A conference proceeding paper, titled ‘Place based learning in skills in schools and science teacher education programmes: Student perspectives to moving learning online due to Covid-19’ is recently published by AMPS (Architecture, Media, Politics, Society) – an international, interdisciplinary research organisation which sets out to highlight the built environment as intrinsic to those at the heart of other social, cultural and political discourses.
The paper is authored by four Institute of Education members of staff, namely Dr. Jo Anna Reed Johnson (Lecturer in Science Education, Programme Director SKE), Dr. Gaynor Bradley (Lecturer in Science Education), Dr. Caroline Foulkes (Lecturer in STEM) and Andrew Happle (Lecturer in Science Education). It is based on their presentation at the virtual conference called Online Education: Teaching in a Time of Change, held in April 2021 and organised by AMPS.
The paper reports findings of a project which set out to explore the developmental journey across three (science) teacher development programmes within one Higher Education Institute (HEI) on adapting a blended learning approach during the Covid-19 lockdown. It unpicks how the participants responded to that provision and how the technology-enhanced learning pedagogy evolved. The study is important as the development of science teachers requires lab-based, inquiry based and place-based learning in universities and schools and inherent to understanding the nature of learning science and associated pedagogy.
On the study’s research design, the authors explain that it:
“mirrored that of the development of the communities of practice. It was a collaborative and iterative process that helped to explore student perspectives due to a shift to online learning. It involved gathering feedback from 120 undergraduates and post-graduates engaged in three programmes: Skills and Schools, Subject Knowledge Enhancement (SKE) and PGCE Secondary Science. An online Microsoft Form was completed by all students to provide initial feedback, and then those who consented were asked to engage in a focus group (26 students in total). These focus groups helped to draw out greater insights, providing rich descriptions and qualitative data. The thematic analysis of the data helped to draw out key aspects in terms what students had found useful and things that were seen as issues, so that this feedback could help academics improve their programme development the following year.”
The study found that in removing a key element of the COP (science laboratory and school), there still needed to be the same opportunities to collaborate with all the key aspects of that practice they
were learning about. A student stated that they:
‘… particularly enjoyed the collaborative engagement with both my colleagues and our tutors. Given that these were unusual circumstances, it was important to maintain a strong team spirit …to cope with those times where things were daunting, confusing etc… but also it gave us all moments to share successes and achievements, all of which helped progression through the course. I felt that we had the right blend of help and support from our tutors, with good input balancing space for us to collaborate effectively.’
‘…some of the online simulations that we used in our SKE we’ve used (with pupils in schools). I certainly have used them while we’ve been doing online learning last half term, like the PHET simulators …’
This demonstrated that whilst there were limits on engagement related to accessing schools and science laboratories brought about by Covid-19, students and academics were still able to engage through an integrated learning model. That the one thing that had changed was ‘place’. We were able to re-create ‘place’ through our online community.