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Training of Chemistry Teachers: International Experience and the Greek Case

Katerina Salta, Dionysios Koulougliotis

Technological Educational Institute (TEI) of Ionian Islands (Greece)

ksalta@chem.uoa.gr, dkoul@teiion.gr

Abstract

In the first part of this work, we make an attempt to present the main characteristics and factors that influence the quality and effectiveness of a chemistry teacher training program by reviewing selective international publications. In the second part, we specifically examine certain aspects of the same subject as applied in the Greek reality, by reviewing relevant publications. The international experience shows that a teacher’s professional development programme that is coherent with school practice and teachers’ goals, that has sufficient duration, that focuses on content knowledge and that involves active learning, is more likely to produce enhanced knowledge and skills. More empirical research work is required in order to establish predictors which lead to teachers’ empowerment via the application of a training programme. In Greece, secondary school science teachers have in-depth academic training in the content subject but a fragmentary and non-systematic pre-service educational preparation for entering the teaching profession. Despite the increase of in-service training programs, the teachers’ needs remained largely unsatisfied. Researchers have pointed out the need for teachers to master both pedagogical and content knowledge and be aware of their in-between links, in order to effectively implement the chosen teaching strategy. In addition, research has pointed out that primary school teachers often hold several misconceptions in regard with chemical phenomena and effort is made to design and implement targeted in-service training programmes for overcoming this problem. The establishment of the interuniversity Masters programme entitled “Chemical Education and New Educational Technologies” aims at providing scientific and educational training to Greek chemistry teachers; it constitutes a successful example which needs to find more followers and state support.

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Comments about this Paper

Your comments are welcome


Date: 2014.10.06

Posted by A. López (Spain )

Message: In this paper, several international publications are reviewed to find the characteristics and factors that influence the quality and effectiveness of a chemistry teacher training program. A teacher’s professional development programme that is coherent with school practice and teachers’ goals, that has sufficient duration, that focuses on content knowledge and that involves active learning, is more likely to produce enhanced knowledge and skills. The implementation of the Master "Chemistry Education and New Educational Technologies" has proved to be a significant fact, in order to encourage other followers and the support of government. The experience developed in Greece show us a successful example to be consider in another countries, but show us that in Greece, as in many other European countries like Spain, the training of science teachers is not enough to guarantee a chemistry effective learning. The role of ICTs activities is very important for the development of teacher training and must be included in the programs. I consider this paper relevant for my teaching practice because it contains useful information about the necessary training that a secondary science teacher have to get.

Date: 2014.01.08

Posted by Elisete Afonso (Portugal)

Message: This paper, supported on the literature published in the area, is relevant since, in the first part, it discusses the main factors impacting on the quality of teacher education in chemistry, arising from the international experience, in line with European policy, which calls for new requirements and qualifications for science teachers.
According to experts, it is known that the results of students learning depend on the teaching performance of teachers and, as such, it is important to invest in their training, either in academic context (initial training), either in a professional context (in-service training), throughout their career.
The key of success for the development of skills lies in active teaching, regulated by evaluation, observation and reflection rather than abstract theorizing. As proof, reference is made to a U.S.A. study [1] focused on enhanced teacher professional development, with implications in teaching practice, taking into account basic factors related to the incidence and relevance of the contents covered, in an active learning and their coherence and adaptation to the educational context, without neglecting the proper duration of the training activities.
In the second part, the relevance of this paper focuses on the experience carried out in Greece, in order to provide their chemistry teachers with a more consistent pedagogical and didactic training, as scientifically they have received in their academic career, a solid base of multiple knowledge. To remedy the situation, the implementation of the interuniversity Master "Chemistry Education and New Educational Technologies" has proved to be a significant asset which is important to disclose, in order to encourage other followers and the support of government.
Despite a progressive increase in in-service training programs, particularly in ICT, they have been insufficient to meet the needs of teachers, not only due to lack of incentive and motivation offered by the administration of the Greek school, but also the unwillingness of Greek primary school teachers to make in-service training, which, in our view, is unfortunate because, a priori, all teachers should regard in-service training as an intrinsic need to their professional development.
The paper also alludes to a second phase of the ICT program, which is underway in Greece, to equip teachers with pedagogical skills to create best quality and effective learning environments in science teaching, encouraging the use of relevant tools to motivate students for learning chemistry and science.
Establishing a parallel with Portugal, legislation was recently published [2] which also calls for training and certification of digital skills in order to rehabilitate the Technological Plan for Education started in 2010 and stopped with the crisis we are going through. At the time, most schools were equipped with cutting edge educational software and basic training was provided to a percentage of teachers, among which stands out the training course "Interactive Multimedia in Teaching/Learning of Experimental Science for Teachers in Physics and Chemistry”.
[1] Garet, M., Porter, A., Desimone, L., Birman, B., & Yoon, K. (2001). What makes professional development effective? Analysis of a national sample of teachers.American Educational Research Journal 38, 915–945.
[2] Ministério da Educação e Ciência, Portaria n.º 321/2013, de 28 de outubro.

