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Bernard Leyh & Viviane Collignon-Claessen
CIFEN – Centre interfacultaire de formation des enseignants (University of Liege)
Web Article
Future teachers, Researchers, Teachers
3 – 10 pages
There are two levels of science studies in secondary education. “Basic sciences” are defined as “necessary to manage one’s life as a citizen” while “general sciences” is destined to those who plan to follow a scientific or mathematics course of studies. There are 56 specific skills for chemistry in general sciences to develop along a certain amount of general skills common to chemistry, physics and biology: six for basic sciences and nine for general sciences. Those fifteen skills form the basis for any scientific training and can be divided as follows:

a. Mastering fundamental knowledge and solving concrete applications, directed, in basic sciences, to notions that promote an active involvement in a technological scientific society. The reach of those notions is wider in general sciences.
b. Discovering epistemological aspects of the discipline: importance of experiments and of induction, modelling, contribution of deductive logic, mathematization for general sciences.
c. Communication.
d. Interdisciplinarity, first within sciences, then in a larger perspective.

Based on this categorisation of skills the authors outline the options of chemistry didactics course: how to make future chemistry teachers able as much as possible to develop those skills among their students?

If commanding teaching skills is indispensable, it is not sufficient. Students must also learn to put knowledge and context in relation. Yet university education does not prepare to carry out such a transposition in secondary teaching. Rediscovering the language of secondary school is a culture shock for many students, especially when they did not at first destined themselves to teaching. To be prepared, the students are submitted in the first days to exercises called “micro teaching”, during which they prepare and present a lesson in front of their classmates and didacticians helped by pedagogic collaborators from secondary schools. The lessons en prepared in paired to foster collaboration, but presented individually. They have to include in their presentations the following stages:
- contextualisation;
- experimentation;
- using experimental results and possible modelling.
Each lesson is discussed to stress positive aspects, correct weaknesses and find ways to improve them. This first test is only one among many other lessons; there are 40 hours of internship in schools. Interns have to specify the skills they wish to develop among their pupils and the methodology they will use therefor. Interns are assessed in their progress to guide each pupil toward autonomy, better perception of scientific reasoning and, thus to a better ability to solve tasks adapted to their education level. During reflexive practice sessions, the methodologies used for pupils’ acquisition of general scientific skills are critically analysed.
Some of the internships must be performed in technical or vocational classes. It is a good chance to show pupils the concrete application of chemistry. Here future teachers need to learn (again) very technical notions, often absent in their previous training (medicinal chemistry, chemistry in cosmetics, cabinet-working, automobile sector…) and need even more than in general education to revise the way they give meaning to their teaching. Besides, students are asked to produce a work on the chemistry of an everyday life object, to acquaint them with the applications of the subject and improve their general knowledge. Finally, three lessons are dedicated to the skill, “solving concrete applications”, in which students experiment approaches susceptible to make pupils able to develop a logical and efficient problem solving methodology.
Students also meet various actors from different types of secondary education: headmasters, inspectors and science teachers.

The epistemological skills should help them perceive how sciences and chemistry are built so that they can, in their turn, show their pupils along that path. The base of chemistry, physics and biology is before anything experimental. To convince their pupils of this, teachers need a series of elegant, simple and safe experiments to include logically in a didactic perspective. These are also good for motivation. In this end, several laboratory sessions are organised addressing subjects of the last three years of secondary school; these involve secondary school teachers.

Communication skills concern methods to foster pupils’ communication skills. The teacher should be an example in this regard using clear and accurate language, structuring their speech, using the correct symbols and units and taking care of the iconography. Future teachers are encouraged to keep this in mind during all the previously mentioned activities.

To foster interdisciplinarity, several activities are performed in collaboration with physics and biology teachers and students: micro-teaching, lectures from teachers, epistemology lesson… Students of the three course of study can share and compare their experiences.

Finally, students are asked to create an evaluation exercise in order to assess the command of skills.
“Puzzle” is a biyearly online magazine published by the CIFEN (Centre Interfacultaire de Formation des Enseignants – Teachers Training Interfaculty Centre) aiming at dialogue and collaboration. This article is one chapter of a larger publication dedicated to teachers’ training today and the methods to develop skills among secondary school pupils.
This chapter is specifically dedicated to the training of chemistry teachers. Its two authors teach chemistry didactics at the University of Liege (ULg). It describes the training of future chemistry teachers, and particularly the methods they learn in order to develop specific skills among their pupils.

Comments about this Publication

Your comments are welcome

Date: 2013.07.12

Posted by Alberto Regis (Italy)

Message: The publication is a chapter dedicated to chemistry and to secondary teacher training in order to help them to develop skills in their students. It was published in 2007.
However, the concepts that are expressed and the solutions that are proposed in order to achieve a good teacher training are still the subject of conflict between alternative conceptions both about the nature of science and the didactic approach of reference.
From the explanation of 9 skills considered essential for students who want to achieve a scientific or mathematical training, the authors identify four families of skills from which they sketch the features that a course in the teaching of chemistry has to help: how to help future chemistry teachers to bring their students to develop the 9 skills explained?
The aspects that can be considered the most interesting concern the relevance attributed to the epistemological approach, to modeling and to interdisciplinarity in the learning-teaching of experimental sciences. Regarding chemistry, it gives great prominence to the experimental work which requires intellectual and essential actions: the formulation of scientific hypotheses, the design of complementary experiences, the development of models and theories, their verification or refutation. It is believed that the historical and epistemologic references can and should suggest practical teaching applications. The intent is to help teachers to perceive (the term “understand” is never used) how to build science, particularly the specificity of chemistry, which should allow their future students to take a piece of this journey.
Unfortunately, the authors highlight an inductivist approach to the idea of science evolution. They believe that scientific research origins by experimental facts, but a fact is significant in light of a scientific theory and the construction of scientific knowledge does not begin with the observation but with the question on the problem. The problem solving in this approach to teaching is not sufficiently considered.

Date: 2013.05.22

Posted by Adriana Tafrova-Grigorova (Bulgaria)

Message: The authors of this article teach didactics of chemistry at the University of Liege, Belgium. They share their experience in training of pre-service chemistry teachers, particularly the development of certain competences that put scientific knowledge and real life context in relation. The methodology of the future teacher training is aimed at fifteen basic and general skills such as: application of fundamental scientific concepts, theories and principles, discovery of the epistemology of science, experimental skills, use of the experimental results and modeling, communication skills and interdisciplinary approach. The detailed description of the steps followed by the interns to prepare their lessons is a useful example both for teachers and educators. Two aspects of these activities focus a special attention. The first of them concerns the development of communication skills: clear and accurate language, appropriate structure of the speech, use of the correct symbols and units. The second is related to a very important and in many cases, underestimated issue: the development of interdisciplinary competences. Future teachers have to connect chemistry knowledge with biological, physical and technological knowledge or context in such a way that pupils could perceive the importance and benefits of chemistry. Another useful approach for science teachers is the proposed activities to assess competences acquired by pupils. Assessment of competences is a one of the most difficult aspects of the assessment of students’ achievements and needs delicate handling. It would be of greater use for readers if authors proposed more details on the methodology of assessment of competences in the field of science.
The outlined methodology of preparation of pre-service chemistry teachers would be of interest for all academics involved in teacher training as well as their students – future 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.