20.12.2017 - UNESCO Venice Office

Ark of Inquiry presents its 3 main key findings for inquiry learning in the classroom

Ark of Inquiry - Science experiment during final conference

Four years have passed since the inception of the Ark of Inquiry project! What a journey it has been! The final conference was successfully held in Paris on 20 November 2017. Throughout diverse discussions and panel presentations, it presented the Inquiry-based Science Education project’s 3 main key findings. Accomplishing its goals, the Ark of Inquiry project has found that for optimal inquiry learning in the classroom, there should be a provision of the right tools, a supportive community, and the application of RRI with the focus of improving participation of both genders.

The final conference gave a first-hand understanding on how inquiry learning, RRI and empowering girls in science directly ignite the passion of learning in the next generation of global citizens and how UNESCO is striving to stoke the fire for generations to come. The 3 main key findings of the Ark of Inquiry project are:

The right tools can better enable teachers to utilize inquiry-based learning with their pupils. The Ark of Inquiry project identified several strategies that have yielded promising results: following an inquiry model helps teachers structure classroom activities, while leaving room for flexibility when needed; using both formal and informal learning environments helps promote Inquiry learning and RRI ; involving pupils in evaluation of inquiry activities better engages them in the inquiry learning process; pedagogical scenarios help teachers maintain an active role as designers of inquiry learning activities; the use of an awards system is motivating for teachers and pupils alike and works best when integrated Into existing contests and communities; and, inquiry activities engage pupils and may help promote learning of 21st-century skills.

A supportive community can provide teachers with the training and resources needed to successfully use inquiry learning in the classroom. Based on qualitative and quantitative information, the following results attest to the important role played by a supportive community in enhancing teachers’ expertise: collaboration with different actors (researchers, parents, peers) helps promote RRI and inquiry learning in the classroom; teachers need to experience inquiry learning themselves during teacher training in order to design and implement inquiry in the classroom; whole-school training of teachers fosters collaboration and greater understanding of how to use inquiry learning in the classroom; and, approaching teachers as designers of activities enables the flexibility needed to apply inquiry learning across different contexts and cultures.

Concepts like Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) are effective in enriching the inquiry learning process. To help teachers and science educators achieve a better understanding as to develop RRI awareness and thus enrich the inquiry learning process, the Ark of Inquiry project identified several strategies that have yielded promising results: RRI helps teachers translate important matters into their classroom materials;  RRI provides a framework within which the research process, its ethical/social dimension and sustainability can be suitably discussed; the effectiveness of RRI is enhanced when teachers give responsibility for discussions and ownership of the inquiry learning process during its different stages; adequate flexibility is needed in the classroom for an effective application of the RRI concept during inquiry learning lessons; RRI is an important tool for engaging girls in science;  when discussion of RRI is promoted outside the classroom, it increases the staying power of inquiry learning;  and, the RRI concept favours pupils’ orientation towards scientific jobs and careers.

The event was welcomed by Svein Osttveit, Director EO Office, on behalf of Qian Tang, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education; Ana Luiza M. Thompson-Flores, Director, UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe; and, Maria Karamitrou, Policy Officer, European Commission. The opening statement followed by a keynote address on the role of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) in Inquiry-Based Science Education (IBSE) made by Ton de Jong, Professor of Instructional Technology at the University of Twente, Faculty of Behavioural Sciences and Head of the Instructional Technology and Educational Sciences departments, Netherlands.

The conference casted a broad spectrum of  80 participants: from teachers to policy-makers, researchers, EU projects coordinators, consortium members and pupils - all of which attended the conference as a testimony of the “EU-project community” speaking with one voice. The conference in particular gave the participating teachers from the 12 partner countries (Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, The Netherlands and Turkey) the well-deserved visibility with an entire panel based on their experiences regarding the project key findings.

An insight was given on vivid issues that touch education through grand societal changes and hopefully acted as lobby for policy-level changes through the interactive high‐level panel discussion based on the impact of the 6 issues of RRI (Governance, Gender, Science Education, Open Access, Engagement and Ethics). Other EU projects were presented, highlighting what they had in common with the findings of the Ark of Inquiry project, and a discussion was held on the issues of sustainability of EU projects and how to work better together.

The final recommendations of the project and the guidelines document were presented to the audience targeting teachers, scientists, researchers, and policy makers, in which hands education’s future is beheld. The event closed with an evening reception that treated participants to two short performances by the “Mad Scientists”, a leading science enrichment provider for children in kindergarten through to grade 6 in over 20 countries around the world.

Website: http://www.arkofinquiry.eu/ 

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