06.11.2017 - UNESCO Venice Office

UNESCO commits to working towards an inclusive science classroom in South-East Europe

SaveChildren Albania – Girls raising hands in a classroom in Albania

“An Inclusive Science Classroom: the Gender Issue” will be the subject of the Ark of Inquiry Training for Science Teachers that will take place on 9-10 November 2017 in Tirana, Albania. Organized by the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe and Ellinogermaniki Agogi, in close cooperation with the Albanian Ministry of Education, Sports and Youth, the event seeks to expand the project to countries of South-East Europe that were not initially involved in the project. UNESCO ambitions to increase teachers’ understanding and appreciation of the scientific method and to prepare them to actively participate in and contribute to the European research and innovation process and society at-large. Inquiry activities in science can play a role in engaging girls and boosting their interest.

Over two days, 40 Albanian science teachers from all over the country will be trained on how to use inquiry learning and Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) to equally engage girls and boys in science learning. On 10 November (World Science Day for Peace and Development), members of the Albanian Women in Science Network will join for a discussion on how to address Gender Equality in the science classroom. As a supportive community, parents, teachers, scientists and other role models have a key role to play. Participants will work on the fundamentals of inquiry-based science education (IBSE) with a set of tools for an immediate application in the classroom.

A first expected result of the training will be for science teachers to start applying a new, more engaging approach to teaching in the classroom pupils aged 7-18 following the inquiry-learning model. The training will focus on how to use inquiry learning and Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI), linking them to the gender dimension. RRI is a process where pupils actively engage in discussions and reflect upon their work. Further insight is given by the European Commission (2012); it shows that RRI implies for societal actors to work together during the whole research and innovation process in order to better align both the process and its outcomes with the values, needs and expectations of society.

A secondary expected result is the applied teaching techniques to further serve to equally empower and stimulate both girls and boys in learning about the sciences. By focusing especially on the gender dimension, UNESCO aims to work towards the common goal of the Ark of Inquiry and EU of promoting gender inclusive science education by making science more attractive for women in order to attract more women to science and science careers. Over the past years, research documented a consistent decline in pupils’ interest in science and science careers, particularly of girls. By the age of 6, girls are more likely than boys to associate brilliance with their own gender and to avoid activities said to require it.

The Ark of Inquiry project has created a pedagogical scenario on what kind of actions teachers could consider taking in order to contribute to girls’ interest in science:

  • First, teaching/learning methods can play a role in increasing girls’ interest in science. Inquiry learning that emphasizes learner-centered learning provided positive results related to female pupils’ interest across a broad array of topics in science, mathematics, technology, and engineering (STEM).
  • Secondly, learning contexts that include RRI elements can play a role in increasing girls’ interest in science.
  • Thirdly, it is important to avoid stereotypes to reach all pupils in a classroom.

Stereotypes concern both science itself and the pupils and relate to textbooks, problem sets, language used by the teacher, or how girls and boys are addressed in the classroom. The influence of stereotypes about science is still decisive in the career choices of many girls and boys, and in particular in girls’ decisions not to embark on a scientific career. Girls often have a restricted conception of what science is; therefore, they are not considering science studies that could lead to careers in fields that actually do match their future occupational interest. Increasing the diversity of role models could be an example of working against stereotypes and promoting gender inclusive science education.

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