European Science Education Research Association (ESERA) Biennial Conference 2015

ESERA1ESERA3ESERA2European Science Education Research Association (ESERA) Biennial Conference
Pasila, Helsinki, Finland
August 31st  – September 4th, 2015.

Six members belonging to the EPI*STEM centre, Prof Sibel Erduran, Dr Peter Childs, Grainne Walshe, Louise Lehane, Laurie Ryan and Aishling Flaherty travelled to participate in the ESERA 2015 conference which took place in Pasila, a 5 minute train ride from Helsinki’s city centre.

EPI*STEM’s Prof Sibel Erduran
Sibel was a very prominent figure in the roll-out of ESERA 2015 as she gave one of the four keynote talks. The title of Sibel’s talk was ‘Reconceptualising the Nature of Science in Science Education’. The organisers of ESERA 2015 presented each keynote speaker with the task of making each keynote talk as interactive with their audiences as possible. Sibel levered upon the accessibility and scopic nature of the social networking site, Twitter to achieve this. In keeping with the challenge presented to her, Sibel asked the audience questions during her talk whereby they would reply in the form of a ‘tweet’ containing the hashtag ‘#keynote4’. One question which provided for fruitful debate among members of the audience was ‘What is this thing called ‘science’?’ The audiences’ contributions, opinions and responses in the form of tweets carrying the hashtag; #keynote4 were all projected in a Twitter Timeline next to Sibel’s presentation slides. This proved to be a novel and exciting integration of ICT into a keynote talk which allowed for everyone’s voice to be heard.

Sibel’s talk featured the presentation and description of the Family Resemblance Approach (FRA) as a means of encapsulating what actually is ‘….this thing called ‘science’’. Using a picture representation, based on the structure of the London eye, Sibel explained how there are many facets of how science can be perceived and understood by different societal cohorts just like how there are many capsules on the London Eye. Some of these perceptions are derived from economic, historical, philosophical, anthropological and sociological accounts. The FRA is an attempt at reconceptualising and encapsulating a common mutuality between these various perceptions in pursuit of a holistic consensus view of Nature of Science.  Sibel also featured as an author on six other papers that were presented at ESERA 2015:

-    Erduran, S., & Dagher, Z.  Towards A Holistic Model Of Epistemic Practices For Science Education.
-    Martin, C., & Erduran, S.  Pre-service primary teachers’ understanding and perception of argumentation.
-    Msimanga, A., & Erduran, S.   Talking science in South Africa: Using meta-talk to support ESLs understanding of science concepts.
-    Kaya, E., & Erduran, S.   Integrating epistemological perspectives on chemistry in chemical education: the cases of concept duality, chemical language, and structural explanations.
-    Orofino, R., & Erduran, S. Methodological Approaches in the Study of Brazilian Ecology Students’ Written Argumentation.
-    Flaherty, A., O’Dwyer, A., & Erduran, S.  Disparity in the Attitudes and Perceptions towards the Role of the Demonstrator in the Undergraduate Laboratory.
EPI*STEM’s Dr Peter Childs and Laurie Ryan:
Delving into The Diverse World of FP7’s
Peter and Laurie participated in this conference as the Irish partners in the European-Funded TEMI: ‘Teaching Enquiry with Mysteries Incorporated’ project. This project aims to provide pre-service teachers with new skills to engage students, resources to excite students and the necessary support need to effectively introduce inquiry based learning into their classrooms.

TEMI is a project funded under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). In 2006, EU member states allocated 330 million euro towards (FP7) to support ‘Science in Society’ activities. A total of 38 collaborative Projects and Coordination and Support Actions along with 1 service contract were funded in the Science Education sector of ‘Science in Society’. The findings from four of these projects, all having Irish partners in their implementation were disseminated and discussed during ESERA throughout symposia’s, paper presentations and posters.

