REACH OUT Improving Science Education in Europe
The DESIRE Survival kit
PUBLISHER DESIRE Project Team http://desire.eun.org/ European Schoolnet (EUN Partnership AISBL) Rue de Trèves 61 – 1040 Brussels – Belgium www.europeanschoolnet.org
EDITOR CONTRIBUTORS Maite Debry (EUN), Xenia Lauritsen (EUN), Silvia Panzavolta (INDIRE), María Isabel Hernández (UAB), Roser Pintó (UAB), Estrid Brandorff (DNF), Didier Laval (Ecsite).
DESIGN COORDINATOR ORIGINAL DESIGN DTP AND PRINTING COVER IMAGE ISBN LEGAL NOTICE Publish in XX 2013. The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and not necessarily those of EUN partnership AISBL. The DESIRE project and the present publication have been funded with support from the European Commission, under the Education &Training, Comenius Lifelong Learning Programme. This report reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.
Table of Contents Introduction....................................................................................................... 5 Chapter 1. Dissemination .............................................................................. 13 I.
REACHING TEACHERS ............................................................................. 15
I.1 BUILDING YOUR DISSEMINATION STRATEGY .............................................. 15 I.1.1 Proposal stage ................................................................................ 15 I.1. 2 You have a story to tell your teachers ......................................... 19 I.1.3 Get to know the science teacher, the curriculum and the school context ...................................................................................................... 20 I.1.4 Select tools, channels, events ....................................................... 22 I.1.5 Timeline ........................................................................................... 24 I.2 YOUR CHANNELS TO REACH TEACHERS.................................................... 27 I.2.1 Social media .................................................................................... 27 I.2.2 Websites .......................................................................................... 29 I.2.3 Presentation and face-to-face events........................................... 30 I.2.4 Media................................................................................................ 32 I.3 GOOD PRACTICES TO REACH TEACHERS .................................................. 33 I.3.1 Combining channels ....................................................................... 33 I.3.2 Challenges when working with teachers ...................................... 35 II. REACH PROJECT MANAGERS .................................................................. 40 II.1 INTERCONNECTING SCIENCE EDUCATION PROJECTS BY REACHING OTHER PROJECT MANAGERS ..................................................................................... 40
II.2 YOUR CHANNELS TO REACH PROJECT MANAGERS................................... 41 II .3 GOOD PRACTICES TO REACH PROJECT MANAGERS ................................ 43 II.4 COOPERATION WITH INDIVIDUALS AND NETWORKS .................................. 45 III.
REACH POLICY MAKERS ...................................................................... 47
III.1 PLANNING THE DISSEMINATION STRATEGY ............................................. 47 III.2 YOUR CHANNELS TO REACH POLICY MAKERS ......................................... 48 Chapter 2. Exploitation .................................................................................. 50 I.
ADAPT TO TARGET NEEDS AND DESIRES OF USERS ................................. 50
II. SUPPORT USERS TO EMPOWER THEM ..................................................... 53 III.
HOW TO MAKE YOUR RESULTS SUSTAINABLE? ..................................... 54
INFORMING POLICY-MAKERS ................................................................. 55
V. INFORMING PROJECT MANAGERS............................................................. 56 VI.
INVOLVING SCIENCE CENTRES, SCIENCE MUSEUMS AND SCIENCE
COMMUNICATORS .......................................................................................... 56
Chapter 3. How can you as stakeholder make a difference?.................... 59 Conclusions.................................................................................................... 60 What can the DESIRE survival kit do for you? ........................................... 65
Introduction “Oh no, not I, I will survive!” Gloria Gaynor, I will survive.
This Survival Toolkit will ensure science education projects results reach teachers and other science education stakeholders. This is a practical guide based on the results of a survey and empirical evidences to arm project managers and science communicators with weapons to survive the dissemination and exploitation challenges of science education projects. The processes and recommendations proposed in the guide are based on the DESIRE standards. From 2011 to 2013, science teachers, science education project managers, science communicators and policymakers were consulted on how new project results on Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) education can reach teachers and other stakeholders more efficiently. The DESIRE team invited stakeholders to tell about their experience to access and communicate about tools and methods in STEM education. The stakeholders’ experiences were collected and analysed and best dissemination practices for spreading out outcomes from STEM education project were identified.
