The 4th edition of the EAPRIL Best Research & Practice Project Award – 2015
The EAPRIL Best Research & Practice Project Award aims to recognise the best project by practitioner researchers in the field of education, learning and instruction, and training and development. If you are managing or taking part in a project of which you think it will contribute to educational practice and the entire EAPRIL community, we encourage to submit your project!
The following projects are nominated for the 2015 Award:
Nominated project 1
MobiLLab “Hightech-Laboratory for Secondary Schools” – An Informal Learning Research and Development Program
Prof. Dr. Nicolas Robin, Director, Institute for Science Teacher Education
University of Teacher Education St.Gallen, Switzerland
High-tech is everywhere in our daily lives. As school children are confronted with the complexity of scientific instruments and procedures they experience both fascination and confusion, yet too seldom do they see applications nor consider their own questions about scientific and technological processes. In Switzerland there are currently more than 14’000 jobs for scientists, engineers, lab assistants, technicians and so on that cannot be occupied by qualified professionals. The educational system has focused for decades on languages and neglected science and technology. For teens it is not “cool” to be good at science or math. The mobiLLab program was designed to make a difference: mobiLLab introduces young people to high-tech equipment in a relaxed, low-pressure atmosphere that encourages them to ‘poke around,’ explore, and discover what interests them. For more than six years, mobiLLab has been successfully providing secondary-school children and teachers with sophisticated instruments such as an infrared camera, a spiroergometer and an ion chromatograph, which schools cannot afford to buy on their own. Twelve experimental posts are transported by the red mobiLLab van and within 30 minutes three student teachers and their mentors unpack them and set up the experimental stations in designated room(s) of the host school. The pupils have been prepared before the mobiLLab visit by their teacher. Each child works for half a day exploring their own ideas at three to four different workplaces. MobiLLab offers pupils a unique opportunity to develop inquiry-based learning activities with high-tech instruments on the basis of a proven pedagogical framework that integrates several learning opportunities: 1) teachers learn about the mobiLLab experimental posts at an annual pre-season training, 2) pupils conduct preparatory learning through mobiLLab website materials, 3) pre-service teachers at the University for Teacher Education in St. Gallen master the science and learning goals for four experimental posts, 4) during a mobiLLab visit, pupils work independently through experiments and can ask for coaching from pre-service teachers. The online preparatory materials and experimental post materials support pupils as the explore questions from their daily lives, and also to consider current issues of sustainable development and health. Furthermore mobiLLab also fosters the scientific and technological education of in-service and pre-service teachers. For more than 3 years, mobiLLab has been part of a special research program about out-of-school education projects; evaluation results from a first phase of the project have already resulted in program improvements.
Nominated project 2
The data team procedure for professional development and school improvement
Dr. Kim Schildkamp, Associate Professor and project leader
University of Twente, the Netherlands
Schools all over the world are looking for strategies to improve their quality. Effective data use (or data-based decision making) can help schools in improving their quality in terms of increased student achievement (Carlson, Borman, & Robinson, 2011). Data in the context of schools can be defined as information that is systematically collected and organized to represent some aspect of education. Schools have access to all kinds of quantitative (e.g., student achievement results, survey data) and qualitative data (e.g., classroom observations, student interviews). However, teachers often do not use data effectively (Schildkamp & Kuiper, 2010). A majority of educational decisions are based on intuition and limited observations (Ingram, Louis, & Schroeder, 2004), and these decisions do not always contribute to student learning. Therefore, valuable time and resources are lost with the implementation of new instructional methods, which, for example, do not coincide with the needs of the students (Earl & Katz, 2006).
To support teachers in using data effectively, we developed the “the data team procedure”. Data teams consist of a data expert, 4-6 teachers and 1-2 school leaders. They collaboratively learn how to use data to solve an educational problem within the school, using a systematic approach. The data team procedure is an iterative and cyclic procedure consisting of eight steps (see Figure 1) (Schildkamp & Ehren, 2013). The data team members are trained in the data team procedure by a coach for two years. The coach visits the data team’s school every month for a meeting and facilitates working according to the systematic procedure. Teams also participate in two data analysis workshops for more specific support. Data teams are a form of professional development for teachers, with the ultimate goal of improving school quality.
