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Teacher Training in Science: Ireland

Marie Walsh

Limerick Institute of Technology (Ireland)

Marie.Walsh@lit.ie

Abstract

Teachers are seen as key actors in motivating students to appreciate and study Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects, including Chemistry subjects. Teacher training in Science Education is an important factor in the development of motivated and motivational educators.

Science education at second level in Ireland is in a state of chassis: A proposed revamp of the junior secondary school curriculum, in which Chemistry is taught as part of an integrated Science subject, is underway. A proposed new curriculum for senior second level Chemistry, with a more emphatic requirement for practical work, is currently in the post-consultation phase. A new Chief Examiner for Chemistry at secondary level has recently been appointed. All this reform comes at a time when uptake of Chemistry as a subject for the terminal examination at second level in Ireland, the Leaving Certificate, has seen a slight increase to over fourteen per cent. However, this turnaround could be difficult to maintain due to a number of factors, including the fiscal situation and its effect on school budgets for more expensive practical subjects, as well as allocation of subjects within timetabling constraints and choice by students of the science and technology subjects. Teachers and school facilities have a central role to play in attracting students to study Chemistry.

Just as the curricula are in the midst of a state of reform, likewise the system and requirements for initial teacher education is undergoing a number of changes. This paper will present a review of the current status in Ireland for training teachers of Science and Chemistry. It will also review the opportunities and supports for Continuous Professional Development.

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Comments about this Paper

Your comments are welcome


Date: 2014.04.25

Posted by Abdillahi Hajiomer Hassan (Turkey)

Message: Science is an increasingly important component of primary and secondary school curriculum across much of the world. These first encounters with the subject may have a long term impact on children’s interest in, and attitudes to, science and have the potential to provide a useful basis of knowledge, understanding and skills. Teachers are the key to realizing curriculum aims and the quality of science education in which chemistry is apart. The paper explains and gives a general report of science teacher education system in Ireland; the reforms made in order to improve the quality of science education in the primary and secondary schools by improving the quality of teachers in both in-service and pre-serves programs.
The paper also gives detailed information about educational and teacher training institutions in Ireland and one can understand the educational the system of Ireland and can be learnt from their positive impacts. Finally the paper suggests Ireland the need to invest more in the continuous improvement of the quality of teaching and the role of research in teacher education.

Date: 2013.07.30

Posted by Caterina Bignone (Italy)

Message: The paper provides a detailed and exhaustive description of initial teacher education programmes for primary and secondary teachers, offered through a range of concurrent (undergraduate) and consecutive (postgraduate) programmes.
For what concerns primary education, I find that is very important the guideline of “making the Science more dynamic, interactive and scientific. An experimental and investigatory approach to science in the primary school can make a unique and vital contribution to the holistic development and education of the child…. at the same time developing and using scientific ways of investigating and exploring the world”. This care to primary education is really praiseworthy, because the imprinting that a teacher gives to pupils of this age will guide their learning in the future.
Science at lower secondary level is described as a single Junior Certificate subject with three distinct sections, one of which is Chemistry. The Junior Certificate Science curriculum guidelines offer suggestions for classroom practice that can facilitate students in developing their knowledge, understanding, skills and attitudes in relation to science. However, they advise that ‘teachers should choose an appropriate teaching methodology for the achievement of the aims, objectives and learning outcomes specified in the syllabus’. This suggestion agrees with the new tendencies of the teaching learning process, that takes in consideration the different personalities of the students and the fact that each one learn in a different and personal way.
The paper describes also a good organization concerning the in-sevice training of chemistry teachers that are supported by the Second Level Support
Service (SLSS) and by a community of practitioners.
Irish teacher training institutions and courses are in a state of review and reform and the paper states that "teacher education systems include high quality instruction on both pedagogy and pedagogical content knowledge, a strong focus on research as a basis of teaching and learning, a close and systematic engagement with schools...". In few words, Ireland is dedicating a worthy effort to train its science teachers in order to get professional of teaching.