What, when, where, how and to who? This survival kit gives an overview on how to reach science teachers, policy makers, other project managers and science communicators in general with your messages from European and national
projects. Before entering the heart of the subject, here are some details on how the DESIRE survival kit was developed and how it should be used. Letâ€™s start with some definition of terms.
What is Dissemination? In project management terms, dissemination is a strategic process where results of a project are made available, understandable and usable by the potential users.
This survival kit will help you awake your stakeholdersâ€™ interest in your STEM project results and facilitate their use.
What, how and to who do STEM education projects normally disseminate? In this survival kit we distinguish three forms of dissemination: paperbased strategies, web-based strategies and Face-to-face strategies. More details are presented in the table below. Who disseminates?
What is disseminated?
How are the results
To who are results
Teaching, learning and assessment materials
Teacher education materials
Text-based channels (e.g. flyers, brochures, leaflets, policy briefs, written materials,
recommendations of good practices Communication
Web-based channels (e.g. on-
experts / teams
line social networking, portals,
websites, videos, emailing)
Theoretical contributions or review of already existing Teacher trainers
Project managers Face-to-face strategies (e.g. events, conference, workshop,
Findings from empirical
seminar, communities of
Repository of resources Established networks of people
The questionnaires and discussion events that enable to collect the data presented in this Survival toolkit mainly discussed around these three types of dissemination.
When and how is this toolkit useful? This toolkit offers guidelines for STEM project managers and science communicators on how to reach teachers, policy makers, project managers and science communicators in general at national and European levels with inspiring methods.
Contribute as STEM stakeholder. DESIRE
survival kit gives you information on how to plan, implement and evaluate dissemination strategies.
Who were the stakeholders consulted for the production of the DESIRE survival kit? The DESIRE project organised data collection from four stakeholders groups, namely: Project managers, are defined as coordinators, managers and researchers of finished or ongoing European and national funded projects that produce and, in some cases, research about methods and/or materials to improve science education. Science communicators are communication experts involved in disseminating science more broadly, both as science event managers and as science communicators in museums. Policy Makers are politicians or STEM experts that are involved in the decision making processes in the education systems of Europe. Teachers are primary and secondary school teachers who are actively teaching Science and Maths in different European school systems.
How were the stakeholder consulted for the production of this survival kit? The content of the survival kit is based on data collected from the four stakeholder groups in forms of questionnaires, online discussion forums, workshops and interviews.
Context Overview “I get these strange strand desires” The Rolling Stones, Terrifying.
There are multiple funded projects in science education around Europe each year. Most of them have the potential to change existing teaching and learning practices but their impact is sometimes low and the outcomes are often not used as expected. Thus, educational policy-making continues placing emphasis on the dissemination of project outcomes as a mechanism for quality improvement in education. This was the main focus of the DESIRE project which is intended to analyse possible obstacles and facilitators to promote a more effective model of dissemination of science education projects’ outcomes, preventing them becoming ‘sticky’ to the origin context or rapidly lost. The DESIRE survival kit presents a set of recommendations to improve the way dissemination is planned and carried out in funded projects on science education. These recommendations are based on: An analysis of the dissemination strategies used in finished or
ongoing funded science education projects The identification of needs of the four stakeholder groups involved
in dissemination actions: project managers, teachers, policymakers and science communicators Existing literature on dissemination strategies and models of
communication of project outcomes to potential users
About half of the most engaged and active Science
participated in European or national research projects feel that they do not receive enough information
European and national science education projects. Likewise science teachers who do not usually participate in funded projects receive much less information from projectsâ€™ outcomes or do not receive any information at all, since they have neither direct network nor direct connections
Chapter 1. Dissemination “I long to reach for you in the night” Bob Dylan, Lay Lady lay.