The data team procedure was piloted in four schools in 2009. Based on the success of the pilot more schools became interested. We have worked together with more than 60 schools, and several coaches, national and local policy makers, and researchers in three different countries (The Netherlands, England, and Sweden) to further implement, study and improve the procedure. Research results show that the data team procedure can lead to professional development (e.g., increased data literacy) and school improvement (e.g., increased student achievement).
Nominated project 3
Learning Mathematics through new Communication Factors (Le-MATH)
Dr. Gregory Makrides, President
Cyprus Mathematical Society, Cyprus
The Le-MATH project is a COMENIUS LLP Multilateral Project aiming to ignite the interest of 9-18 year old pupils in mathematics through the development and implementation of two unique and innovative methods that can be used in any school environment. The project represents a unique collaboration between different countries with 13 partners coming from universities, schools, math associations, foundations, theatre schools, art schools and enterprises.
The project targeted negative conceptions, which are evident in today’s educational reality, where often both pupils and parents consider mathematics to be a difficult and boring subject. The traditional pedagogical methods used in the classroom are similar across the globe and they are basically remained unchanged in the last few decades. By taking into account today’s reality and students’ interests, the project attempted to put mathematics back in the playing field of education.
In order to attract the interest of the pupils, the consortium tried to employ methods and strategies that combine fun with education, to make learning more attractive and enjoyable and to strengthen their skills for creative thinking. These methods can be also adapted to fit other subjects of the education curricula and different age groups, as they were created in such a manner so they can be also offered as in-service training courses to teachers. More specifically the two methods created through this project are:
- MATHeatre: Teaching and learning mathematics through math theatre activities
- MATHFactor: Teaching and learning mathematics through math communication activities
The MATHeatre method includes the development of sample teaching material and methodologies for teaching mathematics to 9-18 year old pupils, through the use of specially designed theatre scenarios. The method includes the development of guidelines to teachers on how to design math theatre scenarios, how to apply them, how to motivate pupils and on how to organize theatre festivals or competitions. The development of communication skills and creativity is a fundamental part of the methodology.
In a similar vein, the aim of the MATHFactor is to encourage students, to stimulate their imagination and to enable them to express and communicate successfully mathematical ideas using communication skills in front of a non-specialist audience. The MATHFactor method brings communication activities, which are widely spread today to the classroom (e.g. social media, TV-shows and games) and use them as methods and tools to improve learning, to stimulate the interest of the pupils, and to actively involve them in the learning process.
The project also equips pupils with further competences that can be used outside the classroom like cooperation, conversation and presentation skills, openness and creativity.
Nominated Project 4
Adaptive Medical Profession Assessor (Med-Assess)
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Madjid Fathi, Institute of Knowledge Based Systems & Knowledge Management
University of Siegen, Germany
The Med-Assess project focused on the measurement of the job knowledge and general mental ability of job applicants and employees in the medical field, in particular nurses and formal caregivers.
Specifically, Med-Assess was targeted at evaluating and assessing the domain knowledge (job knowledge) of nurses, job applicants, and students. The system was realized as a web-based application that employs multiple-choice tests to assess the job knowledge of nurses, and to recommend appropriate learning content for further training and education.
The focus was on the selection of employees on the basis of an assessment of their work related knowledge (e.g. treatment of patients suffering neurological diseases), and the provision of recommendations for remedial training courses, qualification measures, or required learning material. Moreover, Med-Assess supported Vocational Education and Training (VET) on the job and furthers competencies in the context of human health services and the medical profession. The Med-Assess project was specifically focused on, and tailored to, the health labor market in Germany.
The ontological approach of Med-Assess is based on the Corvinno developed STUDIO system. It utilizes ontologies to support a variety of knowledge intensive processes, including situations of learning and assessment. In Med-Assess, it reinforces the analysis and assessment of nursing job knowledge. This approach matches nursing requirements and nurses’ domain specific knowledge, and provides a logical framework for the assessment of end-users (i.e. job applicants, nurses and caregivers) by tailoring labor market needs and domain specific knowledge.
Med-Assess is the winner of the Theta Award 2015 for the Person-Job-Fit Innovation, and has received an “excellent” evaluation from the German national agency (NA-BiBB) in 2015. It was also selected as a good practice by the NA-BiBB for the domain of “New Skills and New Jobs” in 2014.