Transforming the Pedagogy of STEM Subjects

Lead Research Organisation: Durham University
Department Name: Education

Abstract

This study intends to investigate how pedagogy for STEM subjects in a low income, developing nation, Ethiopia, can be transformed from using one-way lecturing and closed teacher questions to dialogical discourse and argumentation, and the effects this generates in improved student learning and attitudes. Over-reliance on didactic teaching apply to any nation or school subject, but is particularly dominant in STEM subjects as these typically teach "facts" "given" to students. It restricts students' learning and impact negatively on student recruitment to and retention in STEM subjects beyond compulsory schooling. In developing nations, which rely on STEM as means to build economic success, changing pedagogy to an active approach may impact significantly on enhancing the quality of education.
The theoretical rational is that participation in social discourse, where norms and arguments are made explicit, helps students appropriate new ideas and internalise them to reasoning on a psychological plane. In STEM education research one focus is on using dialogical discourse to explore pre- and misconceptions students hold and enabling them to replace these with new, scientifically correct ideas. Another focus has been developing scientific argumentation, where students use scientific norms and reasoning strategies in disciplinary and everyday discourse.
Intervention studies gathering empirical evidence about using dialogical teaching demonstrate significant gains, but most studies are small-scale interventions where researchers work closely with volunteer teachers. The proposed study will test three strategies for changing the pedagogy in a large-scale, realistic intervention: i) introducing a training programme to lecturers at Colleges of Teacher Education (CTEs) to change pedagogy through Initial Teacher Education (ITE); ii) using the same programme in continuous professional development (CPD) to groups of teachers in schools; iii) combining the ITE and CPD programmes. The 30h training programme introduces teachers to dialogical teaching and argumentation in science teaching, and presents scaffolding tasks to change the teaching gradually. The study will provide evidence for effects on classroom practice; on students' learning; and any social, political, economic and cultural factors moderating outcomes. An important objective is building networks and involving educators in Ethiopia to analyse and improve STEM teaching. The study is carried out by researchers from Addis Ababa University and Durham University and lecturers from five CTEs. MoE is also a partner.
The study is organised in two phases. First, training lecturers from five CTEs and have these implement dialogical teaching in physics course for 150 pre-service physics teachers over the 2015-16 academic year. A similar number of CTEs and teacher candidates will be in a control group. Second, follow the teacher candidates into posts in primary schools and deliver CPD to about 100 physics teachers in 20 schools in 2016-17. Some are teachers not involved in phase 1. Teaching will be for Year 7 and 8 pupils. Lecturers from the CTEs will deliver the CPD together with the researchers and work as research assistants to gather data. The design will allow each of the three strategies (using ITE, CPD or both) to be tested in 10 schools classes with 400 pupils. A control group will have the same number of schools and students (Totally 40 schools and 1600 pupils).
Effects of the intervention on teaching will be investigated with video-recordings from two lessons in all classes. Effects on pre-service teachers' and school pupils' learning will be measured with pre- and post tests, video-recordings of discussion tasks and interviews. School leaders will be interviewed.
Dissemination will happen in a series of research meeting, a national conference and in reports and research papers.

