Teaching off the Beaten Path: New Approaches to Na..
Teaching off the Beaten Path: New Approaches to Natural Sciences in European Schools
(only "Teaching off the Beaten Path" for short in the letters of intent)
Date du début: 1 sept. 2015,
Date de fin: 31 août 2017
In the rapidly changing world, the roles of teachers and schools are also changing, and so are expectations about them: in a recent report, the OECD has noted that teachers are increasingly asked to work in multicultural classrooms, use ICT for teaching effectively, and engage in various evaluation and accountability processes.
The report also shows that teachers need to help students reach a multitude of objectives. It is not enough that students learn only the content required for each subject; they should also acquire creativity, engage in communication and collaboration, train ICT, and know about life and career.
All this requires professional development, which is one of the objectives we try to meet with our project. We intend to assess and compare the professional practices of six countries in the teaching of English and Sciences and come up with a synthesis that may help meet the new expectations.
While we are trying our hand at methodology, our students are given an opportunity to learn those skills the OECD considers important. Our project is built around the common content we found in our national curricula on Sciences and English, and our students will work on a number of issues in an online environment calling for communication and collaboration across national boundaries. Guiding this process, we gain experiences of the same things from the teachers’ point of view: using ICT, assessing the workflow, being accountable and developing transversal skills.
The choice of subjects is relatively clear: English is one of the most important mediums of international cooperation and natural sciences provide an insight into the ever more important issues of resources and energy.
Therefore, we built a study module on the use of natural resources that relies on the bits and pieces that the existing core curricula in our countries have to offer. The comparison work we did revealed that we teach more or less the same things – only our timing and approaches may vary. And it's the variety that counts here: the balance between classroom work and fieldwork, or the balance between various points of interest, such as evolution and taxonomies. We were also lucky enough to find sufficient variety in our natural environments that allows us to discuss the use of resources from many angles.
To foster proficiency, the teaching of English often needs an element of reality, where the language is used as a true medium of communication without the chance of resorting to one's mother tongue. Having English as the working language of the project enables everyone to hone their skills.
We also intend to link the project to our formal teaching of English and have a few lessons online. Each national core curriculum is flexible enough to allow this. The reason for online lessons is clear: schools and examinations are going online, and we need to prepare for the transition. There is also significant experience of online methodology in some of our schools, which we would like to share.
There are six of us altogether, chosen on the basis of the potential contributions we can make to the project:
(1) Gymnazium Frýdlant nad Ostravice in Frýdlant nad Ostravicí, Czech Republic
(2) ITS Deledda-Fabiani in Trieste, Italy
(3) Lyseon lukio in Lappeenranta, Finland
(4) Byskeskolan in Byske, Sweden
(5) ISIS Giovanni XXIII in Salerno, Italy
(6) Nyborg Friskole in Nyborg, Denmark
In terms of content, the project is divided into four thematic units:
(1) geology and abiotic natural resources
(2) the interdependence of biotic and abiotic natural resources and human intervention
(3) measuring the ecological consequences of extracting and using the resources
(4) case study: mining and nature
Each unit has its own objectives, links to the curriculum and intended outcomes that determine what kind of work will be done during the unit. Every unit starts with preparatory work at home leading to the work done at a transnational workshop with fieldwork contributing to the material outcomes and pedagogical discussion leading to new teaching methods. The locations for the meetings were chosen on the basis of the environmental features that allow the type of fieldwork carried out at each stage of the project.
As outcomes, we hope to produce a selection of educational materials, such as a rock collection for geography courses, a digital herbarium for biology courses, a database on environmental change for biology courses, and a photo collection of seasonal change in our areas for biology and geography. On the way, we hope to discover new didactic practices for our schools.
Finally, we intend to produce an overall presentation of the project including the expected impact: clear development in various transversal skills and cultural knowledge; rising level of interest in geology, ecology and botany, increased willingness to explore the options to study; acquisition of new and inspiring teaching methods and increased interest in our schools.
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