Minister Quinn launches €3.75m science education initiative
Ruairí Quinn TD, Minister for Education and Skills today launched a €3.75m EU-funded initiative which will revolutionise the way science is taught and assessed in the classroom. The long-term aim of the project is to generate a greater interest in science subjects at school, improve the take-up of science at third level and also increase the number of skilled graduates for employment in science and technology.
The project, SAILS (Strategies for Assessment of Inquiry Learning in Science), is part of the European Framework Programme (FP7), and is coordinated by a team from Dublin City University, led by Dr. Odilla Finlayson, Dr.Eilish McLoughlin, Dr. Paul van Kampen, Dr. Sarah Brady and Dr. Deirdre McCabe of CASTeL at DCU. The event was attended by representatives from the partner organisations in this project and members of national education bodies.
The SAILS consortium consists of thirteen partner organisations, including universities, SMEs and the multi-national organisation, Intel, from across twelve countries - Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Sweden, Turkey and United Kingdom.
The speakers at the launch included Professor Brian MacCraith, President of Dublin City University; Professor Paul Black, Emeritus Professor of Science Education, King’s College London, and Mr Brendan Cannon, Corporate Affairs Director at Intel Ireland.
Speaking at the launch, DCU President, Professor Brian MacCraith, said, "Enhancing the learning experience of students in STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) is crucial for the knowledge economy of Europe, and of Ireland in particular, in the 21st century. SAILS advocates and supports a curriculum that encourages problem-solving and exploratory learning. It is in line with Generation 21, DCU’s new Graduate Attributes Programme which, informed by consultation with industry, aims to develop relevant aptitudes and proficiencies to ensure our students are well prepared to take their place and succeed in the workforce and in life. I am delighted that DCU is leading SAILS - it is a hugely important and significant project for Europe and I wish everyone involved every success. Similarly, SAILS will facilitate the development of critical thinking and analytical thought among the students, encouraging them to question, analyse and evaluate their subject, as opposed to rote learning. This will have long-term benefits for the students themselves in terms of their own personal development, but also for employers who can be confident that graduates will have developed their ability to evaluate, reflect and understand problems"
Minister Quinn said, "I would like to congratulate DCU and in particular the CASTeL Centre for their success in winning this funding award from the European Commission. It is great to see Irish researchers now leading an international consortium of this size. This highlights the advances we have made in our research capabilities".
Mr. Brendan Cannon, Corporate Affairs Director at Intel Ireland said, “The ability of Ireland to be competitive in the future and to create sustained, long term employment requires us to put in place foundations in education that emphasis 21st century skills based learning. Intel recognises the importance of effective collaboration between industry and academia in order to ensure our education system equips young people with the talents and skills that offer them the best opportunities for fulfilling careers in Ireland’s knowledge economy”.
Dr. Odilla Finlayson, the project coordinator for SAILS said, “An inquiry based approach has been highlighted as having the potential to increase student engagement in science. The main objective of this project is to support teachers in adopting inquiry based science education (IBSE) at second level. In particular, we will focus on how key skills and competencies, such as critical thinking, problem solving, creativity and collaboration, can be developed through IBSE and how they can be appropriately assessed. SAILS aims to prepare teachers, not only to be able to teach through IBSE, but also to be confident and competent in the assessment of their students’ learning”.
Through a focused approach of implementing all the necessary components for transforming classroom practice, i.e. teacher education, curriculum and assessment around IBSE pedagogy, a sustainable model for science education will be developed through the SAILS project.
“We consider that the SAILS project is important in Ireland at the current time, particularly with the focus in national curricula on key skills and competencies. The development of appropriate teacher education programmes directed towards the assessment of skills will be a significant output for informing science education across Europe”, said Dr. Eilish McLoughlin, Director, CASTeL, and coordinator of the ESTABLISH project funded under the FP7 programme in 2010.
“The long-term aim of IBSE is to generate a greater interest in science subjects at school, improve the take-up of science at third level and also increase the number of skilled graduates for employment in science and technology”.