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Biology, health and environmental education for better citizenship

Final Report Summary - BIOHEAD-CITIZEN (Biology, health and environmental education for better citizenship)

This BIOHEAD-CITIZEN project aimed to understand how biology, health and environmental education can promote a better citizenship, including their affective and social dimensions, analysing possible differences in 19 countries and associating them to controlled parameters (e.g. social context, religion, gender). It is expected that this understanding may clarify the relevant challenges that the European education systems have to face to maximise their efficiency in order to reinforce a knowledge based society. It includes the above 19 countries (6 EU 'old' Member States, 7 new Member States and 6 INCO countries) in order to carry out a large transnational comparative study.

The conceptions of some actors of the educational system were analysed as being the emergences from interactions between the 3 poles K, V and P, as proposed by the model KVP (Clément, 2004 and 2006). The three poles are: the scientific knowledge (K), the systems of values (V) and the social practices (P). Any conception can also be analysed with other theoretical background. Nevertheless, the KVP model is useful to analyse important features of the taught knowledge: the epistemological one, to try to understand what is related to science or to values in a scientific presentation, for instance in a textbook; and also its interaction with social practices (e.g. some images come from medical practices, some other from lab of research, some others are strongly modified just for aesthetical aspects, some others are created for a pedagogical goal etc). The scientific knowledge (K) is referred to the publications coming from the scientific community. The social practices (P) are those of the actors of the educational system: the practice of teaching in their country for the teachers, the practice of the authors and publishers of school textbooks, but also their conceptions related to the actual and future social practice of their students (their future professional job but also their present and future responsibility as a citizen). The values (V) are defined in a large sense, including opinions, beliefs and ideologies.

The project has followed two complementary methodologies:
- A comparative analysis of syllabuses and school textbooks. For each of the six selected topic ('health education', 'human reproduction and sexual education', 'ecology and environmental education', 'human brain', 'human evolution', 'human genetics') the same grid of analysis (built in the year 1) was applied in the year 2 of the project by all countries and data analysed during the years 2 and 3. There was work done on all school levels: primary and secondary schools, i.e. from 6 to 18 years old students.
- A comparative analysis of 16 countries teachers' conceptions related to the selected topics. There was work done with in-service and pre-service teachers. Here too, the same methodology was used by the 16 countries: the same questionnaire comprising the 6 selected topics was applied in year 2 after appropriate translation to the national language (during year 1). The questionnaire was common to all countries but a few questions focusing specific local needs were added in some countries. The samples were similar in the 16 countries. In the year 3, 5 analysis in each country was carried out as well as comparative analysis among countries.

This project includes four research activities work packages (WPs), and the end of all of them corresponds to the milestones of the project:

WP1: Preparation of instruments

- WP1-i) Selection of topics and a priori analysis
The a priori analysis was started even before the starting day of the project, during the negotiation period. Precise topics were chosen because they are exemplar of interactions between Science and Society, and challenges in citizenship. This list has been discussed and reshaped during our successive meetings.
- WP1-ii) Definition of grids for critical analysis of syllabuses and schoolbooks
- WP1-iv) Adaptation of grids to every country
After a general description of the educational system of each country, each team worked first to identify all the matters and levels of teaching where the six topics are taught in their country.
- WP1-iii) Construction of teachers' questionnaires
The proposals of questionnaires were preliminarily constructed by the three coordinators even before the starting day of the project, using the works done and published before.

Three lists of questions on biology, health, and environmental education respectively were sent by email to all participants of the cooperative group for improvement at the Braga kick off meeting. At this meeting, several questions were modified, others dropped out, and some additional questions were included by some cooperative teams. This meeting also served to discuss other issues such as the theoretical background, the sampling strategy, questionnaire translation methods and validation, standardising question format.
- WP1-iv) Adaptation of questionnaires to every country
Using these different analyses, the three coordinators selected the most relevant questions for the project objectives and constructed the final questionnaires

WP2: Syllabuses and textbook analysis

- WP2-i) Critical analysis in each country
A critical analysis of syllabi and textbooks was carried out in each country, primary and secondary schools in the six selected topics. Textbook analysis was carried out by all participants with the exceptions of United Kingdom and Mozambique who did not do any grid of analysis. Several communications were presented in meetings and papers were prepared to be published by individual teams.
- WP2-ii) Comparative analysis and interpretation
The comparative analysis and interpretation of data from all countries resulted in seven synopsis that have been submitted to the International Organisation for Science and Technology Education (IOSTE) meeting 'International meeting on critical analysis of school science textbooks' held in Hammamet, Tunisia, 7 - 10 February 2007. This meeting was organised by the IOSTE Southern Europe Region and the BIOHEAD-CITIZEN project. For each topic one overall BIOHEAD-CITIZEN synopsis was prepared, except in the case of 'ecology and environmental education' where two synopses were presented.

At the general meeting of Vilnius the participants Portugal, France-Lyon, Italy and Lithuania were designated to be in charge of the comparison of all grids of countries participating in the project.

WP3: Teachers' and teachers-to-be questionnaires

- WP3-i) Implementation of questionnaires and data analysis in each country
Following the validation and improvement of preliminary questionnaires (constructed previously in WP1, during the project year 1), the definitive questionnaires were applied in similar conditions in all countries in order to get comparable data.

All the 17 participants (United Kingdom and Mozambique had already withdrawn the project), applied their questionnaires, after translation, to teachers and teachers-to-be in their country and data were collected in appropriate Excel files.
- WP3-ii) Pooling data together and carrying out multivariate analysis for comparison
Analysis has been carried out with all questions and by amalgamating the questions per topic by using either all countries or groups of countries, according to the specific research hypothesis arisen. This is a matter of endless work, since from the obtained results further research hypothesis arise and it is always possible to go back to the database to proceed with new analysis.

WP4: Synthesis of results

- WP4-i) Elaboration of scientific papers
- WP4-ii) Elaboration of documents to be sent to national policy-makers and teachers