WHAT ARE WE LEARNING FROM SPOON WORKSHOPS? Main insights from the evaluation.
By UOC team
SPOON offers specific trainings throughout Europe to increase teachers’ capacity, their transversal skills and their ease in research-based STEM education by putting them in contact with science as practice and stimulating spaces for inspiration and discussion. The team from the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) has evaluated these trainings throughout the last two years.
What have been the main learnings and competences acquired by the teachers who attended SPOON workshops so far? What are the key aspects of these trainings that have fostered teachers’ competences? To which extent did teachers perceive the likelihood of the implementation of these competences learned in their classroom?
In this post, we will share key insights from the evaluation of the different trainings conducted in Strasbourg (France), Split (Croatia), Bilbao (Spain) and Utrecht (the Netherlands). More than half of the participants of the trainings were women and most of them had between 11 and 20 years of teaching experience. A written questionnaire was applied before the training to explore teachers’ point of departure and after to gather their impressions on the trainings (70 responses). The details of the methodological tools developed for this evaluation might be found in our report and the specific results of the evaluation are detailed for each site. The main insights of the evaluation were shared in a multiplier event (April the 29th, 2021).
– What are the main competences that have been fostered thanks to the training?
Participants over the four sites reported several competences that have been reinforced or fostered thanks to the different trainings (see figure) in relation to their ability to:
- discuss and argue on a critical way and accompany students in this process;
- be reflexive about their own teaching practice,
- foster team work, creativity and communication among students.
What are the key aspects of the training that fostered these competences?
Despite the diversity of formats offered in the four sites, several common aspects were reported by participant teachers:
- the focus on critical thinking to train their teaching skills ;
- the practical dimension of the trainings as one of its most enriching aspects (experiential approach, practical exercises, dynamic group interactions, reflections upon practice…), including the contextualization of exercises in real school settings;
- the provision of specific activities, giving concrete tools and resources through a panel of diverse formats, inspiring for further implementation in the classroom. In this regard, teachers mentioned attributes of the activities proposed, such as their effectiveness and applicability, as well as the participatory approach in which they could themselves experience and discuss the activities with the trainer and the rest of the teachers;
- the nature and quality of the facilitation, that enhanced group cohesion and exchanges, the diversity of formats (including theoretical presentations, practical workshops, reflective and discussion sessions) as an asset of the training, the expertise and positive energy of the trainers;
- the interdisciplinary character and the international dimension of the training, acknowledging SPOON « facilitators’ openness » and relishing the opportunity to work in a different language, and the sharing of experiences among different profiles of professionals.
What aspects of the trainings could be improved?
Teachers were generally very positive with the workshops and trainings, and they only reported two aspects to improve:
– time availability. This was the most mentioned aspect and it mostly related to the lack of proper time available for the training;
– contextualization of the workshops. A few teachers suggested to further contextualize the trainings within a larger diversity of STEM topics and teaching grades to better integrate activities in their classroom, and adapt the training to a broader scope of curricula).
A final reflection: Limitations and opportunities to implement SPOON activities in the classroom
The vast majority of participant teachers reported that they felt able to implement the activities by themselves after participating in the different trainings (some of them reported already having applied some of the activities). However, they also mentioned limitations mostly related to the lack of time to implement the activities within the schooling hours. Some teachers also mentioned the adaptability of the activities to specific topics not approached in the trainings; and at a more systemic level, the lack of resources and the rigidity of the educational system, which might detract teachers to carry out research activities with their students.
In this line, teachers appreciated the shared activities and highlighted some broader changes that could help reduce structural barriers and the rigidity of the curricula, such as the creation of maker spaces in every school as nuclei for the learning by doing approach, designed for the whole educative community, or fostering more flexible approaches to student’s evaluation.