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Active Engagement in Science is on!

Rachel Yarrien, Monday 03 March 2014 | Annotate
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An engaging kick-off meeting of the ENGAGE project took place in KMi, OU – UK on February 24-27th. Funded by the European Commission, 14 partner institutions will collaborate throughout the next 3 years for “Equipping the Next Generation for Active Engagement in Science”. 

This project is part of the EU Science in society agenda to promote more Responsible Research and Innovation’ (RRI). ENGAGE is designed to provide sustained professional development, through a online community built around the use of science-in-the-news OER curriculum materials, MOOCs for just-in-time learning, and a brokering system for creating school-scientist partnerships. 

This was a kick off meeting with a difference –in 3 days we simulated the whole project process in miniature. ENGAGE is about motivation, so we walked our own talk by having sessions, which were based on engaging tasks, not didactic presentations, real dilemmas not abstract debates:

  • The science company Oxitec, showed everyone their technology for fighting dengue fever through genetically modified mosquitoes.
  • In a version of ‘The Apprentice’,  the participants produced a storyboard of the video to sell ENGAGE.
  • And our science teacher guests helps us transform a news story into a full developed curriculum materials in 12 languages, within 3 hours. As a result, the partners emerged with a clear sense of vision, and came up with ways to overcome the challenges of spreading reform across Europe.

ENGAGE is about equipping the next generation to participate in scientific issues to change how science is taught. Traditionally students gain an image of science as a body of content, whereas RRI deals with uncertain areas of knowledge, where values and argument matter as much as facts. This shift is hugely challenging. High stakes education systems marginalise teaching about the nature of science. The greater challenge is to help teachers develop the beliefs, knowledge and classroom practice for RRI teaching.

ENGAGE aims to adopt a more inquiry-based methodology, which gives students opportunity for self-expression and responsibility for coming to informed decisions. Its approach synthesises contemporary models of professional learning and curriculum development. Going beyond training events, its three-stage path will propel teachers in their own inquiry to become expert with RRI:
 
1. Adopt, which achieves take-up on a massive scale. We use a proven approach to provide an easy entry into inquiry-based teaching. It combines science-in-the-news contexts with strategies from informal learning to get students talking. An online community of practice supports teacher reflection, while online courses and workshops add coaching and feedback.
2. Adapt, they learn an expert’s toolkit of examples, explanations, anecdotes and activities to help students learn effectively.
3. Transform, open-ended Projects put teachers and students into partnership with practising scientists, to learn about RRI directly.

KMi, represented by Dr. Alexandra Okada and Dr. Anna DeLiddo, will be responsible for MOOC, learning analytics, dissemination and legacy plans.

Our partners bring extensive track records in teacher development and curriculum design. Building on best practice from previous projects, we intend to influence 12,000 science teachers across Europe, and extend this to pre-service teachers and their trainers. The Project Steering Board includes the Framework Lead Yael Schwartz (WEIZMANN-IS), the RRI & Informal Learning Lead Matteo Merzagora (TRACES-FR), the CPD Programme Lead Kathy Kikis-Papadakis(FORTH-GR), the Technical and Legacy Lead Alexandra Okada (OU-UK), the Project Manager Pat Morton(SHEFFIELD-UK) and the overall Project Coordinator Tony Sherborne(SHEFFIELD-UK).

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