Researchers in Germany exploit the findings of educational research in a professional development course for school science teachers

Teachers working together

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Cooperative learning between teachers is the key to success

Christian Ostermeier, Manfred Prenzel and Reinders Duit from the Leibniz-Institute for Science Education have worked with school teachers from over 1800 schools in a two-phase CPD (continuing professional development) project, which involved training sessions in particular topics that were underpinned by key messages from research in science education.   

The project focused on what problems the teachers encountered when helping pupils to learn, and was structured around 11 modules - eg scientific enquiry, learning from mistakes, providing feedback on progress towards learning goals etc. Teachers from each school had to choose at least two of the modules to work on. Cooperative learning between the teachers was seen as key to success, so systems were set up to promote cooperation within and between schools. This was organised through coordinators who also provided technical support and guidance on the classroom related work. Staff from local universities, who had experience in supporting teachers in schools, provided the knowledge of relevant research. The project also hosted a website so that teachers could post examples of their work for others to comment on or adapt to their own circumstances. The network was much appreciated by all those involved and teachers felt that they gained significantly by sharing their ideas with others.  

The overall effectiveness on student learning was determined by using PISA tests and asking students about their perceptions of their learning experiences. The PISA scores for the project schools were significantly better in all areas than a comparable sample of non-project schools. Also the students in the project schools made positive comments about how interesting they found their science and how they had enjoyed being made to think.