Teachers’ Feedback Expressed in a Training Course Organized in a MOOC Environment

Abstract

The concept of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) became more and more visible in the last few years and is one of the new pillars in the European Commission policy, in particular within the European Commission’s Science in Society programme, framed within the EU Horizon 2020 initiative. Taking into consideration the presence of this concept into the FP7 Programme priorities, a big number of European projects have been approved and financed by EU, in order to bring closer the research and innovation results to the people. One of those projects is the FP 7 ENGAGE Project (“Equipping the Next Generation for Active Engagement in Science Equipping the Next Generation”, www.engagingscience.eu). The partnership of the project proposed to come with interesting continuous development programmes for teachers, organized through face-to-face workshops or on-line courses, where different interactive-participatory teaching strategies are presented and many examples of applying these strategies are discussed. These examples start from identifying a problematic situation (dilemma) that students may face in their real life and they need to find rational solutions, by using their scientific and socio-moral knowledge. The paper presents our findings based on the analysis of the Romanian teachers’ feedback after they finished the 1st edition of the on-line course “ Methods of promoting RRI dimensions in Science Education ”, organized by Valahia University Targoviste in 2015. Our analysis was focused on the Science teachers’ replies to an initial and final questionnaire and to the teachers’ reflections collected during the on-line course duration.

Keywords: Interactive-participative teaching strategieson-line coursesinvestigationdilemma lessonsENGAGE project

1. Introduction

We are living in a world full of research and technology. In each day we are surrounded by new and

tiny but very powerful devices that use new materials and sophisticated technology. A big number of

companies invest a lot in area of nanomaterials or new technologies, based on the new research and

discoveries, together with very innovative results. We are forced to keep up the line with the

technology development and sometimes it is really difficult to make it. This is because a lot of

researchers put their efforts to lead us forward, to a new world of science and technology. But in this

context, using new materials with unknown properties or facing a huge number of the challenges and

risks during the development of new technologies, the overall risk of research and innovation to the

society became a topic more and more discussed. People are willing now to discuss and understand the

science policy and to transform this policy in order to have more benefits from the research area. This

involves a paradigm change from the scientific freedom to expectation of socially-beneficial impact,

precisely a change from the Science in Society to the Science for Society. This means that people want

not only to read about new discoveries in science or technology, but also to hear what benefits are

brought by those innovations for their lives.

In this respect, it was proposed the concept of Responsible Research and Innovation ( RRI ) which is

still insufficiently clarified even in the scientific literature, although it is more commonly used in the

European Union policies and programmes related to Science and beyond.

In fact, at the moment, RRI underpins several European projects and it represents the current image

of the connection between Science and Society in the European Commission vision (European

Commission Decision, 2015).

The mean of the RRI concept is any action of research and innovation which must be developed by

a researcher in the context of assuming of the social and individual responsibilities. In this respect,

research and innovation must meet a series of social, moral and ethical principles, has to be benefic for

the society as a whole and for each individual. In addition, RRI must take into consideration the ratio of

benefits and risks, to contribute to human progress and to be subordinated to positive purposes.

Since RRI concept is one of the priorities of the European Commission policy, being emphasized in

the frame of European Commission’s Science in Society programme, numerous FP7 projects were

financed by EU to promote the research and innovation dimensions to the general public.

2. The ENGAGE Project

The ENGAGE Project (Equipping the Next Generation for Active Engagement in Science Equipping

the Next Generation ) is a three years FP7 Project approved by EU Commission in 2014 that was devoted

to emphasize the RRI dimensions and introduce them into the Science lessons. The partnership of the

project is formed by 14 institutions from 13 countries that are trying to make Science lessons more

attractive, by promoting different interactive - participatory teaching strategies, based on involvement and

investigation of the reality, identifying and testing alternative solutions, which allows students to think

and apply their knowledge and consequently to make responsible decisions. In this context, the

partnership proposed a 3 stage model for the teachers’ development, to represent how teachers typically

absorb an approach like RRI-teaching (Dwyer et al, 1991) adapted by Rogers and Twidle in 2012. According to this model, the teachers has to pass three steps of personal development (Fig. 1). The 1stStep ( Adopt ) is devoted to give the teachers the ability to use teaching materials promoted by ENGAGE partnership, which embed RRI-based teaching to achieve productive outcomes. In the 2nd Step ( Adapt ), the teachers have to go to a transitional stage, in order to promote RRI based teaching, with less prescriptive support. In the 3rd Step ( Transform ) the teachers understand the RRI philosophy and undergo a shift in their professional self-image for RRI teaching to be part of their repertoire.

