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Interview with Cory Forbes (part of a Fulbright fellowship)

September 17th, 2019

As an international institute, the IPN seeks a close exchange of ideas with researchers worldwide. This exchange ranges from project-related contacts and collaborations to international research alliances and research visits. At the IPN we always welcome visiting researchers who stay for several weeks or months and who are closely involved with the activities of our research groups. As part of a Fulbright fellowship, Cory Forbes is currently a guest in the Department of Physics Education at the IPN and at the TUM School of Education in Munich. He analyses data collected within PISA with regard to characteristics of good science teaching.

IPN JOURNAL: Cory, welcome to the IPN. Please tell us a little about yourself and what brings you to the IPN?

FORBES: I am Associate Professor of Science Education, Director of the National Collaborative for Food, Energy, & Water Education, and Coordinator of the Science Literacy at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the U.S. I am a former secondary science teacher, am in-volved in undergraduate science education and science teacher preparation, and conduct research on K-16 science teaching and learning, with a particular emphasis on Earth systems. Central questions in the field of science education revolve around the kind of science teaching that best supports students‘ science learning. PISA provides a large, international sample through which to investigate these questions. I have been fortunate to have previousproductive, collaborative projects with scholars in Germany. IPN‘s reputation as an international leader in science education research, as well as the TUM’s work with large-scale assessment data, made this a natural fit. I am thankful to have received a Core Fulbright U.S. Scholar Grant to support this work and my time in Germany.

IPN JOURNAL: WHY DID YOU BECOME INTERESTED IN PISA AND WHAT SPECIFICALLY ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE IPN USING PISA DATA?

FORBES: I have always had a significant interest in reform-based science teaching, both as a teacher and professor. PISA affords an opportunity to explore relationships between science teaching and learning worldwide. I have not had extensive prior experience working with large-scale assessment data, so part of the appeal of this project was as a professional learning experience for myself. In our research, we are investigating associations between the kinds of science instruction students report and students’ sci-ence achievement. We have specifically sought to explore similarities and differences in inquiry-based instruction for the highest-performing students in a diverse set of countries, including Germany and the U.S. We recently submitted a complete manuscript reporting our results for publication in an internationally-known science education journal.

IPN JOURNAL: THIS SOUNDS VERY INTERESTING. HOW DO YOU THINK THESE RESULTS WILL BE RECEIVED IN THE SCIENCE EDUCATION COMMUNITY? WHAT IMPACT WILL THEY HAVE FOR THE IMPROVEMENT OF SCIENCE EDUCATION?

FORBES: These results contribute to a growing body of PISA-based research, as well as broader and more general international research and theory in science education. They highlight nuances in science instruction, particularly the kinds of inquiry-based practices most strongly associated with high levels of student science achievement. They also suggest that effective science instruction does not have to look exactly the same in all classrooms, though they reinforce some general principles of good science teaching. Most importantly, they highlight the critical role of science teachers in shaping effective science learning experiences for students. They will be very helpful to inform my ongoing, grant-funded project work in the U.S. and I am excited to translate PISA results into tangible programs for science teachers and students.

IPN JOURNAL: YOU ARE VERY FAMILIAR WITH GERMAN SCIENCE EDUCATION. WHAT IS YOUR IM-PRESSION OF GERMAN SCIENCE INSTRUCTION? WHAT ARE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN GERMANY AND THE U.S. IN TERMS OF SCIENCE EDUCATION?

FORBES: Germany has always had a strong reputation for education, including science educati-on. While there are differences in the structures of schools in the U.S. and Germany, particularly at the secondary level, there are also many similarities. While I have not spent a great deal of time in German schools, I have had the opportunity to work with preservice teachers through seminar courses I have taught in Germany. I have found the German approach to teacher education to be very effective and impactful.

IPN JOURNAL: WHAT OTHER QUESTIONS ABOUT SCIENCE EDUCATION IN GERMANY AND THE U.S. WOULD YOU BE INTERESTED IN? WILL YOU CONTINUE YOUR COLLABORATION WITH THE IPN AND TUM?

FORBES: My Fulbright grant includes ongoing work on the current project through 2020, so I anticipate continuing our PISA-focused work. We are interested in exploring other student-level variables that might help understand who the students are who experience high-quality instruction. Given my experience with science teacher education and professional development, both in the U.S. and Germany, we are also planning to investigate how teachers think about and characterize their own science teaching.

IPN JOURNAL: WHILE YOU ARE HERE WILL YOU VISIT OTHER PLACES IN GERMANY AND EUROPE?

FORBES: I will also be spending time in Munich working with our other collaborator at the TUM and have been invited to present our results at the European Science Education Research Association’s Summer School for graduate students in Crete, where I will serve as a faculty mentor. My family will join me for part of the summer, and we plan to travel to Berlin and Paris.

IPN JOURNAL: THANK YOU FOR TALKING TO US.