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Web portal seeks to inspire Europe’s young scientific minds

A website to assist science teaching through inquiry has been developed in order to instil a deeper understanding and appreciation of the subject.
Web portal seeks to inspire Europe’s young scientific minds
The portal has been developed through the EU-funded Strategies for Assessment of Inquiry Learning in Science (SAILS) project, which has sought to support secondary level teachers in adopting inquiry-based science education. Inquiry skills encourage engagement with science and enables students to acquire problem-solving and lifelong learning skills to make informed and reasoned decisions.

The new website features a vast array of teaching and assessment resources, including frameworks for inquiry and assessment, teacher education programmes and inquiry and assessment units. These resources and materials are now freely available to science teachers interested in building their competence in assessing inquiry skills in the classroom.

The SAILS project team also developed professional development programmes to support secondary level science teachers, both in-service and pre-service, that support teachers’ understanding of how inquiry approaches can be facilitated and assessed in the classroom. Furthermore, over 2 500 teachers have been involved in SAILS workshops and activities, resulting in over 30 000 students in 12 countries (Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Sweden, Turkey and the UK) benefiting from the programme.

Final results of the project were shared with key stakeholders at a final project conference in December 2015. Project coordinator Odilla Finlayson told delegates that inquiry in the science classroom ‘provides opportunities for students to diagnose problems, critique experiments, plan investigations, research conjectures, search for information, debate with peers and form coherent arguments.’

Indeed the overall objective of the project, which was completed at the end of 2015, has been to help ignite young people’s interest in science as a viable career; a vital step if Europe is to address a worrying skills gap. According to an EU report, Europe is facing a shortage of 820 000 ICT professionals by 2020.

This will have serious consequences not only for the competitiveness of individual companies but also for the EU’s economy as a whole. Europe needs a workforce skilled in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) if it is find solutions to modern challenges such as climate change and an ageing population. Furthermore, STEM skills are an increasingly important part of basic literacy in today’s knowledge economy.

In this respect, the SAILS project is part of an EU-wide move to bring about a cultural change in how science is taught. It is hoped that the long term impact will be a new generation of scientifically aware school leavers, better able to enter further study and thus help boost the EU knowledge economy. Furthermore, a scientifically literate population will be better able to engage actively and knowledgeably with pressing issues such as global warming and achieving energy efficient transport.

The website developed by the SAILS team will help ensure that more teachers and students continue to benefit from inquiry-based learning.

For further information please visit:
SAILS project website

Source: Based on information from the project

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