Managers of STEM education projects produce evidence, knowledge and tools to improve science education. To make sure stakeholders benefit from your new findings it is important to prioritise time to reach out to people that can benefit from your results. Transferring knowledge and information into the teaching practice and to politicians can be a slow and sometimes difficult process. Planning effective dissemination strategies and knowing your stakeholders habits and preferences well will help you survive. This chapter will help you structure your dissemination planning. Dissemination of results is often a contractual obligation for research initiatives supported by the European Union’s Seventh RTD Framework Programme (FP7), Lifelong Learning Programme (EACEA) and other programmes of the European Commission or national institutions. Dissemination planning involves not only looking at where and when the information should be disseminated but also at what should be communicated and how it should be presented. This chapter will help you to find out more about central issues you need to take into consideration when communicating messages and
knowledge to teachers, policy makers, project managers and other science communicators. The first section is dedicated to the dissemination to teachers, the second tackles the communication to policy-makers and the last one the reach-out to project managers. In each section we propose to look at the best practices to better plan a dissemination strategy, we analyse the channels existing and the better way to use them and finally we propose some best practices in terms of outreach models.
I. REACHING TEACHERS How, where and when should you start telling teachers
results? The dissemination plan has a crucial role within a project and has to be reviewed regularly as the results emerge with the progress of the project. Results may emerge during the project, with a value that was not foreseen by the time of the dissemination design. This will help you reach your dissemination objectives and eventually contribute to changes in attitude or practices and the upgrade of teachersâ€™ skills.
I.1 BUILDING YOUR DISSEMINATION STRATEGY I.1.1 Proposal stage The successful dissemination strategy should already be considered during the development of the proposal. This way you ensure sufficient allocated tasks, budget and time to your dissemination strategy at an early stage.
Make sure your strategy is participatory Make your strategy participatory already during the development process of your project proposal. You can suggest involving teachers in your project to test your results: This way you ensure your project results are oriented toward the needs of the teachers. Teachers can also be included to assist you with your project dissemination.
Involve teachers or local institution in your dissemination activities By having teachers reaching out to other teachers with your projects’ outcomes you reach local levels more effectively: Teachers often know and have access to local communication channels and communities for teachers.
“About the dissemination, we organize every year the ‘Let's do physics day’ in which we invite the primary schools to our laboratory, and we have had invitations from many local schools to carry out our experiments.” Laura Polenta
“It would be necessary that autonomous groups of teachers easily promote the communication of research results or innovations. A more decentralized model (from university or research centres) would be necessary. There are many teachers interested in this”
Another advantage of involving teachers in your dissemination activities is that you teachers think and speak like teachers: Your projects results and project will simply be communicated out in a comprehensive way and contribute to the exploitation of your results.
“The productions [from participating teachers in a project] can be shown in exhibitions. Then some teachers can think: they made it; it's possible so I can make it too!" "It is important to have supporting guidelines and also training to make sure we are prepared to handle the resources, but they should be developed by science teachers” If you’re a science communicator, you might be skilful to build understandable and meaningful materials, but you may be unaware or teachers’ other constraints linked to the classroom situation, the school structure or the curricula. The collaboration with teachers can be a real win-win
communicating skills and experience, and you will benefit from their knowledge of the field.
Know the science curricula of the involved countries
When writing your proposal you need to consider if you should allocate time to investigate how and where the developed project result fits into the teachers practices in the various school systems in Europe.
“The project should be related to the curriculum.” Svetlana Dotsenko The questioned teachers in the DESIRE project generally expressed that they don’t have much time and might sometimes navigate between excessive amount of information when searching for new teaching methods and materials. It is therefore essential that you identify how to communicate in a relevant and effective way.
“The time that a teacher loose just looking for the materials for class is an enormous waste of resources.” Carlos Cunha You can find out where and how project results are useful to teachers by mapping their national curricula and knowing more about the school systems flexibility to integrate new methods and materials.
I.1. 2 You have a story to tell your teachers
How do you define the content and format of your message? Whether to educate, discuss, promote or advocate, you need to have a story to tell. Within every story, key messages are the messages you want your teachers to remember and react to. Within all your writing, materials, presentations, workshops and content online, key messages keep you on track with what you are trying to accomplish. Start by reflecting about the purpose and how teachers can use the project results. Consider their problems, tasks, for which the results can provide a solution based on your input of knowledge or information.