Date: 2013.09.03

Posted by Davide Parmigiani (Italy)

Message: The paper is composed of two sections, both interesting and useful. The first section is dedicated to a valuable review of international literature dealing with the elements that influence the effectiveness of a chemistry teacher training programme. The publications that are cited and briefly described are a database from where teachers can take advantage by getting suggestions and inspiration. In particular, it is underlined how important is to adopt active teaching, meaning that students have to be motivated to observe and reflect. Moreover the needs of developing pedagogical skills is claimed to effectively teach specific kinds of contents. A particularly worth statement of this section is the following: “a number of different types of collaborative, job-embedded professional learning activities can improve teacher practice and student achievement. Peer observations of practice, analysis of student work and student data, and teachers’ study groups are reported as more effective activities than others. It thus seems clear that effective professional development requires considerable time, which must be well organized, carefully structured, purposefully directed, and focused on content or pedagogy or both.
The second section examines certain aspects of the science teacher training as applied in the Greek reality, by reviewing relevant publications. In particular, not suitable scientific skills are shown by primary school teachers, thus an improvement in this direction is expectable. For what concerns secondary school, science teachers have only an academic training and a degree in the subject of their specialization but no general or special educational preparation for the teaching profession. As this pre-service training is not sufficient, new programs are being developed to implement in-service training, such as the interuniversity Masters programme “Chemical Education and New Educational Technologies”.
The paper shows that in Greece, as in many other European countries including Italy, the training of science teachers is not sufficient to guarantee the learning of these disciplines. In my opinion, systematic and compulsory pre-service and in service training programmes are needed everywhere, in order to enhance the image of science and its effective learning, but they must be developed with the government support.

Date: 2013.06.20

Posted by Dominique Lambert (Belgium)

Message: The relevance of the paper resides in the presentation of the main characteristics and factors that influence the quality and effectiveness of a chemistry teacher training program by reviewing selective international publications.
The article also examine certain aspects of the same subject as applied in the Greek reality in order to give a complete overview of the situation related to chemical education at both national and international level.
The article is divided in two parts, the international experience and the Greek case.
In the section dedicated to the international situation, teachers can rapport themselves with the results underlined by the most important publications on the subject.
For example, the international experience shows that a teacher’s professional development program that is coherent with school practice and teachers’ goals, that has sufficient duration, that focuses on content knowledge and that involves active learning, is more likely to produce enhanced knowledge and skills.
Teachers can take advantage from the results of the publications and, reading the section dedicated to the Greece environment, make a comparison in order to understand what needs to be changed, which are the limits and the structural problems.
The paper explains how in Greece science teachers have only an academic training and a degree in the subject of their specialization (chemistry, biology, physics), but no general or special educational preparation for the teaching profession.
The lack of encouragement and motivation offered by the Greek school administration is also linked to the unwillingness of Greek primary teachers to participate in in-service training.
In-service teacher training has been of informative nature and non systematic and relevant courses mainly aim at the development of teachers’ familiarity with ICT (use of word-processing, spreadsheet, presentation programs and internet).
The article proposes so the in service training and the integration of ICT in the science education like relevant tools for better motivate pupils in the learning of chemistry and science related subjects.

