Work Content

Summarising Chart

Work Package 1:
Investigation of actual use and value of informatic tools

Work Package 2:
Investigation on the difficulties in teaching and learning graphic representations and their use in science classroom

Work Package 3:
Investigation on teacher transformations when implementing innovative teaching strategies

Work Package 4:
Investigation on teachers' transformation trends when implementing innovations

Work Package 5:
Materials for teacher trainers

Work Package 6:
International workshop and proceedings

Work Package 7:
Guidelines for policy-makers of teacher training programs

Investigation of the actual use and value of informatic tools

The work package is articulated in elements in order to investigate the different significant aspects of the studied area. The transversal aspects have been the basis for the construction of guidelines and materials.

In order to facilitate the merging of previous experiences and the convergence toward the objectives of the WP, all participants have contributed to the work choosing the responsibility on some content area or some computer tool.

The elements of the package are:

1 State of the art on the use and value of informatic tools.

The conditions for using technological tools in science classes of the 5 european countries were compared. The study of the updated literature and Surveys at nationale level about the use of computers has provided the state-of-the-art that  asures the quality of such analysis

Secondary schools showing important variations in the use of several informatic tools in the science and technology curriculum, both as regards level of use and conceptualizations of their function, have been identified.

The different uses given to the informatic tools and the circumstances to implement them, in the countries involved in the statement, has been compared and reported.
A report about the conditions for science teachers to implement such tools have  resulted.

2 Investigation of actual use of informatic tools. Case studies

After knowing different levels of use and the diversity of functions assigned to some informatic tools, some case studies about their use has been udertaken. An in depth analysis has been carried out about:
  A) - Factors wich favour or hinder the take-up of these tools in classes
 B) - How teachers incorporate these tools into the curriculum.

For this detailed study, about 10 teachers per country were selected.
Researchers from Italy, Norway, France, UK and Spain have undertaken such case studies (about 50 case studies were done).
The selected schools have been prepared to make extensive use of informatic tools in teaching science as: computational modelling, real-time experiments or simulation. 
Software tools were available to the schools together with appropriate curriculum support materials. Strategies about their implementation were suggested.

A researcher attended selected classes and collected data through:

  • interviews with teacher
  • classroom observation
  • video recording
  • copies of work given to do by students (worksheets, test questions, etc)

A number of teachers were asked particularly to identify successful and unsuccessful instances of their use of each tool and particularly the transformations between the proposed materials and those put in practice. 

The investigation of the gaps between the intentions of the designers of appropiate materials for the use of different informatic and displaying tools and the way teachers put into practice the suggested teaching strategies have been the most important aspect.

The coordinator of this workpackage 1 is the UK team.

Investigation on the difficulties in teaching and learning graphic representations and their use in science classroom

In science teaching but also in all media presentations, the use of visual languages is more and more usual. Sciences classes, since the use of visual language is frequent in Science, are the most common places where students learn to interpret and construct graphs and different symbolic representations. 
The Gestalt theory of perception has still influence in the teacher's minds and the use of drawings, pictures, graphs of all kinds seems to assure the success of learning. Always it is accepted that the use of the symbolic representations helps the understanding of underlying concepts or ideas. But this assertion needs to be evidenced because it is already well known that reading visual languages is not as easy as it is supposed.  This have been a basis for training teachers in the way they could overcome the students' difficulties.
Informatic tools have greatly extended the importance of symbolic languages. Although we  worked also  with paper and pencil and printed representations, we made full use of a range of computer tools, including generalised tools such as spreadsheets and specialized tools such as DataDesk. 

All participants contributed to the work in some content areas in order to facilitate the merging of previous experiences and the convergence toward the objectives of the WP: all of the STTIS teams were in charge of some specific content area.

This WP is articulated in 3 inter-related elements in order to facilitate the construction of guidelines and materials which are all suitable in an EU perspective and take maximum advantage of the collaboration expertise.

1 Analysis of the students difficulties in reading visual language

We planned to investigate the obstacles found for secondary students in reading schema, icons, maps, diagrams and graphs (functional and non functional).
A questionnaire were administered and a qualitative analysis were  done in order to detect students difficulties, to classify them in a systematic way and to know the gap between the intentions of the graphs designers and pupils' understandings. Preliminary studies showed that the fundamental issue in interpreting symbolic languages is their translation into concrete languages when making meaning with them. The intention have been not to quantify the number of students' difficulties or to validate their frequency in secondary school population but to identify and describe them accurately.