Tell teachers your project results are easy to use According to many teachers, it motivates to know that new tools and methods are easy to use and the pedagogical benefits are high. This will encourage teachers to participate in innovative science projects or use their results. It can be useful to identify and list the added value of certain project outcomes for teachers in a very early phase of the project to structure your dissemination strategy.
â€œI think that good projects are those that include different topics very connected to real life. I'm a 19
math teacher in the middle and high school in Israel and I realized that students become involved in projects when they "speak" their "language". I mean that they like activities that use ICT in all forms: computers games, cell phones, etc. and the most important is that they got a feedback at the end.â€? Mirta Levin I.1.3 Get to know the science teacher, the curriculum and the school context In Europe the educational systems, science curricula and the teaching methods varies from country to country. A teacher is not just a teacher. A teacher or school teacher is generally a person who provides education for pupils and students. But the role of a teacher may vary among cultures and their professional duties may extend beyond formal teaching. Outside of the classroom teachers may accompany students on field trips, supervise study halls, help with the organisation of school functions, and serve as supervisors for extracurricular activities. When identifying your target audience you may need to map the curricula and national practices to ensure your targeted teachers actually can apply your project results. The educational level and the studentsâ€™ ages may vary between countries.
In some cases the national curriculum borrows little space to integration of your project results. In this case you may need to consider targeting teachers involved in extracurricular activities. In some cases it can be relevant to widen or narrowing the definition of the targeted teachers. Targeting young teachers gives you the advantage of reaching teachers without deeply rooted habits with the capacity to learning new methods fast.
“[I would suggest] involving very young teachers who have yet temporary posts because they can change easily given that their role is not yet crystallized” On the other hand, teachers with more stable positions often have a better overview, experience and time to concentrate on your results and they might be good at giving substantial feedback.
“When a teacher works in the same school over long periods, they can this way find it meaningful to try out new methodologies as they are able to follow the results of the changes of practice on their own students along the years”
I.1.4 Select tools, channels, events When the exact profile of the teachers you want to reach is defined, you should now indicate the most appropriate channels for communicating with them. These might include an e-bulletin, conference, workshop, leaflet, press release, event – or broader methods such as media and a project website. When you elaborate a structure for dissemination don’t forget the local channels. Many teachers agree on the need for fostering national multipliers e.g. individuals, groups, networks, Ministry of Education, that already communicates with schools and teachers.
Prioritise local or regional dissemination strategies Some teachers emphasized the need for including dissemination materials in other languages than English and the need for organising more dissemination initiatives at a local or regional level - e.g. conferences, workshops, seminars, and exhibitions.
“It would be easier if workshops could be in our mother tongue” Teachers often know local channels or associations that help them keep updated or informed such as science communities or teacher communities.
“[I would include] more traditional events (conferences, seminaries, workshops) throughout the territory to meet more teachers” So be there, where things happens! At conferences and training workshops attended by teachers, even when they are organized by other actors (teacher associations, other museums, festivals...).Your presence there is necessary for them to meet concretely your results.
Allocate resources for face-to-face activities Many teachers highlighted the importance of receiving guidelines and support from partners to better understand and apply what has been disseminated.
“[I would suggest] allocating more time to workshops / face - to- face events” The endeavour to inform stakeholder is in general time consuming and costs lots of money. We suggest that you identify a strategy and elaborate messages and repeat them. Mass dissemination of information is maybe less costly but still requires a lot of time and is often ineffective in transferring knowledge that is actually applied. Most teachers do not actively seek knowledge; therefore your results are better expressed, communicated, channelled and distributed if you focus on more interactive channels.
“I have noticed it´s always difficult to hear the outcomes of projects. Even dissemination on ongoing projects are sometimes unknown. I´m sure there are great projects in our neighboring schools we aren´t aware of” Tiina Kähärä I.1.5 Timeline
Pay attention to the dissemination timeline! You will need to send out differentiated messages during the timeframe of the project. For example, at the beginning of a project it is better to focus on awareness of the project, and at the end on ‘selling’ achievements. A timeline will help you structure this process.
When to reach a teacher? There are periods in the school year where it can be difficult to reach school staff. Take into account the special characteristics of teachers in terms of school commitments. For example teachers may not be available during summer holidays or school holidays and exam periods.
