10 SES 06 A, Teaching Science (Part 2)
Paper Session: continued from 10 SES 04 B
Professional Learning Communities can mediate the transition from the predominant culture of teaching and learning to a new culture of science education. Professional Learning Communities have been found to be very successful in supporting teachers’ professional development. In this respect, learning from and with each other is of paramount importance. However, we know little about how social interactions amongst members develop during the life span of such a community. This qualitative study applies Social Network Analysis (SNA) to visualize these dynamics. In order to be able to observe substantial aspects of these interactions, the study refers to a framework of reference which is based on characteristics of a Community of Inquiry (CoI). The results indicate that SNA is a useful method to gather insight into the complex social structures existing amongst course participants. This knowledge is assumed to be helpful for teacher trainers to support developmental processes of a CoI more effectively.
The research is part of an international education project (EU FP7, INQUIRE) aiming at promoting and establishing IBSE in schools and Learning Outside the Classroom (LOtC) institutions. For this purpose, botanic gardens in 11 European countries are developing and implementing teacher training courses. A characteristic of these teacher training courses is the encouragement and support of the participants in establishing “Communities of Inquiry” (CoIs). Timperley and colleagues (2007) emphasized the importance of social learning in the context of Professional Learning Communities for effective in-service teacher training. One crucial feature, inter alia, of a successful teacher-training course is to actively support participants in becoming a Professional Learning Community (PLC) (Timperley et al., 2007). Often, these communities emerge among people working closely in a single institution (Hall & Hord, 2006) while others involve staff from various institutions (Wenger, 1998). In this study the expression Community of Inquiry (CoI) is used to describe the social learning environment created in the INQUIRE training courses because teachers and educators from various schools and LOtC venues took part in them. The study comprises the Pilot INQUIRE Course Austria (PIC-Austria) with 19 participants and the Austria INQUIRE Course II with 17 participants. Each of these courses lasts for nine months and includes three modules (each with 16 hours of compulsory attendance, 4 hours of e-learning and 10 hours of autonomous studies). The courses run at the University Botanic Gardens in Innsbruck, Austria.
This paper shows how teachers and LOtC-educators, participating a Community of Inquiry, learn and work together implementing Inquiry Based Science Education (IBSE) in- and outside the classroom.
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