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Transformative Research Activities. Cultural diversities and Education in Science

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Applying research findings in schools

While research in science education has produced valuable findings, applying these in teaching practice is no simple task. The TRACES project set out to investigate factors contributing to the research–practice gap, and to identify innovative policies in science education that can help to close it.

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'Transformative research activities. Cultural diversities and education in science' (TRACES) is an EU-funded project that investigated the relationship between research and practice in science education as implemented in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Israel, Italy and Spain. The research initiative employed a mixed methodology: desk research, national surveys, in-depth interviews and focus groups, and case studies involving schools of all grades. An international workshop was also held, bringing together teachers, school principals, administrators and researchers from the six partner countries. Based on project work, the team developed recommendations that would inform teachers' work, principals' management, policymakers' decisions and researchers' activities. Promoting transformative research activities, TRACES carried out a comparative analysis of case study findings to produce a draft of final recommendations; these were discussed with representatives of all stakeholders during the project final conference. Project outcomes linked with the case studies are relevant to authorities, policymakers, funding institutions, those responsible for curriculum development, teachers' preparation and professional development. Research efforts produced a wealth of data and valuable insights that extend beyond the project's initial research focus. This was achieved through close coordination between researchers and practitioners, with TRACES concentrating on the complexity of educational settings. These are influenced by the values of stakeholders, the variability of educational programmes, the organisation of education, and diversity. Project partners explored seven themes: teacher cooperation, exploiting existing resources, teacher–researcher cooperation, teacher training, long-term sustainability, the relationship between the local and the central, and the relationship between school and society. Four workshops were held on each theme, and they involved actors and participants from all partner countries. Findings suggested that the 'tension' between research and practice must be mitigated alongside other tensions and gaps; the relationships of schools with educational authorities, other educational institutions and local communities are especially relevant. Recommendations on actual initiatives to be undertaken support exploiting resources that already exist. The TRACES project also stressed the benefits of establishing communities that engage different stakeholders, so as to improve the way that science is taught in schools.

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