Planned Impact

The research aims to impact four types of beneficiaries.
Firstly, anyone who benefits from a good educational system. Poor education is detrimental to pupils, to local societies and to a nation's economy. If successful in its objectives, the research will benefit all these groups. Pupils will benefit from better learning and thereby more opportunities in their future, local societies will benefit from an educated population that is more likely to move them forward, and the nation will benefit from more high ability students moving into higher education and jobs. Involving pupils and parents directly in the research, of course, is difficult, but teachers and lecturers from CTEs, as well as members from the MoE have a direct impact on the way the research is conducted. Findings from the classroom observations and from tests and questionnaires will give clear evidence if the strategies that are put on test are beneficial. If this happens to be the case, teaching material, revised after the research, will be published for general use in schools and teacher education. Successful ideas will be also be communicated to the wider educational community in the final dissemination conference.
Secondly, the educational system itself. The research tries to understand educational processes that are important to teacher educators and schoolteachers. If the study is successful in improving students' learning, it will provide material educators can use and advice they can follow. However, even if this does not turn out to be the case, the research will still generate useful information to educators about why the strategies do no work. Having lecturers from many CTEs involved increases the likelihood that the outcome and findings of the research will disseminate into teacher education and further into schools. More articles, however, will be written for educational practitioners about efficient pedagogies to use in STEM education and why these are important.
Thirdly, educational policy makers. A main objective for the proposed research is providing policy makers with evidence for best practice in STEM teaching. The study intends to trial both classroom strategies for efficient teaching and institutional strategies for implementing these large-scale. The findings will include information about social, economic and cultural factors that are important for implementing the strategies. The MoE in Ethiopia is partner in the research and will participate in planning meetings, meetings discussing the outcome of the research and the final dissemination conference, A special report will be written about the outcome of the research for MoE.
Fourthly, research communities for educational research. The major ideas tested in the proposed study are how dialogical teaching can be operationalised into educational practice in a developing nation and what effects this has on students' learning. A specific question is the relationship between dialogical teaching guided by disciplinary norms and development of scientific reasoning skills in young people. The research will be generation significant evidence to evaluate all these questions. Impact will be ensured thorough publishing in high quality journal and research conferences. Independent educational researchers will contribute to the research in an advisory group.

Publications

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Abate, T. (2020) Assessment of Scientific Reasoning: Development and Validation of Scientific Reasoning Assessment Tool in EURASIA Journal of Mathematics, Science and Technology Education,

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Hassen Worku (2020) Dialogic Teaching in a Teacher Education College: An analysis of Teacher Educator and Pre-service Teacher Talk in Physics Classrooms in African Journal of Research in Mathematics, Science and Technology Education

 
Description The research has revealed a gap between the intended curriculum for physics learning and the actual curriculum attained by teacher candidates in Ethiopian teacher education for primary schools. This is important because teaching tends to follow the intended curriculum rather than adapting to the candidates' level of knowledge, and this means candidates attend lessons but with little progress in their learning. There seems to be a systemic unwillingness to admit what is happening, because the nation is under great pressure from international organisations to produce a high number of qualified teachers.

The study has revealed that teachers can change the way they teach science. However, the outcomes are mixed: some teachers adopted new practices to a greater extent than others. The teachers who made the most significant changes, that is, who moved towards using dialogue, questioning and understanding of their students' knowledge most, were those who received the "Transforming Pedagogy in STEM Subjects" intervention twice. They were taught the TPSS intervention by lecturers in their Colleges of Teacher Education as pre-service teachers and received the intervention a second time as in-service teachers. This tells us that to effect changes in teachers' practices takes time and significant investment.
Exploitation Route Reports will be written to educational authorities in Ethiopia and to international funding organisations. Findings relating to teacher education are significant as understanding the gap between the high levels of subject knowledge found in the curriculum used to train teachers and the low basic knowledge levels of teacher trainees is likely to be applicable in other nations. Closing this gap will help raise teacher education quality. Hence, teacher education policymakers internationally may use the data and intervention.
Sectors Education,Government, Democracy and Justice

 
Description The project has generated a wide network of institutions and people in Ethiopia interested improving the quality of STEM teaching. The network includes educational practitioners, national and regional educational administrators and politicians, administrators of schools and teacher education, postgraduate students and researchers. The most recent two day stakeholders' meeting held in November 2018 brought together colleagues from the Colleges of Teacher Education, government policy makers and teachers who had engaged in TPSS. An outcome and evidence of impact of TPSS arising from this meeting is the award of a major grant (in Ethiopian terms) of 1 500 000 Ethiopian Birr (about £43000) to transfer the intervention to mathematics, led by project partners at Addis Ababa University. The new project is entitled "Effective Teaching-Learning of Science and Mathematics in Middle Schools at Addis Ababa City Administrative, Amhara Region and Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples' Region (SNNPR)". An important point is that an Addis Ababa University Mathematics Education specialist, Mulugeta Atafnu, is the project leader. Other Ethiopian colleagues are leading project sub-teams. Hence, the current project, TPSS, has had the desired impact of enabling Ethiopian academics to progress their own work. As an indication of progress in this area, one junior colleague, Deresse Terfa, has just completed his PhD using TPSS methodology. His thesis is entitled, 'Dialogic Teaching Approach in Teaching Physics vis-à-vis Physics Teachers' Knowledge Domains in Addis Ababa'. The work generated confirmatory evidence of previously reported findings, specifically working with nine physics teachers. Data showed that these teachers were unable to transform their physics content knowledge to pedagogical content knowledge. Further evidence of impact arising from TPSS is international interest in project outcomes. Findings have been presented at international conferences, including the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST) in Atlanta 2018, and the South African Association for Mathematics, Science and Technology Education (SAARMSTE) in 2018 and 2019 (the latter date funded by a separate grant from Durham University). These presentations have raised the profile of the project in the international community, ensuring that the TPSS methodology is disseminated and developing an international network of colleagues engaged in this approach.
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Education,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description Durham University ESRC Impact Acceleration Account Fund
Amount £9,150 (GBP)
Organisation Durham University 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2016 
End 12/2016
 