Date: 2013.07.11

Posted by Andrés Parra Sánchez (SPAIN)

Message: This Poster is a summary of a comprehensive research project with different strategies that aim to improve the teaching and learning of organic chemistry in Ireland. Its interest lies in the search for methods that allow addressing certain concepts within the field of organic chemistry involving a noticeable improvement in knowledge and development for both teachers and students. Its methodology is presented in three phases: 1) detection of the main topics with difficulty, as: formulation and nomenclature, spatial representation of molecules, mechanisms of reaction, etc; (2) Development of an intervention program that covers these topics such as use of molecular models, example of organic chemistry in real life, etc; (3) Implementation and evaluation of the plan proposed in the appropriate levels of the school. Very positive results following the implementation of this kind of intervention improving attitude, interest and understanding of organic chemistry, are obtained.
Particularly as a professor and professional researcher in the field of organic chemistry, I believe that the implementation of this type of program in schools and institutes of secondary education would improve the interest and knowledge of the students in this area. Organic chemistry is a subject that has been recently located in the first courses of the new curricular plans and it shows that students come to college without sufficient maturity to assimilate certain concepts of scientific matters.

Date: 2013.06.20

Posted by Françoise Derwa (Belgium)

Message: The paper can be considered like a tool able to illustrates the current status in Ireland for training teachers of Science and Chemistry reviewing also the opportunities and supports for Continuous Professional Development.
The range of concurrent (undergraduate) and consecutive (postgraduate) programs, is described thought practical tables that, divided in Colleges offering concurrent teacher training at Primary level and Colleges offering concurrent teacher training at Secondary level, explainshow in Ireland, initial teacher education programs are facilitated.
The section of the article in which are underlined the main important issues for chemistry teachers is the chapter 4 which is focused on the In-service Training and Supports for Science/Chemistry Teaching.
Here is underlined the importance for a science teacher to stay up-date. The subchapter “Continuous Professional Development” gives information about the Professional Development Service for Teachers which offers courses in Chemistry for non-specialists, Hands-on science enquiry activities and Schoology workshops.
Also the section “Other supports for professional development” has relevance explaining and giving information about the community of practitioners who, in Ireland, are providing excellent support to science teaching in general or chemistry teaching in particular.
The Irish Science Teachers Association (ISTA) hold frequent meetings of interest to Science teachers, the National Centre for Excellence in Maths and Science Teaching & Learning (NCE-MSTL) address issues in the teaching and learning in science and mathematics by conducting best practice and high level evidence-based research and also the ChemEd-Ireland annual conference held to provide an opportunity to share ideas and resources relevant to teaching chemistry and science in Ireland.
The paper focus more on the importance of teacher education and training.
It explain which are all the steps and courses that science teachers should attend with a special attention for the institutes available and their offers.
The Junior Certificate Science curriculum guidelines, for example, offer suggestions for classroom practice that can facilitate students in developing their knowledge, understanding, skills and attitudes in relation to science. The aims of the service include, assisting teachers to work together effectively in school, assisting non-subject specialists, and helping teachers to integrate ICT in science teaching and learning.
The role of ICT is so recognized and is also underlined the importance that Ireland give to the initial education with a special regards also for pre-service and in-service training for the teachers. Through such a system, teachers are directly updated about new methods and strategy related to teaching.

Date: 2013.06.05

Posted by Beata Brestenska (Slovakia)

Message: This paper is very interesting for me as teachers which prepare new chemistry teachers from methodology and content approach. This Ireland system is in re-organization but there exist several undergraduate and postgraduate teacher training programs that are state-funded and several of them are related with chemistry and different options and methods for pre- and in-service training and education of science teachers. We have not in Slovakia many of this methods which I find in the irish approach as integrated science courses (biology, chemistry, physics), where the teacher is not a specialist of all three disciplines, two levels(ordinary and higher) of science courses in the secondary scholl, existence of teacher associations holding meetings and providing support to their members etc.Our slovak approach is more classical teachers training in schools and teachers are invioleved in european education programmes. What we can take from this irish approach?- a/concurrent and consecutive routes to become a science teacher at the primary or the secondary levels, b/science at the primary school is moving from a traditional ‘nature studies’ approach towards an education which aims at making the pupils more familiar with a dynamical, scientifically literate investigation of the world, c/emphasis on subject matter knowledge in teacher education is invaluable to avoid transmission of misconceptions to the pupils and student Not all is possible to use now because our teachers preparing is relatign to our slovak certification law, but in this papers are very much interesting thinks about we should discuss.