Date: 2013.06.05

Posted by Miroslav Prokša (Slovakia)

Message: This paper give a very good researched summary of international literature on chemistry teacher education and training.and current findings in relation to good practice in chemistry teacher training in Greece. The stress is on continuing professional development (in-service training) rather than pre-service training as it is explained that this approach is the one that is relevant to the Greek model. Factors that are reported as being important for success include active learning approaches, collective participation (e.g. by department, school, grade level), coherence with teacher’s goals and daily life of the school, duration and incorporation of time for teachers to plan for implementation of an educational programme. Form my point of view is that the duration factor is a critical point in this training: short workshops are denied much efficiency while long-term, well-structured, and job-related professional development programs have much better chances to lead to improved practice. The paper is focussed on the Greek specific situation where in-service training seems to have presently only, in general, an elective character. A large part of the discussion is devoted to the chemical education of primary school teachers and on attempts to improve their disappointing understanding of chemical phenomena, The paper is well-researched and 24 references are cited, 3 of which are from 2012. A balance between general and chemistry-specific considerations is provided and an interesting perspective on chemistry teacher education in Greece is provided, as is a review of good practice for in-service chemistry teacher training on an international basis. Therefore, it will be very useful to those who want to find out about effective in-service chemistry teacher training

Date: 2013.05.30

Posted by Ilka Ivanova (Bulgaria)

Message: The article is a kind of an overview of publications related to the problems linked to the professional development of teachers in the Greek reality. International experience shows that one of the priorities in the professional development of teachers in Europe is the improvement of their qualification. A special emphasis is placed on the relationship between education, qualification and practices for high quality training of Natural Science teachers. A study, conducted in USA, on the effect of different characteristics of the professional development of teachers is presented. These basic characteristics define the improvement of the knowledge of Chemistry teachers, active learning, i.e. teachers should be actively involved in the teaching and learning process and there should be coordination of their professional development by encouraging them to communicate with each other. In Greece Natural Science teachers have only academic education. They do not follow any training/degree courses to be teachers. There are pedagogical qualification programmes but they are not compulsory thus leading to low motivation and greater demand of teachers. The studies show that in order to improve teacher training programmes, they have to be continuous and long-term taking into consideration factors such as duration, synchronization and frequency. The development of the programme "Chemistry Education and the New Educational Technologies" aims at providing scientific and educational training of Greek Chemistry teachers. Teacher training is of informative nature and is not systematic. The main courses are intended for ICT training (use of text processing programs and spreadsheets, PP presentations, Internet). The teacher training under the programme "ICT in Education" has two stages: training in technical skills and training in pedagogical skills in order to integrate ICT in the classrooms. The studies show that the decisive factor is teacher training in the area of ICT in order to raise the interest of the students in learning.

Date: 2013.05.30

Posted by Nathalie Matthys (ENCBW) (Belgium)

Message: Why is this paper relevant?
This paper does not really propose concrete ideas to improve chemistry teaching. It remains quite vague and states the importance of continuing training in scientific contents as well as in pedagogy. However, the authors propose many references to go deeper in the subject and discover more.

Which parts of this paper underline relevant issues for chemistry teachers? Please, indicate what kind of issue is highlighted by the authors and why it is important for chemistry teachers.
The ideas proposed rather concern teacher trainers: the authors point out that the efficience of teachers’ training depends on their perception of the training coherence, of the time dedicated to it, of the training integration in more global reform of education. They point out that the teacher learns more by observing their peers’ practice, analysing their students’ work and data on students.

