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Research and Innovation

CASTeL doctoral graduates

Research Spotlight is a series where we shine a spotlight on the research being undertaken in DCU research centres. This month we are looking at the Centre for the Advancement of STEM Teaching and Learning. You can find an archive of the previously featured research centres here.    

CASTeL is Ireland’s largest research centre in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education with 24 PIs and 13 PhD students from across the Faculty of Science and Health and the DCU Institute of Education. CASTeL PIs are involved in conducting evidence-based research and advising on the development of innovative and effective curriculum, to advance the teaching and learning of STEM education, across the continuum from early childhood to postgraduate level. Established in 2001, CASTeL is uniquely placed to provide interdisciplinary research because of its diverse range of expertise within STEM education disciplines (Mathematics, Science, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Digital Learning and Technology).

CASTeL’s research priorities are:

  • Evidence based research in STEM curriculum, pedagogy and learning.
  • Inquiry and innovation in STEM education practices and policies at all levels.
  • Science and Mathematics Initial Teacher Education.
  • Practitioner research and Continuing Professional Development in STEM education.

Current research projects:

CASTeL current research is funded through national and European programmes, including, Science Foundation Ireland, Irish Research Council, EU H2020, EU Erasmus Plus, SCoTENS, Higher Education Authority and Global Consortium for Sustainability Outcomes. Several projects are carried out through collaborative actions with national and international enterprise partners, including, RDS, SEAI, Accenture, Intel, Lego and Microsoft.

  • Open Schools for Open Societies
  • Supporting primary school teachers with teaching sustainability
  • RDS STEM Learning Programme - Developing primary school teachers’ pedagogical and conceptual knowledge of science and mathematics
  • TEALEAF - Challenging misconceptions in science
  • Outdoor learning for primary and early learning childhood education.
  • Enhancing Student Engagement through the Outdoor Spaces and the St Patrick’s Campus Community Garden
  • Differential Equations for Physicists - Investigating Students’ Difficulties with Differential Equations in Physics
  • Smartclass - Supporting teachers to integrate tablet technology in the Junior Cycle classroom
  • Energy in Action  - Enhancing the teaching and learning of Energy at Junior Cycle
  • Facilitating Lesson study in Mathematics
  • Lesson Planning Incorporating Technology to Support Inclusion in the Primary School Mathematics Classroom
  • Lego Education Innovation Studio - a dedicated interactive learning hub to help DCU student teachers and Irish schools develop innovative and creative approaches to teaching STEM.
  • A Cross Border Study Connecting Initial Teacher Education Students
  • Mind the Gap -  Addressing the Transition from Primary to Post Primary Mathematics Education
  • MindRising - transforming the teaching of history in schools by using Minecraft, design thinking, digital storytelling and games-based learning
  • Lesson Planning Incorporating Technology to Support Inclusion in the Primary School Mathematics Classroom
  • Improving Gender Balance in Physics.
  • These projects are core to CASTeL’s research objectives to improve the quality of STEM education and raise young people’s awareness and engagement in STEM and careers in STEM. Further information on research projects is available from http://castel.ie/research/

PhD Researchers:

Three PhD students, graduated in the DCU Spring Graduation Ceremony. Dr. Leeanne Hinch’s research focused on the understanding of Inquiry and assessment of inquiry learning by pre-service science Teachers. Dr. Paul Grimes’s research involved professional vision and pre-service science teachers while Dr. Enda Carr’s research investigated promoting student understanding of the Particulate Nature of Matter through Inquiry Based Learning, visualization and modelling. Four new PhD students have joined the centre and are conducting research on topics including Mathematical identity; Problem solving, Scientific literacy; Irish Physical Sciences Curricula impact on student learning and achievement, Assessment for learning and feedback in the classroom.  Currently, 6 of the PhD students in CASTeL are registered on a part-time basis as they are full-time practicing teachers at primary and second level. In recent months, CASTeL has hosted several visiting researchers including Filomena do Rosário Alves Rodrigues from the Universidade de Lisboa, Marina Birkenstock, University of Kassel; and Cláudia Colomina Guitart from University of Barcelona.

Research Conferences/ Workshops:

In the coming months CASTeL PIs are hosting two major STEM education conferences which will attract over 2,000 researchers to DCU.

  • 3rd-7th July 2017 - a trio of international physics education conferences, GIREP-EPEC-ICPE2017, with a theme of Bridging Research and Practice in Physics Teaching and Learning.
  • 21st-25th August 2017- the 12th Conference of the European Science Education Research Association ESERA2017, co-hosted by Dublin City University and the University of Limerick with a theme of Research, practice and collaboration in science education.

Earlier this year, CASTeL PIs successfully hosted the CERME10 – the 10th Congress of European Research in Mathematics Education, which was held from the 1st – 5th February 2017 and attracted over 850 mathematics education researchers to DCU.

On 6th - 7th June, CASTel will host its 7th summer school for science teachers. The theme of this year’s school is on Enhancing student learning in Science and workshops will be facilitated and informed by the findings of CASTeL PhD researchers.

STEM Education and Engagement:

CASTeL PIs are actively involved in leading several education and public engagement initiatives such as Science Olympiads, SCIFEST@DCU, Busking Physics, STEM Teacher Internships and Science on Stage.  Earlier this month, CASTeL Director Dr. Eilish McLoughlin received a DCU President’s Award for Engagmeent for her leadership in public engagement and education in STEM.