Figure 1: 3 Steps Transformational CPD Model
3 Steps Transformational CPD Model
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In order to help teachers to understand easier the RRI philosophy and how the materials proposed by

ENGAGE partnership can help them to introduce RRI dimensions in their regular Science lessons, in

the frame of the project each partner had to organize face to face workshops and on-line courses in a

MOOC environment . Valahia University Targoviste (VUT) team organized face-to-face workshops

with Science teachers (Chemistry, Physics and Biology) from different counties and promoted also the

on-line course entitled "Methods of promoting RRI dimensions in Science Education" to the level of the

Science teachers’ community. The first edition of the on-line course was organized on the edX platform

during Nobember-December 2015.

3. Results and Discussions

The Romanian on-line course was carried out for seven weeks and comprised two stages ( Adopt and

Adapt ) undertaking the three-stage path, towards achieving expertise related to RRI. The course aimed

to teach the skills related to understanding and learning RRI, and also implementing ENGAGE

materials in the classroom. A number of 58 participants were registered (in-service science teachers and

university students involved in chemistry/chemical engineering bachelor study programme) and started

the course. The distribution of the target group is illustrated in Figure 2 .

Figure 2: Distribution of the participants who started the Romanian on-line course by: (a) Education Level; (b) Gender
Distribution of the participants who started the Romanian on-line course by: (a) Education Level; (b) Gender
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The experience of the pre/in-service teachers related to participation to on-line courses was

different, function of their age and teaching experience (Fig. 3).

Figure 3: Participants’ experience in Science teaching
Participants’ experience in Science teaching
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Figure 3 illustrates that VUT team tried to involve teachers with different level of experience in

teaching Sciences, in order to ensure the possibility of creating an active community on edX

environment , where in-service and even pre-service teachers can meet and change opinions about the

topics presented during the on-line course and discuss about the possibilities to implement in the

Science lessons the ENGAGE materials. As it was expected, rich discussions were developed weekly

on the on-line course, in relations with the topics and established assignments.

During the on-line course the VUT team had three tutors who kept contact with participants and gave

them details of how to solve the tasks. A total number of 44 participants achieved the tasks and finished

the Romanian on-line course, their distribution concerning the teaching area is illustrated in Fig. 4 .

Figure 4: Participants’ distribution based on their actual/future area of teaching
Participants’ distribution based on their actual/future area of teaching
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In order to make some connections between the Inquiry based science education ( IBSE ) strategy and

Productive Dilemma ” teaching method, the tutors introduced a question related to teachers’ previous

experience about teaching Science through interactive teaching methods like problem-based learning or

IBSE. The obtained data, illustrated in Fig. 5 , show that those interactive methods are still not a regular

practice for Romanian teachers, being used by them only “ sometimes ”. Only few teachers reported that

they frequently use those methodologies in their regular Science lessons. This is one of the reasons why

such kind of on-line courses focused on presenting new and modern teaching methods and give

examples on how to use them during the regular classes of Sciences have to be organized much often in

order to convince the teachers to start to use these methods as regular teaching practice.

Figure 5: Teachers’ answers concerning their previous experience on using IBSE during the regular Science lessons
Teachers’ answers concerning their previous experience on using IBSE during the regular Science lessons
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From the answers given by the teachers, it can be noted that they use frequently in their Science

lessons teaching methods like: discussion, conversation, problem solving and scientific argumentation.

If we take into consideration that one of the most interactive teaching strategy is dilemma, because it

creates the premises for students to make a difficult choice between two or more alternative, equally

controversial, one of the questions introduced in the questionnaires addressed to the teachers was

related to their previous experience to use this teaching strategy in teaching different scientific topics.

Regarding the use of socio-scientific dilemma in teaching Science, most of the teachers’ answers were

" sometimes ”, “ rarely ” or “ never ” (Fig. 6).

Figure 6: Teachers’ answers concerning their previous experience on using socio-scientific dilemma in teaching Science
Teachers’ answers concerning their previous experience on using socio-scientific dilemma in teaching Science
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In the frame of Science Education, dilemma refers to the socio-scientific controversies relating to

the applications and implications of Science (Ratcliffe, 1997). It also includes a productive learning

context and facilitates a better understanding of scientific topics, developing the students’ skills and

attitudes. It also strengthens the decision making and problem solving (Koballa, & Tippins, 2000).

