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Hands-on science teaching: combining formal and informal science learning

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Teaching teachers how to teach science

An EU-funded initiative used the power of networking to stimulate context-based and pupil-oriented science learning. Project successes relied on combining a hands-on approach with teacher training.

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The 'Hands-on science teaching: combining formal and informal science learning' (Hands-on brains-on) project set up a network of eight science centres to develop educational programmes for primary schools. This was carried out in cooperation with schools and school authorities, teacher education institutes, universities and pedagogical organisations. Project partners built on the potential of modern, interactive science exhibitions to provide a large and unique learning source by bringing together best practices of formal education and informal learning. The aim of hands-on–based methods was geared towards not only producing more scientists and technologists, but also enabling a more scientifically and technologically literate generation of citizens. Information and communications technology (ICT) applications were the main medium for establishing this European cooperation and disseminating relevant results. The main target of the network linking formal and informal learning with all-European organisations was primary-school teacher education. Team members arranged for over 8 000 teacher-training days, the results of which were evaluated and surveyed. This was done by mapping the key elements of curricula to uncover the most effective ways of advancing learning in science centres and school teaching. Activities included the development, testing and training of a web-based validation tool for teacher feedback via the Xplora portal. Hands-on brains-on used and further developed research results related to the impact of informal learning sources. Of particular interest in this regard was how to create related opportunities for girls. Teachers taking part in the project noted innovative learning approaches, integration of learning environments other than the school, and learning differentiated according to different perception means as the main highlights. Another point of focus, however, was on relaying the need to shift from teacher-controlled to pupil-oriented learning. The use of inquiry-based content provided by the science centres in combination with the emphasis on networking helped Hands-on brains-on reach out to a very large audience and contributed to the project's successful execution.

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