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There is a troubling trend in science classrooms throughout Europe.  School-aged students’ interest in science-related careers has been waning, achievement in science has been decreasing in many countries, and there is a widening gap between students based on migration background.  These trends are especially alarming given that scientific and technological competencies are playing an increasingly critical role in economic growth and societies’ ability to address complex global challenges.

Decades of research in science education have consistently established that inquiry-oriented (emphasizing questions, evidence, explanation, and communication), coherent (emphasizing a small set of key ideas over time through connected inquiry lessons) instruction aligns with current understanding of how students learn, creatively engages students in both the practice and content of science, and helps to engage diverse learners in the collaborative co-construction of scientific knowledge. Yet, despite widespread availability inquiry-oriented curricular resources, typical school science instruction often looks starkly different from the coherent, inquiry-oriented learning environments that the science education research literature has shown to be effective. Science teacher education experiences are critical for addressing this disparity by helping new teachers learn to teach science using pedagogy that is likely quite different from that which they experienced as science students.  In this strategic partnership, we focus on sharing best practices for designing effective science teacher education that supports new teachers in implementing coherent, inquiry-oriented pedagogy.

We have assembled a group of six partners in the Baltic region and Turkey (which represents a substantial fraction of the migrant population in the Baltic region) to share and reflect upon promising approaches in science teacher education that can support preservice and new teachers in designing and implementing coherent, inquiry-oriented science instruction.  Each project partner institution already has rich experience in providing science teacher education and in the development and support of coherent, inquiry-oriented science instruction; this project will help to bring this expertise together to engage in much-needed knowledge sharing and to spur future innovation in science teacher education.

We structure our partnership using the same design principles of coherent science instructional environments that we seek to promote, including contextualizing learning with meaningful questions, focusing on a small set of core ideas over time, and fostering reflective collaboration and communication.  We organize project activities according to the overarching (driving) question: “How can teacher education experiences better prepare new science teachers to implement coherent science instruction?”  To address this question, we have designed a series of workshops in partner countries across the Baltic region.  In each workshop, host science teacher education institutions work with local stakeholders (school-based educators, policy-makers, and teacher professional developers) to showcase promising practices for promoting coherent science instruction through teacher education, and host institutes receive reflective feedback from other project partners.  By using the principles of coherent instruction to structure our partnership, we both model best practices and ensure that activities build on each other over time.

Throughout the project, partners will collaborate to identify and refine a set of best practices and modules for supporting new teachers in designing and implementing coherent instruction in their science classrooms.  These practices and modules, along with a set of identified challenges and future directions for supporting instructional coherence through science teacher education, will be presented in a final report to be distributed freely to all science teacher education institutions throughout Europe.  The work of the project will result in shared, concrete strategies for improving science teacher education in order to prepare the next generation of science teachers to address the challenges of low student interest and achievement that are too common in European science education today.  Further, this partnership will set the stage for deepened collaboration as we work together to support science pedagogy that prepares students for full participation in an increasingly scientific and technological world.