In primary education, chemistry is not taught independently but makes part of a subject related with the environment. The paper makes reference to the importance given by the educational system in making young students appreciate the significant role of Science and Technology in our society and civilization. Teachers are trained so that they can teach science topics by using the experimental and inquiry-based approach.

In secondary education, chemistry is one of the three existing science topics/directions and it is interesting to note that it may be taught by non-chemists as well (namely either by physicists or biologists). Special importance is given to the ability of science teachers to advance professionally (in their teaching methods and pedagogies) in a similar way that scientific knowledge and technology is advancing. In this way, teachers will be able to help their students acquire a correct and realistic view of the usefulness of science in everyday life.

The need for correct and adequate content knowledge by the student-teachers is also emphasized, since teachers’ misconceptions are subsequently transferred to their students. Acquisition of pedagogical knowledge is considered equally important. It is impressive that practical training (300 teaching hours in a recognized school) is a prerequisite for officially entering the teaching profession. In addition, the attendance of afternoon practical workshops is obligatory for all newly appointed teachers during the first three years of service.

It is interesting to note that Ireland continuously invests in the improvement of the quality of teaching in order to update and upgrade its educational system.

Date: 2013.06.04

Posted by Jean-Luc Pieczynski (Belgium)

Message:
Why is this paper relevant?

This document establishes a picture of the training of future chemistry teachers in Ireland. It allows comparing the Irish situation with one’s country’s. If a difficulty is encountered in several countries, one can assume it does not depend on a specific policy.

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.

Teaching chemistry causes specific problems:
• Research always leads to more knowledge, new facts.
o What new knowledge deserves to be included in the curriculum?
o How to structures notions in a coherent and contemporary whole?
o How to manage the increasingly large gap between an unchanging school baggage and a still more developed discipline?
o How can the teacher maintain sufficient expertise to answer to the student (for instance on a current issue)?
• To motivate students, we need to start with situated contexts, with our environment.
o Chemical phenomena around us are very complex and require preliminary command of important knowledge. After all, the laboratory was imagined to simplify reality.
o Those contexts are generally anecdotic, which fails to motivate students.
o Managing these situations requires great expertise on the teacher’s part. The latter is generally more qualified to comprehend great conceptual models rather than characteristics present in every chemical phenomenon.
• Popularisation requires a great expertise in the discipline.
o Teachers do not receive a situated initial training, especially in chemistry.
• Showing chemistry requires equipment, protections, maintenance and waste management. It is a great investment for a school, for a discipline that takes up few hours in students’ education.

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.

It is often advised to integrate the three disciplines (physics, chemistry, biology) and to adopt an experimental and inquiry-based approach to science. If their relevance is indisputable, these educational guidelines increase the above-mentioned problems.

Date: 2013.05.23

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

Message: People interested in the different options and methods for pre- and in-service training and education of science teachers are advised to read this interesting contribution describing the Irish system. If we compare the evoked problems in Ireland with the situation in French-speaking Belgium, many similarities show up: (i) attempts to foster a positive attitude towards science already at the primary school by improving the training of primary school teachers; (ii) existence of integrated science courses (biology, chemistry, physics), where the teacher is not a specialist of all three disciplines; (iii) two levels (ordinary and higher) of science courses in the secondary school; (iv) existence of teacher associations holding meetings and providing support to their members; (v) maybe last but certainly not least, the Irish teacher training is being reformed in the present days. I guess such similarities are also met with other national educational systems. It is therefore particularly interesting to see how the Irish colleagues handle the problems with which they are confronted. At least the following points, chosen among those developed in Walsh’s contribution, deserve attention: (i) there exists both concurrent and consecutive routes to become a science teacher at the primary or the secondary levels: Walsh states that “The debate about the effectiveness of concurrent versus consecutive training continues.”; it will be interesting to follow this debate and its possible conclusions, in particular as far as the balance between subject matter, didactical and pedagogical contents is concerned; (ii) science at the primary school is moving from a traditional ‘nature studies’ approach towards an education which aims at making the pupils more familiar with a dynamical, scientifically literate investigation of the world; (iii) there exists in Ireland a ‘Junior Certificate Science Support Service’ which provides guidelines to help the teacher who is confronted with a subject outside his/her own discipline; (iv) emphasis on subject matter knowledge in teacher education is invaluable to avoid transmission of misconceptions to the pupils and student; (v) the teacher education programs are reviewed and accredited by a specialized ‘Teaching Council’ emphasizing the fact that it is a professional accreditation; (vi) stress is laid on the role of research in education, at an international level, and on the translation of the research results into school best practices. In conclusion, an illuminating contribution which could give food for thought to people in charge of improving and/or reforming national education and teacher pre- and in-service training systems.

