Supporting Changes in Teacher Practice with A Learning Progression: Results of the Elevate Study

Erin Marie Furtak, University of Colorado Boulder, USA

We know that in order for teachers to achieve meaningful changes in their classroom practices, they need opportunities to participate in long-term professional development. However, how does teacher learning relate to changes in their classroom practices and, in turn, how does that influence student learning? This interactive plenary session will present the Elevate study, a four-year study of high school biology teachers' engagement in a professional learning experience centred on a learning progression for natural selection. Together, we will look inside teachers' participation in the professional development sessions, their classroom practices, and results of student achievement.

Materials from workshop associated to this lecture are accessible at http://goo.gl/KNJXzQ

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Researching socio-scientific issues - an ontological problem

Ralph Levinson, University College London, Institute of Education, United Kingdom

School science curricula draw on Vision I perspectives of scientific literacy (Roberts, 2007), that the way to understand the world is based on a set of canonical laws, theories and facts. Such a vision presupposes that explanations can be derived from Covering Laws based on regularities, for example the Gas Laws. This positivist, empiricist approach privileges descriptive over normative statements: there is no logical relationship between the world described through scientific research and the world, as it ought to be, the realm of ethics and justice.

I argue that these assumptions present insurmountable pedagogical problems for teaching and researching socio-scientific issues. Drawing on critical realist literature, I argue that aspects of the natural and social world are ontologically real but mediated through human thought and therefore epistemologically negotiated. For example, feelings of hunger are ontologically real; hence, knowledge of human nutrition leads us to exposing those causal mechanisms that prevent people from having a healthy and balanced diet. Such mechanisms lead researchers to identifying oppressive social structures; hence, the study of science has intrinsic social justice impacts. There are also implications for educational research because epistemological constructivism generates mixed methodologies to expose injustice.

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Nature of Science and Scientific Inquiry for Scientific Literacy

Renée Schwartz, Georgia State University Atlanta, USA

Helping all students understand what science is and how scientists generate and justify new knowledge is a goal of science education around the world. These concepts, known as the nature of science and the nature of scientific inquiry, can promote scientific literacy by breaking down barriers and misconceptions about science. This lecture presents the current framework and research for inquiry-based science teaching and the nature of science that foster connections of science with and for society. Such connections promote global scientific literacy. Teachers need to not only learn the concepts of nature of science and scientific inquiry, but they also need to learn effective pedagogical strategies for embedding these concepts into their science instruction. Pedagogical content knowledge for nature of science and nature of scientific inquiry is a growing area of research, as teachers around the world face myriad challenges to meet their national standards for science education. This lecture will outline current and future directions of research on nature of science and scientific inquiry for advancing scientific literacy.

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Eco-schools evaluation and innovation projects - interactions between research, recommendations and practices

Jelle Boeve-de Pauw, University of Antwerp Belgium

I will present the findings and implications of a large scale project that we did for the Flemish government in which we evaluated the eco-schools project in Flanders. We brought together indicators for environmental school policy, didactical approaches, nature at school and linked them to the educational outcomes of the eco-school project (students and teachers). This is done in a mixed-method approach. The results of the research project initiated a large-scale reform of the eco-school project in Flanders. We have also coached the eco-schools team in a follow-up project, to help them redefine their own role through competence-based experiments. The plenary could focus on the interactions between research, recommendations and practices. This project is a nice illustration of the nexus between research and practice, and it show that results can contribute to educational and policy practices.

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Learning science outside the classroom

Justin Dillon, University of Bristol, United Kingdom

The majority of research in science education has been carried out in classrooms and laboratories. However, as we all know, huge opportunities exist to engage with science and scientists beyond the classroom - for example through field-work, in museums, science centres and botanical gardens and online. In this interactive talk, I will look at the strategies that researchers have used to study the impact of learning outside the classroom in a range of contexts. I will focus on research methods and on how collaborations between 'researchers' and 'practitioners' can be mutually beneficial. We will also look at pedagogical approaches used in out-of-school contexts and consider how transferable they are to school settings. Finally, we look at why there is no such thing as 'informal learning'.