A symposium for the project, PROFILES: Professional Reflection-Oriented Focus on Inquiry-based Learning and Education though Science was organised and chaired by Claus Bolte from Freie Universitet in Berlin. This symposium was dedicated to assessing the impact of different continuous professional development programs within the PROFILES Project and had four researchers present their findings. University College Cork is the official Irish partner in this project. In a similar format, a symposium was also organised for the dissemination of findings throughout the TEMI project.

EPI*STEM’s Louise Lehane disseminated findings from the ‘ChReact: Chain Reaction: A Sustainable Approach to Inquiry Based Science Education’ project. The ChReact project aims to enhance Inquiry-Based Science Education (IBSE) by developing interactive and engaging IBSE resources for their integration in student-focused lessons.

As a discussant in the PROFILES symposium, Peter Childs raised three points which could be argued to stand applicable to the dissemination of the other FP7 projects.
EPI*STEM’s Grainne Walshe
Grainne disseminated her PhD research on the development and evaluation of the CISA (Critical Integrated Skills and Activities) Model. CISA sets out for the design of exemplary curriculum materials that assists teachers to integrate mathematics into science. The evaluation of the CISA Model suggests that curricular models should take into account the factors which effect teachers’ curricular choices such as attitudinal, contextual and affective factors.

Grainne also disseminated the findings of another research study which she was she was involved in with other EPI*STEM members, Anne O’Dwyer and Joanne Broggy in partnership with the Mallow Development Partnership. Here, 6 workshops were developed (using resources from the IDEAS resource pack (Osborne, Erduran and Simon, 2004)) to help science teachers to develop meaningful CPD in the area of Nature of Science. The evaluation of these workshops revealed that while teachers were familiar with the terms ‘evidence’ and ‘argument’ and alluded to their relevance in the classroom, they were unable to suggest topics within the current curriculum that would provide the opportunity for them to integrate such exercises embedded within the Nature of Science. Another interesting finding here was that teachers only envisioned the use of argumentation during discussions on controversial, socio cultural issues such as cloning, genetic engineering, IVF and GE food. Teachers did not identify how argumentation could be used within subject-specific contexts. For example, during classroom discussions on a particular science topic, students’ make claims when they answer questions, they engage in reasoning for why they think they are correct and they could even end up making rebuttals, contradicting others students’ discussion contributions in the form of answers or opinions.

EPI*STEM’s Louise Lehane
Louise disseminated her PhD research based on the experiences of Irish Pre-Service Teachers (PSTs) when engaging in a Professional Learning Community (PLC). This PLC would see the adaption of the Core Representations (CoRe) tool under the Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) lens. Her research found that while initial contestations, tensions and challenges were experienced by the PSTs during the adaption of the CoRe tool, the tool was found to be beneficial in fostering and developing inquiry orientations within a dedicated learning community.

EPI*STEM’s Aishling Flaherty
Aishling presented on a part of her PhD research that involved exploring the disparity in expectations upon the role of the Laboratory Demonstrator by both undergraduate students and from the demonstrators’ own interpretations of what their role in the laboratory entails. Her PhD research will progress to use these findings in a bid to develop a laboratory pedagogic framework that will seek to improve the performance of first year, undergraduate chemistry students.
Researchers Previously Affiliated with EPI*STEM:
Louise Bindel, Carolina Martin Gamez and Renata de Paula Orofino

ESERA 2015 afforded current and past researchers affiliated with EPI*STEM to reunite. EPI*STEM hosted Louise Bindel as a visiting researcher on two separate occasions prior to the conference. Louise presented a paper that described students’ interests and perceptions of the integration of mathematics in science through inquiry-based processes. Carolina presented a paper, co-authored by Sibel which highlighted the need for teachers to establish a classroom environment that would encourage students to openly discuss different opinions and to reflect on their intuitions stemming from such discussions. Renata presented her work on comparing two different methodological frameworks during the analysis of arguments in articles written by master-level students’.
One would hope that such a reunion between past and present EPI*STEM researchers will not be too distant into the future!