THE INTERNATIONAL CENTRE FOR STEM EDUCATION (ICSE)
Ten years of successful international collaboration have established the University of Education Freiburg as a significant research centre and disseminator of innovative practices in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education. With the establishment of the International Centre for STEM Education (ICSE), the year 2017 marks another step forward in our work linking European research on STEM education with its transfer into practice and policy.
The rationale behind ICSE is to subsume and further enhance our institution's successful activities in this field, and to sustainably link research-, policy- and practice-oriented key actors in STEM education from across Europe through the international centre. The establishment of ICSE at the University of Education Freiburg is therefore paralleled by the foundation of a Consortium for STEM Education, comprising leading research and development institutes from across Europe. The Consortium of institutes, all with a focus on STEM education research and its transfer, will serve to strengthen further collaboration and networking, such as through joint research and projects, a newsletter, staff and student exchanges, and other activities.
ICSE's STEM Education Focus in Research and Transfer
The ultimate aim of ICSE is to help improve STEM education across Europe, that is, to give students insights into authentic features of STEM subjects and their connection to real-life contexts, to raise achievement levels in STEM and to make science literacy accessible to all students no matter what their gender, their cultural background or their socioeconomic background, and to promote the interest of young people in STEM careers.
Our focus in STEM education research and its transfer into day-to-day practices is therefore on issues such as:
- The research on innovative teaching approaches such as inquiry-based learning, connections to real-life contexts, interdisciplinarity or to the diversity in classrooms
- The development, implementation and evaluation of feasible and impactful professional development concepts
- Research on concepts to scale up teacher professional development, also taking into account systemic barriers
- Development, in situ-evaluation and refinement of high-quality classroom materials and professional development materials, anchored in the field of design research
ICSE's International Activities
International Conferences and Events
Involving research, practice and policy is key to promoting innovation in STEM education. Too often, ideas and innovative practices exist only in enclaves because of a lack of links and collaboration between research, practice and policy. This insight arose during our most recent international events and conferences – and is motivating us to strengthen ties between these spheres.
In recent years, we have organised policy-oriented international events in Brussels and Freiburg which informed policy about existing barriers in Europe to a broader take-up of innovative approaches such as inquiry-based teaching and learning. Implementation barriers which we experienced in the roll-out of PD programmes in European-wide projects (such as assessment practices, lack of cooperative structures at many schools, ineffective PD structures) were directly discussed with policy makers.
- Brussels, 2011: Towards Europe 2020: Inquiring minds - innovative pedagogies in mathematics and science education (Website)
- Brussels, 2013: Learning for the future: Changing mathematics and science classes (Website)
- Freiburg, 2016: Scaling-up STEM teacher professional development. Overcoming challenges through a research-policy-practice dialogue (Website)
Following up on a core barrier to a broader take-up of innovation in STEM education, a conference series entitled Educating the Educators has been established. Educating the Educators focuses on approaches to scaling-up STEM teacher professional development and has, though a research-based conference, from the outset been designed to enhance exchange between research, policy and practice. To date two conferences were held.
- Essen, 2014: Educating the Educators: Conference on international approaches to scaling-up professional development in maths and science education (Website)
- Freiburg, 2016: Educating the Educators II boasted a highly innovative concept combining a classical research conference with interactive formats such as a Policy Seminar, a Materials Market and a Company Visit (Website)
Educating the Educators III is already planned and will be held in 2019.
STEM Professional Develoment Centre Meeting Series and Network
ICSE at the University of Education Freiburg, serves as the Network Coordinator for a recently established practice network of STEM Professional Development (PD) Centres across Europe. The network takes up a European trend, namely, the establishment of specialised centres to support professional development in STEM education. At the same time, it responds to the need to strengthen European-level exchange and networking of the practice-side in education. PD Centres met for the first time in 2014. To date, five meetings of the network have taken place and the network has received funding for its own project. More information and current developments are published on our European STEM PD Centre Network pages.
International Research and Dissemination Projects
European projects have initiated, strengthened and supported our work to develop and effectively disseminate innovative approaches in STEM education. Brief presentations and website links of the projects coordinated by ISCE can be found below. All materials, reports, resources and (scientific) publications can be accessed free of charge online and all materials are published under a CC-SA license allowing maximum dissemination.
MaSDiV (2017-2020) is a high-level research and evaluation project involving leading STEM education institutes from across Europe and 11 Ministries of Education. A course for STEM teachers to better equip them to promote science and mathematics literacy for all students (including disadvantaged students from diverse cultural and social backgrounds) together with the learning of fundamental values will be widely implemented and rigorousely evaluated in a multimethod research design. In this policy experimentation measure (funded within Erasmus+ Key Action 3) the aim is to scale-up successful measures across Europe.