Trying to stress the benefits of using the interactive teaching strategies in Science lessons, it was

introduced in the questionnaire addressed to the teachers the question “ Which of the following

objectives you achieved in this course?”, with multiple choice answer:

a) Motivating students to learn science in a fun way;

b) Development of students’ investigative skills;

c) Increasing students’ interest for scientific topics;

d) Assessing the way that modern science can engage students to think and talk;

e) Using the 5E model in Science lessons to develop RRI investigation/skills.

Teachers have the possibility to weigh the level of achieving of those objectives by using a 4-steps

Likert scale (0 - indifferent, 1- low, 2 - medium, 3 - high). Their answers are illustrated in Figure 7 (a-d).

Figure 7: Teachers’ answers concerning the achievement of the following objectives at the end of the course:
Teachers’ answers concerning the achievement of the following objectives at the end of the course:
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(a) Motivating students to learn science; (b) Development of students’ investigative skills; (c) Increasing students’ interest for scientific topics; (d) Assessing the way that modern science can engage students to think and talk

Starting from the idea that the “5E Model” (Bybee et al, 2006) (Fig. 8) is a 5-steps teaching scenario

in which the teacher creates a stimulating learning environment focused on investigation, research,

experimentation, discovery, that places the student in the position of a responsible researcher, it can be

appreciated that such an approach facilitates the relevant, sustainable and high quality learning,

objectified in the formation / development of solid expertise needed for an optimal socio-professional

insertion of each individual.

In fact, the use of 5E Instructional model of teaching involves the development of responsible

research and innovation dimensions in Science lessons. Thus, it can be said that the “5E model” ensure

the implementation of RRI in teaching Science.

Figure 8: Teachers’ answers concerning the achievement of the proposed objectives at the end of the course
Teachers’ answers concerning the achievement of the proposed objectives at the end of the course
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Trying to see the teachers’ feedback related to the level of understanding on how to use this model

and how it is correlated with the development of RRI investigation/skills, one of the questions

introduced in the questionnaire was: “After this course, do you think that you can organize alone a

Science lesson by applying 5E Model to develop the RRI dimensions?”. The teachers’ answers were

again framed in a 4-steps Likert scale (0 - indifferent, 1- low, 2 - medium, 3 - high) and are illustrated

in Fig. 9 .

Figure 9: Teachers’ answers concerning the applying of 5E model during a regular Science lesson
Teachers’ answers concerning the applying of 5E model during a regular Science lesson
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A short analysis of the teachers’ answers show that a big part of the teachers realized the relation

between responsible research and innovation and the 5E model in Science teaching and understood that

the “5E model” can be a good teaching strategy for increasing students’ motivation in learning Science.

At the same time, the teachers appreciate that they can use the “5E model” during their regular lessons

after participating to the on-line course "Methods of promoting RRI dimensions in Science Education".

4. Conclusions

Our investigative approach was based on the replies of a representative sample of Sciences teachers from Dambovita county who were involved in the 1st edition of the on-line course "Methods of promoting RRI dimensions in Science Education" , organized in the frame of ENGAGE project.

The data presented in the present paper demonstrates that the involved teachers appreciated the course content, the ways of presenting the selected topics and most of all the examples of dilemma lessons uploaded on the ENGAGE website and translated in Romanian language. All participants appreciated that they have learned a lot, even some of them were very experienced teachers, who were involved in a big number of CPD programs organized in the frame of national/ international projects related to new teaching strategies and tools for increase the young generation interest for Science and Technology.

It was concluded by the teachers that ENGAGE project proposes an interesting way to show students that science and contemporary technology is often based on uncertain evidence and argumentation and their point of view is important. The main conclusion of the target group was that ENGAGE materials are designed in a creative way that make students talk and think, involving them in moral, ethical and social reasoning, based on the analysis of benefits and risks (Petrescu, Gorghiu & Dumitrescu, 2015).

Acknowledgements

This work was funded through the Seventh Framework Programme Project “ENGAGE - Equipping the Next Generation for Active Engagement in Science Project” - a coordination and support action under FP7-Science-in-Society-2013-1, Activity 5.2.2 “Young people and science” - Topic SiS.2013.2.2.1-1: Raising youth awareness to Responsible Research and Innovation through Inquiry Based Science Education. This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration, under grant agreement no 612269. The support offered by the European Commission, through the project mentioned above, is gratefully acknowledged.

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Publisher

Future Academy

First Online

18.12.2019

Doi

10.15405/epsbs.2016.09.54

Online ISSN

2357-1330