Description Research Impact Fund
Amount £12,250 (GBP)
Organisation Durham University 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2016 
End 06/2017
 
Title Qualitative Data Gathering from Colleges of Teacher Education 
Description The data include - Video recordings of 30 whole lessons in experimental and control groups in the CTEs - 30 video recordings of student groups solving reasoning tasks in physics - 16 interviews with lecturers in Colleges of Teacher Education - 16 focus group interviews with students in Colleges of Teacher Education 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Video and audio files have been translated from Amharic to English and transcribed. It is currently being analysed. 
 
Title Qualitative Data from Primary Schools 
Description Video recording of 60 physics lessons Video recordings of 60 student activities Interviews with 30 teachers 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact NA 
 
Title Test Data From Primary Education 
Description Physics Knowledge Test - Pre-test data. N= 3000 Physics Reasoning Test - Pre-test data. N=3000 Science Attitude Measure - Pre-test. N=3000 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact N/A 
 
Title Test Data from Colleges of Teacher Education 
Description Pre- and Post Testing Data has been collected from ten Colleges of Teacher Education. Testing includes - Conceptual Physics Test (N=451) - Test in Scientific Reasoning (N=451) - Pedagogical Orientation Questionnaire (N=400) Conceptual Physics Test has items from TIMSS for international comparison 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact NA 
 