2 Teachers interpretations of students' difficulties with visual languages

The distortions made by students when they have to read information provided by any symbolic representation ahve been the basis for a questionnaire with teachers about their interpretations of these difficulties. A qualitative analysis allowed to know how teachers understand how pupils interpret the information coded in multiple representational ways. 

3 Investigating the types of strategies used by teachers

After identifying different meanings given by students to visual languages in secondary science courses and knowing teachers' ideas about students' difficulties in this respect, we were able to investigate the types of strategies used by teachers when trying to help students to interpret these coded messages.

Some didactical material have been prepared in order to help teachers to use symbolic representations in their classes. Two main research tasks were done:a) to determine factors which favour or hinder their success for overcoming students dfficulties in reading different symbolic representations.
b) to provide arguments explaining the changes done when using such innovative representations during their teaching. The coordinator of the elements concerning the work package on reading visual language is Spain team


Investigation on teacher transformations when implementing innovative teaching strategies

The coordination of the elements concerning the way teachers interpret curricular innovations were done by France team 

Research about teaching has influenced to a large extent the design and implementation of  new teaching sequences  The design of these sequences takes into account the learners' common ideas. We need to work on innovations that are very well specified in written texts, are based on previous detailed analysis of students' and teachers' conceptual difficulties, and involve very precise teaching strategies. 
Because of previous work on them, such sequences are in particular available in the domains of Motion and Force (in Italy)  Optics and Waves, Color (in France), Energy and Change (in UK and Spain). 
When teachers confront an innovation, they do not act as passive transmitters of the intentions that inspired its authors. A critical point for successful take up is how they receive the corresponding information.
In France, where the national syllabus and the official instructions are very explicit and detailed, one of these sequences, which concerning Optics, was included in the French national syllabus (1993). The instructions were supposed to be followed rather strictly but, as this didn't happen, they intended to research distortion effects in connection with teachers' conceptual difficulties on specific topics, while trying to see if these effects can be accounted for by some general factors.
After preliminary work from the France team, we thought that at least some of these factors should be investigated with reference to the following line of analysis: schema/ materiality/ concept. More precisely, students and teachers seem to have a difficulty in situating properly schema versus concepts and to ascribe an undue material substrate to very abstract concepts. 
These first French results have been taken further. Partners from other countries  followed similar research in order to be able to compare the results and to know how universal are the results or how extensive is the bias that each national reality imposes.

1. Analysis of the interpretations given by teachers to the official instructions

In order to investigate how innovation designers' intentions are actually understood and used by teachers, the partners involved in this WP analysed possible blockages or misunderstandings in the process of interpreting the official instructions referring different subject matters will be used.
A first phase consisted on interviews about how teachers understand the written texts that specify innovators' intentions.

2 Analysis of textbooks after a change in curriculum

A second step consisted on looking for what the french textbook writers have chosen to emphasize, and how they present the concepts to be taught. The role played by schema in these books, the comments made by the writer and their relationship with the written text have been especially scrutinized. The risks of ascribing an excessive material content to concepts in interpreting schema were assessed.

3 Analysis of teacher's practice

In order to envisage the factors that favour the way teachers interpret the new proposed teaching strategies, an analysis of teachers' practice were done. The reactions during teaching sessions have been analyzed as well as the visions from teachers of "successful" and "not successful" episodes,
In order to be able to make comparisons, the France, Great Britain, Italy and Spain teams  worked on this analysis. Sequences concerning different Science subject matters as Optics, Energy and Motion were distributed between the countries involved.

 We have used techniques as the following: 

  • interviews before and after teaching
  • class observation 
  • video recording.
  • analysis of the written questions (control sheets) used by teachers to assess their pupils' conceptual achievement.
The analysis of teacher's practice and its interpretation from different teachers and across different subject matters have allowed us to make internal content-specific reports from each topic studied by the different partners.