Allocate more time to dissemination Teachers who have helped carried out dissemination tasks in European and national projects expressed the need for more time to disseminate to make more people interested and understand the outcomes of the project.
Usually a message should hit teachers in several ways before it has an impact. Therefore the messages should be spread through various channels and tools. And this often requires more time than what is usually prioritised in most dissemination strategies.
Create continuity and sustainability Finally when writing your proposal consider how engaged teachers can benefit from your project after your project has ended. Some teachers expressed that teacher networks created during a project period have no reason to end but can be potentiated after the ending of a project. The networks you established for the project may be used for other projects and can ensure continuity in dissemination after a finalised project.
â€œ[I would suggest] potentiating the network of teachers to work together also afterward. Usually at the end of such projects there's a general split up. On the contrary I think the fruits of such projects will come ripe later on: pilot teachers need to have time to use and reuse and improve the activities or even add new ones. The same for dissemination...times are a bit too compressed within one year or just some months. A community of practice needs time and patience and constant being in touch and exchange ideas. The projects should be just the spin off.... but then there must be more organized follow ups also favouring cascade disseminationâ€?
I.2 YOUR CHANNELS TO REACH TEACHERS Dissemination channels are the means that makes your results accessible for teachers. There are many channels. The costs and time needed for the different channels vary and should be taken into account to estimate how your dissemination activities are compatible with the allocated budget.
I.2.1 Social media Social media, these virtual communities and networks can greatly help you create, share, and exchange information and ideas with your targeted teachers. For example Learning Management Systems like Moodle are recognised by many teachers as ideal social media as they are controlled, secured and closed online areas. Systems like Pearltrees1 or Diigo2 are examples highlighted as facilitators that help teachers connect and share resources and save addressees and explanations. The Learning Resource Exchange (LRE)3 or the eTwinning platform4 (project galleries and resources project kits) are also mentioned by teachers as best dissemination channels.
See: http://www.pearltrees.com for more information on this tool acting as an extension of the internet browser to reference the favourite webpages 2 See: https://www.diigo.com/ for more information about this research tool and knowledge-sharing community 3 See: http://lreforschools.eun.org for more information on Learning Resources Exchange for schools, a service that enables schools to find educational content from many different countries and providers. 4 See: http://etwinning.net for more information on
“Our school has a Facebook page, and nothing unpleasant has ever occurred. Contributors are teachers, students, alumni and parents. It is most useful for disseminating activities and events in school life, projects and so on.” Teachers use social networks, mass media, online conferences, and professional journals in native languages and read newsletters much more frequently than project managers may assume.
“[I would include] online conferences if it was possible”
Be brief and smart! Teachers and educators are often under a very stressful condition, having to match official goals stated by the education department, and with their day-to-day activity within the classroom. Short overviews and brief updates, by newsletter and mailing lists, are a good system to feed them. Last, if you decide to use social media, make clear whether the tool is an institutional communication one or a sort of peer-to-peer group. In the first case, the author is the institution, which gives a makes it a reliable source but a there will be no two-way communication. In the second case, communication and feedback are the qualifying elements.
“[I would include] additional information (short) in social network”
“I think teachers would like to know more but they don't have enough time to read scientific journals. There must be easier ways to get informed. Maybe special websites?” Aiki Jõgeva. Even if it seems obvious, remember that it is essential to create a project website to help you highlight your findings, achievements, publications and ambitions. A website can also be used to give a very detailed virtual summary of your project. If your website as different targets (teachers, policy makers, project managers, etc...) as it is often the case, a recommendation is to create different sections in function of the public you are talking to. Often, project
communicate to other project managers and policy makers and don’t use an appropriate language.
Many teachers highlight the need for improvement of project websites.
Teachers especially express that they easily get lost between messages. To overcome this issue, you may have a few users try you website to make sure it is clear and user-friendly.
“[I would suggest] making the website more easy to use”
I.2.3 Presentation and face-to-face events Presentations
dissemination. It does not allow you to reach a wide audience but the target is reached effectively, with a certain degree of interactivity among participant. Often the costs are high because it involves travelling of project staff members. It is opposed to quantity dissemination where you are not in direct contact with your teachers.