Does the paper suggest and encourage to experience different approaches and methods for teaching and learning chemistry? Please, indicate what method is more suitable for your National context.
This paper does not advise different methods or approaches to teach and learn chemistry addressed to students, but rather to teachers. In Belgium, continuing training is compulsory, teachers have to take two and a half days of training a year. A great training planning is proposed all along the year and often during days common to several schools of a same area, to foster exchanges between teachers. There is a varied range of subjects: pedagogy and didactics, experiments and updating. Universities also propose moments of exchange and training for graduate teachers. Congresses are organised, for instance the “Congrès des sciences” in late August, before the beginning of term.
However, I think peer observation and the analysis of students’ works, much used in baccalaureates training, is insufficiently practices in continuing training. I think this is an interesting idea.

Only if ICT are discussed in the paper:
Does the paper underline the competences that teachers should develop to use ICT in order to enhance students' interest and learning for chemistry?
This theme is only mentionned at the end of the paper.

Date: 2013.05.23

Posted by Bernard Leyh (University of Liège) (Belgium)

Message: The paper by Salta and Koulougliotis provides the reader first with an interesting survey of the recent (covering mainly the 2007-2012 period) international literature on chemistry teacher education and training. This gives a good background on the subject, which could be inspiring for each specific national situation. The most interesting ideas emerging from this survey are, from my point of view, the following: (i) professional development is most effective when it is centred on content knowledge, when active (“hands-on”) learning is favoured and when coherence with teacher goals and experiences is emphasized; (ii) the duration factor is a critical point: short workshops are denied much efficiency while long-term, well-structured, and job-related professional development programs have much better chances to lead to improved practice.
The second part of the paper is focussed on the Greek specific situation where in-service training seems to have presently only, in general, an elective character. A large part of the discussion is devoted to the chemical education of primary school teachers and on attempts to improve their disappointing understanding of chemical phenomena, an observation which also applies, by the way, for Belgian elementary school teachers. Here also, the advantages of long-term training programs are stressed. Training on ICT methods for education is also emphasized. As far as secondary school teacher education is concerned, an interuniversity (Athens and Thessaloniki) chemical education initiative at the Master level has to be praised. A reference is provided (ref [24]) by the authors for any interested reader.

Date: 2013.05.06

Posted by Claire Mc Donnell (Ireland)

Message: This paper provides a well-researched summary of current findings in relation to good practice in chemistry teacher training. It begins by examining the topic from an international perspective and then goes on to focus on the Greek context. The emphasis is on continuing professional development (in-service training) rather than pre-service training as it is explained that this approach is the one that is relevant to the Greek model. It is very apparent from the literature review undertaken, which cites studies on both general and chemistry-specific teaching contexts, that the traditional once-off workshop is the least effective approach. Factors that are reported as being important for success include active learning approaches, collective participation (e.g. by department, school, grade level), coherence with teacher’s goals and daily life of the school, duration and incorporation of time for teachers to plan for implementation of an educational programme. The need to consider factors at an organisational level such as the effect of facilitators and their role was also noted. Some examples of appropriate learning activities provided were peer observations of practice and teachers’ study groups.
The examination of training of chemistry teachers in Greece discusses the lack of any preparation for the teaching profession up until recent times but does not indicate when training in teaching methodologies was first introduced for newly appointed chemistry teachers and it is unclear whether this is a pre-service or in-service course. It is noted that the in-service training available is optional and is not systematic. Research is cited that emphasises the importance for sciences teachers to develop pedagogical and theoretical knowledge and an understanding of how they are linked and some models for implementation of such pre-service and in-service training are provided, including a Masters degree programme that is in place. Some attention is also given to an in-service training course for primary level teachers which deals with understanding several chemical phenomena. The international perspective on this aspect of chemistry teacher training was not addressed in the earlier section however.
The paper is well-researched and 24 references are cited, 3 of which are from 2012. A balance between general and chemistry-specific considerations is provided and an interesting perspective on chemistry teacher education in Greece is provided, as is a review of good practice for in-service chemistry teacher training on an international basis. Therefore, it will be very useful to those who want to find out about effective in-service chemistry teacher training.

National Reports on successful experiences to promote lifelong learning for chemistry The national reports on chemistry successful experiences to promote lifelong learning for chemistry are now available on the related section of the project portal. The reports presents examples of successful experiences in the partner countries and the results of testing of ICT resources with science teachers.

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