Description Collaboration with Colleges of Teacher Education 
Organisation Arbaminch College of Teacher Education
Country Ethiopia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We are providing the CTEs with an opportunity to participate in a research project and a network and to train their staff members on research methods. Five lecturers in the CTEs are offered a PhD at Addis Ababa Univerisity
Collaborator Contribution Colleges are contributing to implementation of intervention in schools and data gathering and analysis.
Impact Data was gathered from 10 CTEs in the academic year of 2015/16. During summer 2016, staff from the CTEs were trained to run intervention and gather data from primary schools. By February 2017 staff from CTEs have completed intervention training of teachers in primary schools and gathered first (out of two) rounds of data. Five lecturers from the CTEs are working on PhDs at Addis Ababa University.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Collaboration with Colleges of Teacher Education 
Organisation Debre Markos College of Teacher Education
Country Ethiopia 
Sector Learned Society 
PI Contribution We are providing the CTEs with an opportunity to participate in a research project and a network and to train their staff members on research methods. Five lecturers in the CTEs are offered a PhD at Addis Ababa Univerisity
Collaborator Contribution Colleges are contributing to implementation of intervention in schools and data gathering and analysis.
Impact Data was gathered from 10 CTEs in the academic year of 2015/16. During summer 2016, staff from the CTEs were trained to run intervention and gather data from primary schools. By February 2017 staff from CTEs have completed intervention training of teachers in primary schools and gathered first (out of two) rounds of data. Five lecturers from the CTEs are working on PhDs at Addis Ababa University.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Collaboration with Colleges of Teacher Education 
Organisation Dessie Teacher's Education College
Country Ethiopia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We are providing the CTEs with an opportunity to participate in a research project and a network and to train their staff members on research methods. Five lecturers in the CTEs are offered a PhD at Addis Ababa Univerisity
Collaborator Contribution Colleges are contributing to implementation of intervention in schools and data gathering and analysis.
Impact Data was gathered from 10 CTEs in the academic year of 2015/16. During summer 2016, staff from the CTEs were trained to run intervention and gather data from primary schools. By February 2017 staff from CTEs have completed intervention training of teachers in primary schools and gathered first (out of two) rounds of data. Five lecturers from the CTEs are working on PhDs at Addis Ababa University.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Collaboration with Colleges of Teacher Education 
Organisation Gondar College of Teacher Education
Country Ethiopia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We are providing the CTEs with an opportunity to participate in a research project and a network and to train their staff members on research methods. Five lecturers in the CTEs are offered a PhD at Addis Ababa Univerisity
Collaborator Contribution Colleges are contributing to implementation of intervention in schools and data gathering and analysis.
Impact Data was gathered from 10 CTEs in the academic year of 2015/16. During summer 2016, staff from the CTEs were trained to run intervention and gather data from primary schools. By February 2017 staff from CTEs have completed intervention training of teachers in primary schools and gathered first (out of two) rounds of data. Five lecturers from the CTEs are working on PhDs at Addis Ababa University.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Collaboration with Colleges of Teacher Education 
Organisation Hossana College of Teacher Education (HCTE)
Country Ethiopia 
Sector Learned Society 
PI Contribution We are providing the CTEs with an opportunity to participate in a research project and a network and to train their staff members on research methods. Five lecturers in the CTEs are offered a PhD at Addis Ababa Univerisity
Collaborator Contribution Colleges are contributing to implementation of intervention in schools and data gathering and analysis.
Impact Data was gathered from 10 CTEs in the academic year of 2015/16. During summer 2016, staff from the CTEs were trained to run intervention and gather data from primary schools. By February 2017 staff from CTEs have completed intervention training of teachers in primary schools and gathered first (out of two) rounds of data. Five lecturers from the CTEs are working on PhDs at Addis Ababa University.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Collaboration with Colleges of Teacher Education 
Organisation Kotebe University College
Country Ethiopia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We are providing the CTEs with an opportunity to participate in a research project and a network and to train their staff members on research methods. Five lecturers in the CTEs are offered a PhD at Addis Ababa Univerisity
Collaborator Contribution Colleges are contributing to implementation of intervention in schools and data gathering and analysis.
Impact Data was gathered from 10 CTEs in the academic year of 2015/16. During summer 2016, staff from the CTEs were trained to run intervention and gather data from primary schools. By February 2017 staff from CTEs have completed intervention training of teachers in primary schools and gathered first (out of two) rounds of data. Five lecturers from the CTEs are working on PhDs at Addis Ababa University.
Start Year 2015
 
Description Building website to promote research project 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The research project has built a website to promote the project and its outcome to teachers and schools in Ethiopia
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.aau.edu.et/tpss
 
Description Meetings with Deans of Teacher Education Colleges (Gondor, Arbaminch in Ethiopia) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Deans of two Colleges of Teacher Education (CTEs) have been visited so far to inform about the project and discuss the involvement of the CTEs. Four more CTEs will be visited in the April.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Second Training of CTE lecturers for intervention 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Training workshops to review and further implement intervention in CTEs
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Second Training of CTE lecturers for intervention 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Training workshops to review and further implement intervention in CTEs
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Stake Holder Meeting (Addis Ababa) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact About 30 stakeholders with an interest in STEM education in Ethiopia entered a meeting to discuss the aims and organisation of the research project. Delegates came from Ministry of Education, leading educational research institutes, Universities and Colleges of Teacher Education. Meeting was useful to inform stakeholders about the project and to discuss the specific research questions in a wider context.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Training of CTE lecturers for intervention 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact One week workshop was arranged in Addis Ababa for lecturers in the Colleges of Teacher Education to train them in using intervention material in the CTEs
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Training of Physics Teachers 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact 95 primary physics teachers in Ethiopia has been trained in a three day programme on using dialogical teaching in physics teaching. Training happened at six Colleges of Teacher Education. All teachers got teaching material for 50 students. 60 teachers were female teachers and young male teachers from rural areas or deprived areas in urban areas. 35 teachers will be visited with video recording of the teaching and testing of their students. Researchers from Addis Ababa University visited the teaching for quality assurance.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016