A country’s competitiveness starts not on the factory floor or in the engineering lab, it starts in the classroom. – Lee Iacocca
The Rocard Report Science Education Now: A New Pedagogy for the Future of Europe can be seen as the kick-off for all those European projects focusing on inquiry-based methods in science and maths education.
The Rocard Report recommends the German SINUS and SINUS-Transfer programs as a model for large scaled European projects aiming improvement of science and mathematics education: “The impact of Sinus-Transfer is very positive. The evaluations conducted show significant positive impact on student attainment, especially for weaker students. Large numbers of teachers have shown strong support and enthusiasm for this initiative”.
What have been the key elements that led the SINUS project to such great success and positive validation by the European Union? In fact, the SINUS project (“Increasing Efficiency in Mathematics and Science Education”) has been the largest school development project that has ever been carried out in Germany. Starting in 1998, it is still going on in some German countries or has been implemented in a large number of follow-up projects.
The key elements of SINUS
- Teachers as experts
Sustainable changes in learning and teaching cannot be decreed „from above“. They must develop „from within“. Teachers in the programme are seen as the experts in teaching and learning who are capable and responsible for further developing and improving their own classroom teaching.
- Eleven modules as framework
The SINUS concept is based on an array of problem areas (the so called modules) which may arise in math and science lessons. Those areas frame the work of the involved teachers and allow them to act in a self-directed and cooperative way. The modules leave room for supplementation and individual development, but are clearly embedded in a basic concept. They are based on an in-depth analysis of science and mathematics education.
– Developing a task culture
– Learning from mistakes
– Gaining basic knowledge
– Cumulative learning
– Interdisciplinary working
– Motivating girls and boys
– Cooperative learning
– Autonomous learning
– Progress of competencies
– Quality assurance
Teachers working on those modules have access to scientifically-based materials and worked-out examples referring to the modules. Guidance by the coordinators and in-service training is also based on the modules.
- Networks as structuring elements
However diverse and flexible the topics and the individual work at school may be, such a large scaled project needs very clear structures to ensure a successful work on common goals. This has been realised by networks on different levels.
About 6 – 10 participating schools (SINUS network schools) are grouped around an experienced school (pilot school). The teachers receive advice and practical support from the so called set coordinators, who are mainly science and mathematics teachers of the pilot schools. The set coordinators are also responsible for organizing training sessions and support from external experts. (Fig. 1)
- Cooperation as the main objective
Cooperation and collaboration on different levels amongst teachers play an exceptional role in the SINUS philosophy. Cooperation takes place within the department of a school, and also beyond the individual school. Exchange of ideas and experiences on a state level and support on an interstate level promote and strengthen cooperation with local implications. In addition the teachers cooperate both in an intra and inter-disciplinary manner.
This concept of intensive cooperation was very new in Germany and one of the main factors of the great success. It was also highly appreciated by the participating teachers.
Already in 2004 the SINUS project was seen as a great success. E. g. the German newspaper “DIE ZEIT“ wrote: „True-to-life problems rather than schematic arithmetic, individual learning rather than swatting up on formulas at one pace for all. Such a reform in teaching mathematics is what SINUS stands for. SINUS has shown how to change instruction successfully.”
- SINUS goes Europe – From SINUS to Fibonacci
SINUS-Transfer has been one of the pillars of the large scaled EU-Fibonacci Project. Since SINUS-Transfer was a national project the contents (materials, methods etc.) were almost exclusively available in German language. To make central aspects of SINUS available for Non-German speaking people, selected documents have been translated into English language.
- Materials free for use –in German and English language:
The official websites:
In German: www.sinus-transfer.uni-bayreuth.de
In English: www.sinus-transfer.eu
The booklet “Auf dem Weg zu einem veränderten Mathematikunterricht” gives detailed information in German.
Selected materials in English are available at: www.sinus-international.net.
The booklet “SINUS Bavaria” gives examples of the realization of SINUS ideas at Bavarian schools. The individual articles show how teachers use the SINUS modules as guidelines for their activities in the classroom.
Article written by: Dagmar Raab, Scientix Deputy Ambassador