlined in "The European quality charter for Mobility"1. Specifically, detailed information on the schedule of the program, logistics, grant allowance and administration is clearly communicated to the group.

In the six countries, the program includes welcome and ice-breaking activities, a presentation by each beneficiary of the country's educational system and, specifically, of the Initial training University Course they attend. Cultural visits and a short language "survival course" are organised in every destination partner country in order to help students adapt to the new culture they will experience. Obviously the main part of the program is represented by the training path, which involves the experimentation of the "EGPs". On the one hand, the EGP elaborated by the local partner, in the destination Country, is the core part of the training and it is developed in cooperation with and supported by the hosting working groups. On the other hand, an external experimentation of another EGP (totally or partially), selected from those elaborated by the other partners, is also implemented.

Finally, visits to secondary schools and practical teaching in real classrooms is also implemented.

At the end of the program, a project certification and recognition of credits (3 ECTS corresponding to 30 hours in the classroom including contact hours) are given to beneficiaries.

Below, you will find the scheme implemented by the partnership outlining the selected areas of specialisation of Trainee Teachers in connection with the destination country and relative EGPs.

Scheme

The partnership commits to the elaboration of the final document, this Handbook, where conclusions, results, materials resulting from the production of EGPs and its experimentation (the mobility) are collected.

This publication is intended as a didactical tool offering guidelines and indications as well as concrete examples. In addition, it will allow the introduction of the PCK methodology in the construction of new workshops in different contexts regarding initial training of Trainee Teachers of scientific subjects.


1 "European Quality Charter for Mobility" Focusing on the quality aspects of mobility, constitutes a reference document for stays abroad in order to ensure that participants, both young people and adults, have a positive experience. Its scope covers stays by young people and adults for the purposes of both formal and non-formal learning and hence for their personal and professional development. It offers guidance designed to respond to participants' expectations and the legitimate requirements of education bodies and institutions. The Charter thus provides a better framework for free movement of persons in the field of education and training, so as to consolidate the creation of a true European area of education and training and enhance economic, social and regional cohesion.


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