“In Portugal, the teachers training centers should be the best way to disseminate projects outcomes and learning!” Carlos Cunha Teachers find that conferences, seminars and workshops are important and one of the best way to gain new knowledge and be informed about projects.
“[..] practice is what leaves an imprint on what the teacher was taught at that course.” Lidia Ristea 30
â€œPractically, a good web dissemination should always be coupled to direct contacts, to participation in conference and events. STEM professionals should always be present in places where teachers and educators are actually active.â€?
I.2.4 Media Many teachers suggest using already existing contacts with local entities such as newspapers, local TV or radio stations that might not be expensive to use and have a well-established national and local audience.
“My school has built a network with local newspapers and television to publish the school projects and events. It has been an excellent way of promoting the image of the school to the parents of our students. It is a way of facilitating the access to the local companies support for our projects, because they like to see their name associated to social interventions. […]”
I.3 GOOD PRACTICES TO REACH TEACHERS After identifying the key messages, the target audience and the channels the next step is to identify how to combine the channels and interact with other relevant stakeholders in the area.
I.3.1 Combining channels Using one dissemination channel independently is not effective enough to keep teachers updated on the latest resources, methods and materials that are made available by science education projects. Teachers involved in the discussion events of the DESIRE project have suggested that they benefits better from the innovation resulting from science education projects if online dissemination channels and face-to-face events are combined. The information should be communicated by project managers and science communicators in simple way and format. In addition, where several projects and partners are working in similar areas there is always a danger of overlapping with very identical messages and activities.
Create connections among related projects or portals.
â€œ[I would recommend] placing a link to the project website on all web pages on educationâ€? It can be useful to make contact with other projects and think about how you might maximise resources, for example, one national conference on
a theme between several projects is a good way to share time and resources. It can also avoid confusing and overloading your teacher stakeholders with too much information. Teachers can be pre-consulted about their used communication channels. They can often mention specific local or national websites and social networks that are very used to reach teachers audience at a national and local level.
“We have already a platform. There we STEM teachers can share materials (tests, works and so on) and discuss about important issues.” “We also have a website for all science teachers supported by the Weizmann institute of Science, which is a well-known worldwide science institute. In this web site teachers can find a lot of scientific and pedagogical materials ready to use. Teachers can also ask questions in the forums and get answers.”
I.3.2 Challenges when working with teachers When teachers disseminate they sometimes face similar problems than project managers. The most important challenge faced by teachers is to involve more teachers at their schools or local community to participate or gain knowledge provided by EU projects.
Going beyond the same old gang Both teachers and project managers express that it is very difficult to involve new teachers in European and national projects because many teachers think that it will increase their work load.
“It is difficult to create interest among colleagues even when you as teacher spent many hours on this subject” However, many teachers highlight the importance of cooperating with other teachers (e.g. English teachers) in order to surpass (e.g. language) barriers at their school and attract other teachers to participate in European funded projects. The role of headmasters in supporting teachers to participate in projects is also considered as a key element.
“My colleagues don’t desire to participate because they consider it supplementary work or they are already engaged on national projects”
Teachers emphasise that incentives exist to engage and encourage teachers and schools to participate in your projects: equipment for the school, training, social and institutional recognition for the individual teacher, opportunities to participate in workshops, financial support, rewarding systems for active teachers, showing success stories on online portals, international partnerships in funded projects.
â€œIf projects promoted competition among teachers, it could work as an encouragement for the participation and application of new methodologies, especially if the prize is teaching equipment for the schoolâ€?
Another way to motivate teachers is to increase their awareness towards the European Union’s and European Commission’s programmes for research and education. Facilitating teachers a thorough view of the types of actions and initiatives promoted by the European Union help them understand the purpose of projects from a wider perspective. For instance, inviting a Member of the European Parliament to visit a school to “start with the very basics of what Europe really is” seems to be a much applauded initiative by teachers.
Create incentives Many arguments exist to motivate teachers to participate in science education projects including the chance to update their professional profile. Some of the very experienced teachers involved in multiple projects recognise that it reinforces their background in STEM education and helps them keep up to date with their knowledge and skills.
