Chain Reaction

Chain Reaction: A Sustainable Approach to Inquiry Based Science Education (IBSE)

Chain Reaction is an FP7 funded project focused on creating a sustainable approach to the use of scientific inquiry in the classroom using a cascading model to facilitate its impact. This project runs from 2013 to 2016 across 12 partner countries and located within UL is the Irish partner involved.

The Chain Reaction model is cyclical in nature so each year the project will recruit new teachers (10 each year) from different schools ensuring a large number of teachers and students are able to participate. The focus in Ireland is to create a professional learning community (PLC) involving teacher educators, in-service teachers, pre-service teachers, practicing scientists and policy makers with the aim of developing a living educational theory (Whitehead 1989) of what teachers believe inquiry to represent in their own classroom context.

After teachers have engaged in interactive IBSE professional development, their students (in the 14-­16 age group) work together to research scientific scenarios. Their work is then summarised in a national “Express Yourself” conference held each year in UL where students present posters related to their investigation and the experience of using an inquiry approach.

Members of the project team in UL facilitate the teachers and students as they conduct their inquiry activities. As well as engaging in the PLC and supporting the students, additional project objectives are to (a) help bridge the existing gap between science teachers and the science education community (b) promote a European teacher network (c) disseminate resources and research on effective practice (d) engage in effective evaluation and reporting.

This project is also unique with the participation of practising scientists. These effectively act as role models to the students with the aim of providing them with an insight into the practice of science in everyday life. Each school is visited by a role model whose work resembles the scientific topic that students carried out their inquiry activities on.

Project Team

  • Joanne Broggy (Epi•Stem)
  • Miriam Doram Hamilton (Junior Cycle for Teachers- JCT)
  • David King (Junior Cycle for Teachers- CT)
  • Louise Lehane (Epi•Stem)
  • Anne O’Dwyer (Epi•Stem)
  • John O’Reilly (Epi•Stem)
  • Maria Sheehan (Professional Development Service for Teachers- PDST)
  • Michelle Starr (Epi•Stem)

We are currently looking to recruit 10 teachers(2 teachers from 5 different schools) interested in enhancing approaches to Inquiry Based Science Education.  All methodologies used are coherent with the revised science syllabus and the work is conducted as a community of practice that emphasises sharing ideas in a truly developmental process.  The school is paid directly for your participation and everything is written up by the Chain Reaction (CR) team in a folder that captures the learning for School Self Evaluation purposes.  The work is based in EPI*STEM, the national centre for STEM education, located within the  University of Limerick where we hold the national conference to decide on a team of students and teachers to represent Ireland at an international conference that will be held in Bulgaria. We recruit nationwide, travel expenses are met and hotels are offered for overnight stays where needed.

The ideal class to do this with is TY but we have worked with 1st years in the past.  Previous teachers have reported on this as a very enjoyable experience and as a significant professional development opportunity.  If this is something you think you might be interested in or if you would like more information  please give John O’Reilly a call on (087) 2201305. For further information you can also visit the following websites or