12.12.2016 - UNESCO Venice Office

Teachers from learners to thinkers. Ark of Inquiry trains Italian educators in IBSE methodology

UNESCO - Ark of Inquiry teachers’ training

Teachers from the provinces of Naples, Vicenza and Perugia have begun their journey as trainees under the EU-funded Ark of Inquiry project, implemented in Italy by the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe. In recent weeks, over a hundred teachers were introduced to the basic and intermediate tenets of inquiry-based science education according with Ark of Inquiry training model, propelling them to apply the lessons learned in their classrooms.

To achieve the vision of creating a “new science classroom”, the Ark of Inquiry project is training teachers from across 12 European countries in inquiry-based science education (IBSE) through the use of vetted online activities in their classrooms.  The training is composed of 3 separate, yet interrelated modules: Teachers as Learners (phase 1), Teachers as Thinkers (phase 2) and Teachers as Reflective Practitioners (phase 3). To assure the applicability of these trainings in Italy, a partnership has been struck with the Associazione Nazionale Insegnanti di Scienze Naturali (ANISN), a national teacher training association accredited by the Italian Ministry of Education, Universities and Research. The training modules have been used in varying and tailored approaches according to the level of IBSE understanding and awareness by each set of trainees.

Led by Anna Pascucci, national IBSE expert and UNESCO consultant, 3 Ark of Inquiry nuclei (communities of teachers and trainers) have taken the first steps in the South (Naples, Campania region), North (Rosà, Veneto region) and Center (Foligno, Umbria region) of Italy. The first phase of the 3 training courses was held respectively on 21 October, 5 November, and 28 November 2016.

- Naples Ark of Inquiry nucleus: 35 teachers from predominantly lower secondary schools participated in the training course for 4 to 8 hours at the Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn. They were introduced to the inquiry model of the project and discovered the huge amount of resources available on the project website and portal. Through working groups and plenary discussions they were supported on how to apply and adapt the inquiry activities available on the Ark of Inquiry portal in their science classrooms, transforming them according to different pedagogical scenarios. As some of the attending teachers have already applied an Inquiry approach in the past, they focused on the second training module Teachers as Thinkers. They spent significant time going over the varied evaluation tools the Ark of Inquiry project has developed for their use, discussing the merits and challenges of each as per their individual classrooms’ learning needs, as well as how they could be adapted to the Italian situation.

- Rosà Ark of Inquiry nucleus: The Istituto Comprensivo Statale “A.G. Roncalli” hosted the training course with participation of 38 teachers from almost entirely primary schools. The all-day training (8 hours) introduced teachers to the inquiry model of Ark of Inquiry, the pedagogical scenarios and how to apply them. Working group sessions were focused on the first module Teachers as Learners, sustaining the reflection on applying inquiry-based learning when instructing the youngest of pupils. Teachers, having already experience in inquiry teaching, discussed in depth the different possibilities for the various pedagogical scenarios they may encounter working on an inquiry activity like “tovaglioli di carta” (napkins). The activity was chosen also to introduce key points, through a final short presentation and discussion, on how sustainable development, as defined and envisaged by the United Nations, can be approached through collective efforts by educators, such as by teaching IBSE in schools.

- Foligno Ark of Inquiry nucleus: 42 primary and secondary school teachers participated to the training held at the Experimental Sciences Laboratory of Foligno. This training was originally foreseen for earlier in the month, but was postponed a few weeks as a result of the series of earthquakes that affected this region in early November. As teachers in Foligno were not already familiar with the Inquiry approach and Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI), yet had little practical experience in applying them in their classrooms, a more accurate introduction were proposed on IBSE and inquiry models. Through working groups, they focused on the first training module ‘Teachers as learners’ and carried out hands-on activity chosen by the trainer from Ark of Inquiry portal. The attending teachers were also introduced to module 2 ‘Teachers as thinkers’. Teachers left eager to move onto the next stages of the training, particularly how to apply their practices with IBSE in the classroom.

The second training phase in Naples and Rosa has been held respectively on 25 November (6 hours) and 3 December (8 hours), focused on the third and final training module ‘Teachers as Reflective Practitioners’. A very positive follow-up has been collected by the attending teachers which are now ready to develop the activities with the students. In Naples and Rosà, they have created different subgroups choosing the same inquiry activity, mainly from the Italian resources but also among resources available in English. The aim was to enhance the cooperation in sharing different points of view coming from different teachers and classroom contexts and to collect evidence on the effectiveness of the resources transformed according different scenarios. The next training for the nucleus of teachers in Foligno is foreseen for January 2017.

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“Ark of Inquiry: Inquiry Awards for Youth over Europe” is a research and development project on teacher training, oriented towards raising science awareness, particularly that of youth aged 7 to 18, to Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI). Funded by the European Commission and involving 13 project partners from 12 countries, the project started in 2014 and has a duration of 4 years.

UNESCO with the support of its Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe, Venice (Italy), is involved in a large number of Work Packages (WP). It is leader of WP7 (Dissemination), and it plays a contributing role to WP2 (Collection of inquiry activities and environments), WP3 (Supporting community), WP4 (Training), WP5 (Evaluation) and WP6 (Implementation).


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