27 SES 04 C, Parallel Paper Session
Parallel Paper Session
This paper presents research conducted as part of the thirty-month EU/FP7-funded project Creative Little Scientists (EU contract no. 289081) which started in October 2011, led by Ellinogermaniki Agogi in Greece and involving partners in eleven institutions in Belgium, England, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Malta, Portugal and Romania. The project reflects the high focus on science, mathematics and creativity in education in European education policy in the last decade with all three being identified in the EU 2020 policy goals for Education and Training (EC, 2012).
There are several arguments about the importance of starting the teaching of science and mathematics during the early childhood period, both for a child’s development and for science and mathematics learning (Eshach and Fried, 2005). Children’s natural tendency to enjoy observing and thinking about nature and their motivation to explore the world around them can be nurtured and exploited by science and mathematics experiences (French, 2004). Moreover, quality science and mathematics learning experiences provide a solid foundation for the development of understanding of key concepts, thinking, informed language and positive attitudes in science and mathematics. Finally, in recent years the growing body of research in early years science and mathematics has indicated that children’s thinking is surprisingly sophisticated and provides helpful starting points for developing scientific and mathematical reasoning: they show awareness of patterns in observations and causal reasoning, albeit constrained by their conceptual knowledge, the nature of the task, and their awareness of their own thinking (Duschl et al., 2007).
Research Objectives and Questions
Creative Little Scientists seeks to provide a clear picture of existing and possible practices in science and mathematics education in early years (up to the age of eight), as well as their implications for the development of children’s creativity and the emergence of appropriate learning outcomes, including children’s attitudes to science and mathematics. Based on this, the project will propose policy guidelines, as well as curricula and exemplary materials for relevant teacher training in the various European contexts.
The project’s research questions are:
1. How are the teaching, learning and assessment of science and mathematics in early years in the partner countries conceptualised by teachers and what role if any does creativity play in these?
2. What approaches are used in the teaching, learning and assessment of science and mathematics in early years in the partner countries?
3. What opportunities and challenges do these approaches offer for the development of skills and attitudes associated with creativity?
4. In what ways do these approaches seek to foster young children’s learning, interest and motivation in science and mathematics, and how do teachers perceive their role in doing so?
5. How do answers to the above questions compare with what is suggested in current research and policy documents?
Duschl, R.A., Schweingruber, H.A. & Shouse, A.W. (2007). (Eds) Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8. Committee on Science Learning, Kindergarten through Eighth Grade; National Research Council. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. EC (2010). Europe 2020. A strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. Retrieved 27 December 2010. http://europa.eu/press_room/pdf/complet_en_barroso___007_-_europe_2020_-_en_version.pdf Eshach, H. & Fried, M.N. (2005). Should science be taught in early childhood? Journal of Science Education and Technology, 14(3), pp315-336. French, L. (2004). Science as the center of a coherent, integrated early childhood curriculum. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 19(1), p138.
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