Basic education and training in Educational Sciences for Science teachers: irrational winds, epistemological storms

Issue 16-17

“Basic education and training in Educational Sciences for Science teachers: irrational winds, epistemological storms”

Kostas Ravanis



This article introduces specific problems related to the basic education of future teachers and the training of in service teachers in the Educational Sciences, with emphasis on teachers with university studies in Physical and Natural Sciences, Mathematics, Informatics, Engineering etc.
First we examine the question of the distance between on one hand concerns and queries expressed in the community in which political decisions are taken as well as in the scientific community and on other hand the implementation of specific, consistent and effective policies.

Then we discuss the issue of the differences between the two contexts within which actions are carried out regarding future teachers’ basic education and in service teachers’ training. These differences arise due to the different nature both of the studies and of the two target-groups professional status, since the subjects of the first group are students and the subjects of the latter are teachers with professional experience and specialized needs.

This article focuses mainly on Science teachers’ basic education and training. In this case, apart from general issues, there is the problem of the significant epistemological gap between the basic Science they studied and Educational Sciences. For example, the content, the research methods and the application fields of the main approaches on Educational Sciences, such as Sociology of Education, Educational Psychology or Didactic of Technology, are completely unclear cognitive areas for an engineer. For this reason Science teachers’ initiation in Educational Sciences, either during their basic education or while in service, requires special planning and practices. It is common to observe Science teachers expressing a sense of superiority accompanied with a repulsion and / or futile engagement with Educational Sciences. The exploitation of relevant research results, the organization of specific strategies and means is therefore required in order to confront stereotypes, attitudes and practices.
Regarding this issue it is argued that the transition from the world of Sciences to the world of Educational Sciences can not be achieved through ‘knowledge transfer’, but rather through practices that are significant for the teachers in each specific context of basic education or in service training. In this perspective two particular examples are presented and discussed.

The first example presents the general principles and findings of an exploratory learning process that took place during the basic studies of a group of trainee Physics teachers. After introducing those teachers to issues relevant to a special class of problems, that in Didactic terminology are called “open problems”, those trainee Physics teachers design, implement in their classrooms and study the effectiveness of a teaching intervention including open problems. Additionally, their researcher-trainer identifies the benefits and obstacles of such a process, using a different analysis technique.

The second example illustrates a training program of in service Physics teachers who had more than 10 years of teaching experience and who had already participated in a seminar concerning the introduction to Science Education. During a relevant workshop the teachers were asked to design the structure of a programme for teaching the concept of energy in high school, within the objective of improving the Greek curriculum that they had already criticized. Physics teachers produced a text with their suggestions and then worked on the main principles and applications of a classification tool of the curriculum on energy, a structured tool based on the concepts of Science Education. Upon the completion of this phase, researchers-trainers presented to the teachers an analysis of their initial suggestions upon the curriculum and the teachers themselves studied, commented and reviewed their initial plans using the classification tool. Thus, the teachers had the opportunity to critically examine their views using a special classification tool that in this case was used as a training tool.
Finally we discuss general issues of the basic education and training of Sciences teachers.