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Cross-Border Educational Innovation thru Technology-Enhanced Research

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - CEITER (Cross-Border Educational Innovation thru Technology-Enhanced Research)

Reporting period: 2018-07-01 to 2020-09-30

The Estonian Lifelong Learning Strategy envisions a change in learning paradigms towards more self-directed, creative and collaborative learning, a digital turn in education and strengthening of teachers capacities. CEITER has been set up to contribute to this vision by facilitating structural changes that will foster excellent interdisciplinary research combining methods and experts from educational sciences, cognitive psychology, and learning analytics. This will improve learners’ self-actualization and role in society, and adaptation of educational institutions in Estonia along the expectations of rapidly changing job markets.
"Through the CEITER project, a leading professor and a team of senior research staff was recruited around the ERA Chair of “Learning Analytics and Educational Innovation”. The team actively contributed to the setup and operation of the “Center of Excellence in Educational Innovation” at TLU. In close cooperation with other centers at the university, such as the Center for Innovation in Education and the Center for Educational Technology, and leading international centers, the team has promoted open and transparent research planning and funding, and collaborative and interdisciplinary research with impact in society. The team was able to leverage funding sources within and outside the university, growing the group to 7 senior research staff, and over 25 PhD students and junior researchers - all contributing to the common research vision on educational innovation.

Establishing “Living Labs for Educational Innovation”
The project established the concept of ""Living Labs for Educational Innovation"" (branded EDULABS, as a key to guide setting up of the center, cooperation with stakeholders and long-term sustainability. Living Labs are established with a focus on research-practice partnerships in education that focus on evidence-based innovations in teaching and learning and scaling these up in schools.

The concept was implemented in the teacher training programs focusing on key elements of scaling, evidencing and sustainability. For example, the “Teacher Innovation Laboratory” involves teachers in a long-term process in co-designing classroom level innovations and testing their efficacy. Across all activities, close to 1000 teachers and over 5000 students have been involved in the project’s activities.

Research in STEM learning in schools, teacher education and learning analytics
Six Living Labs pilots have been set up, all of these focus on implementing new teaching and learning strategies in STEM subjects in schools. Together with researchers from the areas of subject didactics, educational psychology and educational technology, new teaching and learning methods and materials are co-created and implemented in schools. Through teacher inquiry, effectiveness and benefit to all students is examined and reflected.

Learning analytics tools and methodologies support the above research processes through the collections and analysis of learning data and model-based algorithms. We have developed a measurement framework and cognitive computational model that uses process level data to diagnose sources of student problems during discovery learning. The Learning Analytics Toolbox has been developed to cover the whole Living Labs life cycle for data gathering and analysis as an inquiry process for evidence-based decision making. These tools have been used by several hundreds of students, teachers and school leaders. They support creation and sharing of innovative lesson scenarios, classroom level data gathering, observations by teachers and multimodal tracking with sensors. Digital Mirror (used by 80% of Estonian schools) allows analysis, planning and evidencing of school level developments. Tools for creating digital learning materials have been used by hundreds of teachers and the resulting materials have been used throughout Estonian classrooms.

Across these implementation contexts, we study the factors that drive adoption of new teaching and learning methods in schools. Using the knowledge appropriation model, we show that social processes of co-creation are critical for adoption. Evidence for this comes through studies of teacher education programs (more than 100 teachers involved in our Innolabs), as well as the analysis of a large-scale online teacher community on inquiry learning.

Over 25 doctoral students are now actively involved in all research activities. They are supported through training and hands-on practice on research planning and funding, workshops and trainings that bring together industry and other societal stakeholders with researchers and doctoral students, and courses on research ethics and data management.

Reaching out to the public
Besides dissemination to scientific audiences through the CEITER website ( the project has put significant emphasis on channels that target wider audiences. Communication to schools and teachers was supported through creation of the EDULABS website ( that includes practical materials for teachers for classroom use, and videos presenting research results for general audiences. An article series in the Estonian teacher newspaper has been created. With the creation of the EDUSPACE teaching and learning lab, another important channel is the EDUSPACE facebook page that engages teachers actively. The video shared from the opening event was viewed over 3500 times. Several international delegations have been hosted by the team to spread the news internationally and an overview article in the EAPRIL conference for practice based research in education has been published. We have created research Impact Cards to support our engagement with policy makers, state agencies in education and educational technology companies."
Approaches towards establishing Living Labs for Educational Innovation have been pursued in other countries, but none of these has yet systematically included learning analytics for evidence-based decision making and integrating across several levels of education (learners, teachers, institutions). The project has thus suggested an alternative to traditional research strategies in education, and proposes instead a stakeholder-driven co-creation process that collects fine-grained, process-based and longitudinal evidence of learning situations using model-based analyses.

The project has had a major impact on the research output increasing the percentage of publications of the highest category from 9.5% in 2014 to 32.5% in 2019, and allowing us to submit 25 funding applications to international and national funding programs in the first half of 2020 alone.

In the meantime, several funding applications were financed contributing to the sustainability of the research. Moreover, through the creation of the Tenure System, the university has made a commitment to fund 5 positions for young researchers along the general strategic directions of the CEITER project, offering stable and long-term career opportunities.

In recognition of the research and its impact in society, the CEITER team was awarded Estonian National Research Award for research in social sciences in 2020.
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