IncluSMe (2016-2019) focusses on the initial education of teachers and pursues a highly innovative approach to link STEM education with intercultural learning so as to better prepare teachers for culturally diverse classrooms. The project will produce ready-to-use modules lecturers in teacher education degree programs can easily integrate into their lecture program. The project will also promote first-hand international experiences of future STEM teachers through summer schools.
STEM PD Net (2016-2019) is an Erasmus+ project to strengthen European collaboration and exchange among STEM Professional Development Centres in Europe. Core aims are to provide selections of STEM PD materials of the highest quality and professional development guidelines which are suitable for use across Europe, to reflect and promote the organizational development of the Centres in each national context, and to strengthen the voice of these Centres across Europe.
MASCIL (2013-2016) is an FP7 project funded as part of the Science with and for Society programme. In mascil, 18 partners from 13 countries are working jointly to develop classroom and PD materials and disseminate these through courses, events and media strategies. A major mascil innovation is connecting IBL in school with the world of work and thus, to make science more meaningful for young European students and motivate their interest in careers in related fields. mascil has won a Scientix award for materials and reached approximately 75.000 persons through its face-to-face and online activities (teachers, students, education authorities, etc.). A multi-level dissemination plan involves policy, research and practice. The establishment of a conference series and a Professional Development Centre network that are both connected to project work, underline the sustainability of our systemic and multi-anchored approach.
PRIMAS (2010-2013) is officially completed, however, the work and impact of this successful project continues. In addition to its success story status and Scientix award for its dissemination guide, PRIMAS is being promoted as a best practice example in the Public Engagement Innovations catalogue. PRIMAS promotes inquiry-based learning approaches and has successfully implemented a multi-level and multi-stakeholder dissemination plan. During project lifetime, PRIMAS reached over 7000 teachers in training activities.
INSTEM is an LLP network (2012-2015) that grew out of the informal Network of Project Coordinators (ProCoNet). It is an initiative to promote innovation in STEM education, provides networking opportunities and synthesizes innovation in the field. Some of the project's conclusions were taken up in the European Commission’s 2015 Science Education Report.
COMPASS is an LLP project completed in 2011 which focused on the development of teaching materials combining STEM disciplines in an interdisciplinary way. Authentic real life problems engage students in inquiry combining different STEM subjects and show young people the relevance of the school subjects. Due to its distinguished impact, in 2016 COMPASS has been selected as a success story by European experts. We are proud that our innovative results and creative approaches are a source of inspiration for others. The project's resources are available on the project’s website in multiple languages and can be obtained as a DVD or on USB.
LEMA is an LLP project completed in 2009 which developed professional development materials for mathematical modelling. The materials offer insight into what modelling is and offer guidance on how to select appropriate modelling tasks and teaching pedagogies, and on how to assess modelling activities. Its resources are available on the project’s website.
ICSE International Newsletter
Our international newsletter aims to keep all our partners, stakeholders and others interested in our work up to date about the latest events and conferences, reports and materials of our Centre and its projects. The newsletter is issued to our unique and unparalleled network of around 2000 STEM education researchers, practitioners and policy makers, once or twice per year. To register for our international newsletter, or to send us contributions, please send us an email.
ICSE's National Activities in Germany
As in the whole of Europe, also in Germany we continue to encounter challenges to develop and sustain STEM education of the highest quality. The latest PISA results, for example, show that pupils lack to see the relevance that STEM subjects have to their future life and careers-despite the ubiquitious role science and technology have in our everyday lives already now. A focus of our regional activities in Germany is therefore on promoting STEM education that, first, promotes science literacy among all students (including migrants, those from disadvantaged backgrounds) and which, second, lets pupils experience the role and usefulness of science knowledge and how they could employ it in their future jobs.
ICSE Programs in Germany
ICSE offers, inter alia, the following programs:
- Cooperation with regional industry and technology companies, and company visits for STEM teachers and students
- Professional development courses on teaching approaches such as inquiry-based learning, connections to real-life contexts and the world of work, as well as on dealing with cultural, achievment-related and gender-related heterogeneity and diversity in STEM classrooms
- Joint international "mini-projects" for German schools to work on a small task in parallel to other schools from abroad and exchange their thoughts and solutions to a problem
- Selection of and advise on high-quality tasks and classroom materials in German, developed and tested in cooperation with teachers, for all school types and age ranges in STEM education
- Quarterly publication of a selected STEM problem to work at for pupils
- Cooperation at events such as pupils' days and competitions, teacher conferences and the like (e.g., Tage des Wissens) to provide easy-accessible information to enticing applications and uses of maths and science, and to our programs and materials in general
ICSE German Newsletter
ICSE publishes a newsletter in German to inform interested regional teachers, school directors, teacher trainers, vocational education professionals, or those responsible for local school administration and policies about our offers and upcoming events or courses. To register to our newsletter, please send us an email.