4 Inferring transversal components across contents

The analysis and interpretation of different teacher practices across different subject matters have allowed the researchers to make specific content reports about the topic chosen by each partner. From them it has been able  to produce a report on strategies across different subject matters.
This transversal report is an important point of STTIS research. It is envisaged to show the general factors that determine/favour the way teachers interpret innovations on teaching scientific contents.

Responsible: FRANCE team


Investigation on teachers' transformation trends when implementeing innovations

Because of the content of this WP the coordination responsibility was taken by the Project coordinator, working with all groups.

WP 1 allowed to know the gap between the intentions of the designers of appropriate materials for the use of informatic tools and the way teachers put in practice the suggested teaching strategies and the transformations done using these materials (when it happens)

WP 2  detected the gap between students interpretations of representations and the meaning given for the teachers of these students interpretations. WP2 allowed also a good description of the strategies used by teachers when trying to overcome students difficulties to read coded messages and  allowed to compare them with those proposed.

WP 3  evidenced some gaps between the intentions of the innovation' designers and the way teachers interpret the suggested teaching strategies. 

The results of the preceeding work packages were synthesized to show teachers' transformation trends when implementing innovations and find plausible  factors that determine the way they interpret innovations.

This is a crucial work package that have been implemented inferring some transformation trends from the results across different representations, across different informatic tools and across different teaching strategies on some subject matters. 
As these results come from parallels and simultaneous works in different countries we have identify the generality of the transformation trends or their context dependence.


Materials for teacher trainers

go back

By this stage we have evidenced some gaps between the intentions of the innovation designers and the way teachers interpret the suggested teaching strategies, the way teachers undertake the use of some new technologies and their difficulties for teaching how to read the information got in a representation, that is, we  have evidenced how poorly and in what distorted form innovations the information society put within one's reach arrive to the students ***
Materials for teacher training courses taking into account the previous results have been designed and elaborated. They have the following characteristics:

  1. They try to make teachers' trainers aware of the factors for successful and unsuccessful take-up of innovations in teaching strategies and their own use.
  2. They are directly usable in teacher training sessions aimed at fostering better adaptation to innovations.
  3. They give explanations about how to use some informatic tools avoiding the retroaction of the innovations and, at time, promoting the adaptations to the specific environments and circumstances.
  4. Many kind of representations have been used in order to give the informations. Messages for teachers
  5. They are focused on Science specific topics, giving specific references on them and avoiding the ambiguity or the generalisations.
Suggestions about how to use the materials in teacher training courses are included as guidelines for implementation.

The Italy team has done the unification of the elaborated and refined materials

International workshop and proceedings

The results of STTIS have been disseminated, through symposia, within the European Science Education Research Association (ESERA) and the GIREP Conference (Group International pour la Recherche sur l'Enseignement de la Physique). The dissemination of the results is guaranteed through  International Journals and the conference proceedings.

The contributions of the STTIS Consortium to the International Conference: Physics Teacher Education Beyond 2000- Physics Teacher Training in an Information Society (PHYTEB-PTTIS Conference), are reported in Work Package 6. The PHYTEB-PTTIS Conference is a GIREP Conference, organized in Barcelona by the coordinator of the STTIS project. In this Conference the results of the project will be confronted with other research works. 
Responsible: SPAIN team


Guidelines for policy-makers of teacher training programs

The communication and diffusion of the results of educational researches such as those we propose is a very crucial aspect. If public funds have to cover, general requirements or needs, some dissemination policy has to previewed. As the adaptation to the nationale circumstances should be required, at a time, that european founds have resulted from the research, some specific guidelines have been elaborated. Therefore we intend to summarize all the work in a set of recommendations and guidelines for designers of teacher training programs.
In the five countries of the participant groups the teacher training processes have followed different dynamics and rules. The role of policy-makers, teacher training institutions and school authorities is different. We intend to aim at two different objectives, in the framework of an EU information society: - articulate guidelines of general validity for all EU countries; 
- specify, where necessary, some recommendations to take into account specific characteristics of the five national contexts involved. The adaptation to the national circumstances is a feeling everyday more common in a moment when human beings have to deal well with the globalization, the homogeneity, the shares by one side and, by the other side, to deal well with the own identity, the self-improvement, the need of undifferenciation from the others, etc.