Rationale of the project

Motivation

Our underlying motivation for this project is to improve the quality of science education in the European and international settings, as well as to encourage young girls and boys to choose careers in science. We have chosen to achieve our desired outcome through the professional development of secondary-school science teachers and science advisors, who represent the most influential factor in the student’s education. In order to accomplish our goals, we intend to address what, in our judgment, are crucial problems in science education.

Problems

Research and general observation shows that school science lacks the vitality of investigation, discovery, and creative invention that often accompanies science in the making. For this reason, the relationship between science and science education needs to be altered and improved. The need for modification is further reinforced by the research findings of the ineffectiveness of the conceptual approach, which places an emphasis on the purely cognitive dimen-sion of the process of knowledge acquisition and ignores the imagination (Hadzigeorgiou, 2002).

Proposed Solutions and their Justification

To improve science education fundamentally, we propose that the academic tradition of primary and secondary science education be subordinated to a humanistic rendering of the science discipline as a means to engage the learners meaningfully (American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1990; UNESCO, 2000). In this context, the inclusion of history of science plays a vital role. Some writers maintain that the humanizing and clarifying influ-ence of history of science brings the science to life and enables the student to construct relationships that would have been impossible to be perceived through the traditional method of science teaching (Cohen, 1993/1950; Jung, 1994; Kipnis, 1996; Koul & Dana, 1997). Through such a teaching approach, students come to appreciate science as a value-laden activity, where objectivity, curiosity, pursuit of truth, intellectual honesty, humility, and commitment to human welfare are central (Stevenson & Byerly, 2000).

As a cognitive tool, stories are embedded in culture and, therefore, can serve as a mediator between the children’s imagination and scientific endeavours. Fostering imagination in children contributes to the development of abstract thought and symbolic func-tion (Vygotsky, 1978). Some writers argue that romantic understanding is a prerequisite to conceptual understanding (Egan, 1990), as it enables students, through their imagination, to experience curiosity, mystery, and even wonder. Furthermore, storytelling, itself, inextricably linked to imagination, contributes to the development of romantic understanding. Some writers argue that romantic understanding is not only a prerequisite but an imperative to conceptual understanding, on the following grounds: (a) it represents a different way of making sense of the world and human experience, through an attraction to its exotic, strange, and mysterious features and the desire to transcend everyday reality; (b) it gives the idea that knowledge is a human construction and cannot be considered outside of the context of its construction; (c) it makes use of the students’ imagination; and (d) it has an aesthetic dimension (Egan, 1990; Hadzigeorgiou, 2005). Thus, romantic understanding can result in the development of inspiration, which has a cognitive and an emotional dimension. If we accept that romantic understanding not only paves the way for conceptual understanding, since it inspires students, but that it is a prerequisite for such an understanding, then we can argue strongly that storytelling is a necessary pedagogical strategy because it contributes to the development of both conceptual and romantic understanding of students.

Given that stories facilitate understanding, cause engagement, produce motivation, and even help us to understand ourselves, the appropriate use of story in science teaching can, indeed, become a heuristic teaching device that is not only attractive, but also selfsustaining (Klassen, 2006). Any science teacher, irrespective of the level at which he or she teaches, has experienced that telling a story in the science classroom is a powerful tool for engaging students, which means that telling a coherent story may be the best way for learning, remembering, and re-telling ideas of science (Ellis, 2000). Using stories to teach science is a challenging process and, according to Egan, conveying the meaning in stories in a con-densed fashion is complex and difficult (Egan, 1979, 1986, 1992, 1997, 2005). To use stories effectively, the teacher has to create an environment conducive to emotional engagement and to involving the stu-dents in discourse. Infusing the narrative with colour and interest, the teacher can make the story attractive and meaningful. This transformation of educational content into attractive and educational stories requires more than a simple compilation of sequential, historical events. To ensure that stories will be effective and productive in structure and ap-plication, our project is incorporating our Storytell-ing Teaching Model (STM), on the basis of which teachers will be trained.

References

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