Date: 2013.05.23

Posted by Karachaliou Ioanna (Greece)

Message: This paper deals with the subject of training of primary and secondary education science teachers in Ireland. The overall system is in re-organization. There exist several undergraduate and postgraduate teacher training programs that are state-funded and several of them are related with chemistry.

In primary education, chemistry is not taught independently but makes part of a subject related with the environment. The paper makes reference to the importance given by the educational system in making young students appreciate the significant role of Science and Technology in our society and civilization. Teachers are trained so that they can teach science topics by using the experimental and inquiry-based approach.

In secondary education, chemistry is one of the three existing science topics/directions and it is interesting to note that it may be taught by non-chemists as well (namely either by physicists or biologists). Special importance is given to the ability of science teachers to advance professionally (in their teaching methods and pedagogies) in a similar way that scientific knowledge and technology is advancing. In this way, teachers will be able to help their students acquire a correct and realistic view of the usefulness of science in everyday life.

The need for correct and adequate content knowledge by the student-teachers is also emphasized, since teachers’ misconceptions are subsequently transferred to their students. Acquisition of pedagogical knowledge is considered equally important. It is impressive that practical training (300 teaching hours in a recognized school) is a prerequisite for officially entering the teaching profession. In addition, the attendance of afternoon practical workshops is obligatory for all newly appointed teachers during the first three years of service.

It is interesting to note that Ireland continuously invests in the improvement of the quality of teaching in order to update and upgrade its educational system. In my opinion Greece should aim in the same direction. It has to be noted, that several efforts are made in Greece as well. However, they are still inadequate.

Date: 2013.05.16

Posted by Korfios Vagelis (Greece)

Message: This paper refers to the training received by the Irish primary and secondary school teachers, as well as to the training they should receive in order to be able to motivate their students to study science and chemistry in particular.

Teachers’ education takes place via undergraduate and graduate programmes in colleges and universities, and it is usually funded by the State. Student teachers of both levels (primary and secondary) must have received extensive specialized training in order to get the title of a teacher.

In primary education, chemistry is taught as a subject related with the environment. The curriculum aims at creating scientifically literate pupils with positive attitude towards science courses.
In secondary education, all three scientific subjects are unified; the science teacher needs to be able to teach physics, chemistry and biology at the same time. The teachers need to be able to choose the correct teaching approach in order to achieve the educational aims and to create and maintain student motivation and abilities. Teachers get plenty of support, also in the field of incorporating ICT methods in their teaching. Teachers have the possibility to even attend specially designed educational programmes in different “alternative” subjects (eg. Cosmetology) in order to enhance their knowledge. The need for constant update of teachers’ knowledge in relation with the latest scientific advancements is constantly pointed out.

In secondary education, chemistry is taught in two levels, a fact which at the moment creates several problems due to lack of infrastructure in some school units. The paper points out the problem of misconceptions that the teachers often have and which are subsequently transferred to their students. In addition, problems related with pedagogical knowledge have also been identified. The teacher training programs were transformed in 2009. A candidate teacher needs to complete 300 teaching hours of practical training before he/she can be accredited as a teacher. In addition, there is constant support provided via the internet and additional afternoon classes. The general conclusion, which should also be applied to the Greek reality, is that there is a need for constant training of the teachers and for investment in this sector, in order to achieve and improve the level of the provided education by our chemistry (and science) teachers.

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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