by Jana Paju (Energy Discovery Centre, Estonia)
During the spring semester of 2016, the Energy Discovery Centre (EDC) carried out two TPD programmes, with the first one conducted based on a previous collaboration with Tallinn University. During the “Experiential Learning in Open Environment” course, the framework of the PARRISE project was introduced to the in- and pre-service teachers who had enrolled in the course. As the course already focused on experiential learning, the addition of PARRISE approach was appropriate. The university students (pre-service teachers) had to develop learning scenarios that can be used for teaching primary school pupils. The scenarios consisted of three parts:
1) pre-activities, which will help teachers to prepare the pupils for activities in an open learning environment (i.e. at EDC);
2) activities which are carried out in the EDC;
3) post-activities that can be carried away from the EDC, in the classroom or at home. The teachers were asked to create scenarios in a way that pupils’ attention would also be turned to socio-scientific issues and controversy.
The second programme targeted in-service teachers. The participants spent a lovely day in EDC during May. The one-day programme was intense and consisted of a lecture about the PARRISE approach, a guided tour of EDC, and time at the centre to allow the teachers to have their own unique learning experience in the open learning environment. Afterwards teachers participated in a workshop on creating the study scenarios as a group. The concept of the scenarios was the same as for the pre-service teachers.
Although the time allocated to the workshop was limited, the teachers managed to develop their scenarios – all of the groups came up with a unique topic and managed to create their own sets of activities. The teachers loved the approach and the opportunity to develop a scenario that can be used in EDC in the future either by their colleagues or by themselves.
As an unexpected outcome many of the participating teachers wanted to develop their ideas further and share the scenarios. Because of their high motivation we offered them the opportunity to finish the scenarios as a post-activity of the programme. This work is currently in progress. All the materials created will be made available to Estonian teachers via EDC’s homepage. By doing so we intend to develop a community of teachers sharing their knowledge and best practices of carrying out a lesson in the centre. People from the centre will also be advising the teachers during the process. This is necessary as learning in an open learning environment tends to differ from learning in a classroom. Therefore, the differences need to be considered during every step of the preparation of the lessons or learning scenarios.
As an outcome of the PARRISE project and the TPD courses so far, we have reconsidered our concept of teacher briefing days. As the teachers still consider science centres, museums, etc. the destination of a field trip, instead of an alternative learning environment, they need to be encouraged to take more control over the lessons they can carry out in such environments. This can be done by helping them to professionally develop during the briefing days by using the aforementioned format.
Using such an approach could prove itself useful in the long run. By helping teachers with their smooth start in the beginning of their journey in the world of experiential learning and all the aspects that the PARRISE approach holds dear, we will hopefully change the landscape of learning in Estonia teacher by teacher.