On June 16–17th, the 7th edition of the Science and Mathematics Education Conference (SMEC) hosted by the Centre for the Advancement of STEM Teaching and Learning, CASTeL was held in Dublin City University.
The event was an excellent opportunity to reflect on STEM teacher education. In particular, the conference brought together a series of talks on a number of topics regarding teacher education -in general- as well as about in-service and continuous professional education, specifically.
In addition, the plenary sessions were quite outstanding. The conference opened with a talk by Dr. Andreas Stylianides, titled “Intervention-based research in mathematics teacher education” where he argued that more extensive research on the design of interventions of short duration could help alleviate relevant prospective teachers’ subject knowledge based on data from a 4 year experiment in a mathematics course.
This was followed by Prof. Shirley Simon, with the presentation “Advancing the professional development of science teachers through engagement with research”, drawing on the theory that teachers professional learning can be advanced by different types of engagement with research and arguing how these can allow teachers to be reflective and critical on their own practice and learning.
The third keynote speaker, Dr. Sara Hennessy, reflected on her work in the UK and Africa through the session “School-based professional development for interactive teaching with technology: lessons learned from initiatives in UK and Africa”, dedicated to school based teacher professional development, specifically in the area of interactive pedagogy in technology supported learning contexts.
On the second day, Prof. Thomas Guskey explored factors that contribute to the effectiveness of professional learning in “Preparing the ground: considerations on cultivating scientific inquiry through curriculum” and accounted for different levels of professional learning evaluation.
Last, Dr. John O’Reilly, in “Designing and Evaluating Effective Professional Learning” talked about the importance of focusing IBSE in increasing student engagement and showed how “empirical work on how power dynamics in classrooms reflects IBSE will lead to evidence of the impact of a curriculum structure on student agentic engagement in STS themes”.
In relation to Scientix, the last publication under the Scientix Observatory, titled “Is there a shortage of STEM teachers in Europe?” and written by Caroline Kearney, was presented. In it, the author expands on the fact (extracted from her previous report “Efforts to increase students’ interest in pursuing Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics studies and careers” – C. Kearney) that a 37% of countries reporting on the publication claimed that initiatives are planned or in place to address the issue of recruiting more STEM teachers in schools. Thus, this last article tries to answer further questions about the same topic, in particular: “Are the countries which reported national initiatives in this area, the only ones facing a shortage of STEM teachers?”, “What are the main reasons behind this shortage and are these reasons similar across countries?” and “Why are other countries not facing a shortage?” in order to complement the first analysis provided in the aforementioned report, and to probe the issue further.
All in all, the conference was a great opportunity to reflect on different topics around the field of STEM teaching and training and to present relevant theories, ongoing investigations and reports on the matter.
Article written by: Marina Jiménez Iglesias. Project Officer, European Schoolnet.