Science outreach and science education at primary level in Ireland: a mixed methods study
Martins Gomes, Diogo
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Martins Gomes, D., & McCauley, V. (2013). Science outreach and science education at primary level in Ireland: a mixed methods study. In Pixel (Ed.), International conference: New perspectives in science education. Limena, Italy: Libreria Universitaria.
Worldwide, science has become economically very important . The European Union and different EU countries, such as Ireland, stress that science and technology graduates are fundamental for economic growth [2,3]. Nevertheless, reports show that, in Ireland the number of graduates in science are not achieving the desired targets . Ireland is not an isolated case, and a trend of diminishing interest in science has been identified in other countries [1,5]. In response, policy documents of several countries state the need to change the way science is taught in schools (towards inquiry-based learning methods rooted in constructivist teaching and learning) and for further action to be taken to encourage students to pursue science degrees [4 6]. Universities and other organizations (e.g. Industry) have been proactive in supporting and strengthening student uptake in science through the development of informal science programs for primary and second level students (science outreach). A number of reports have recently suggested the potential that science outreach can have in improving student engagement in science and also as a direct vehicle in assisting science education in the classroom [7 9]. It is argued that science outreach can create a third space in science education, one in which the formal school science and these informal programs form a partnership, with the objective of improving students science education .The value of the partnership between schools and science outreach providers cannot be overemphasized, and as such, forms the basis of this research. This study examines how initiatives of science outreach, offered by universities to primary level schools can assist science education at primary level. Particularly we are interested in understanding how teachers and science outreach practitioners choose and develop science activities. The specific aim of this study is to examine the perceptions and practices of both primary level teachers and science outreach practitioners , in terms of their constructivist approach to the teaching and learning of science in the primary level classroom. The key research questions are: What perceptions do primary-level teachers and science outreach practitioners have regarding of the role of constructivist teaching and learning environments in primary level education? How do teachers and science outreach practitioners respond to different pedagogical and conceptual challenges in relation to a constructivist teaching and learning approach? This study follows a mixed methods approach . Quantitative data is being obtained through the Constructivist Learning Environment Survey (CLES) . This data is being used to compare primary level teachers and science outreach practitioners perceptions of constructivist learning environments. Concurrent with this, qualitative and quantitative data is being obtained through a semi-structured interview format , where educators and outreach practitioners are asked to analyse a series of conceptual and pedagogical dichotomies presented to them in a video format. The focus here is to explore the conceptual and practical choices of practitioners in science learning environments. This research proposes to offer insights in how science outreach can position itself in primary level education. These insights can potentially assist in the effective creation of the aforementioned third space, enabling the formation of a collaborative community of elementary science education.