“I think that it will be good if teachers base their practice on STEM education research. I did STEM educational research for Master’s degree when I was full- time teacher. Teaching experience helps me in research field and research process helps me understand better teaching-learning process of STEM education. I want to advise teachers to be participants in someone else’s research and if they like the process they can do the research by themselves. Everybody will have benefits: students, teachers and academy”
Reaching Project Managers
II. REACH PROJECT MANAGERS II.1 INTERCONNECTING SCIENCE EDUCATION PROJECTS BY REACHING OTHER PROJECT MANAGERS Most project managers (66%) who answered the questionnaire designed by DESIRE project for them consider that they do not receive too much information about the outcomes from European, international or national projects. On the contrary, other project managers consider that
“… in the wonderful world of Internet, we are not anymore on mercy of mass media, so it should be possible for everyone to find (or decide to receive) as much information as needed in most cases. Other thing is, whether the information is easily accessible. In most cases it is not”.
Reaching Project Managers
II.2 YOUR CHANNELS TO REACH PROJECT MANAGERS The most common channels through which project managers are usually informed of other projectsâ€™ outcomes coincide with the ones they usually use to disseminate the outcomes of the projects they coordinate, which mainly are: text-based strategies (e.g. articles in specialized journals and brief documents), media-based strategies (e.g. websites, portals, newsletters by e-mail), and traditional face-to-face events (e.g. conferences). As part of the target audience, some project managers recognize that one of their most common dissemination strategies refers to the traditional word of mouth, which does not necessarily take place in formal events. They admit that they are more likely to get to know outcomes from projects that are addressed to a topic which is somehow related to the topic addressed in projects in which they have been involved. Therefore, project managers actively or passively get to know projectsâ€™ outcomes that match their interests as researchers, teacher trainers or teachers. The project outcomes that are appreciated as the most interesting or useful by project managers are: training packages/materials, classroom materials, and resources on scientific content, which have good quality and are accompanied by some support.
Reaching Project Managers
â€œThere is nothing more immediate and usable than having at your fingertips documents to rely on and good facilitators at an arm (or computer)'s distanceâ€?.
Reaching Project Managers
II .3 GOOD PRACTICES TO REACH PROJECT MANAGERS
Adapt text-based channels to communicate your project outcomes An appreciated strategy to present experiences to project managers, instead of using public project reports, is the production of books collecting the outcomes from a funded project.
“We think writing a book can be quite a good and effective dissemination strategy. Most of our time has gone in writing reports which I suspect are read by a very small number of people” Document your experiences! Projects should document experiences and present them in a flexible way e.g. case studies which allow framing the experience carried out with attention to the context and boundary conditions, learning materials for students, scripts for teachers with a detailed description of how the materials were designed and used, movies of educational activities. This will help spreading good practice and generate adaptive processes so that stakeholders can learn from past experiences. In this sense, projects’ outcomes would be expected to stimulate new initiatives that
Reaching Project Managers
take account previous research and intend to generate effective learning activities, and new ways of interacting with colleagues and researchers.
â€œObviously it is not easy to share a model to encourage the development of new initiatives that relate to the experiences made in a previous project. For example, if we refer to the training courses that have already been tested successfully, the key point is how to facilitate the re-appropriation by teachers and other stakeholders. The aim should not be to give recipes but to put people in a position to learn from past experiencesâ€?.
Reaching Project Managers
II.4 COOPERATION WITH INDIVIDUALS AND NETWORKS Experienced
establishing networks of people across projects who could act as ambassadors or champions in each country or in each region of a country. These people are expected to be very connected to other stakeholders, to be really passionate about the topic of the network, in order to have the potential to reach out to wider groups. Inviting these people to advisory teams or boards in a reactive way, recruiting people who are champions in their regions, who are available on free services, who are “superconductive”, people who have massive connections is also considered a good dissemination strategy.
“These people are usually proud of permeating to other people and they tend to bring massive value added to projects”. 5
ProCoNet , as a network which is intended to bring together coordinators of most of the big STEM projects in Europe is seen as a good example.
Reaching Policy Makers
III. REACH POLICY MAKERS III.1 PLANNING THE DISSEMINATION STRATEGY Generally, politicians are not subject specialists, they are often lawyers, financial experts etc. and even when they know a topic very well, it might be the case that they deal with other issues than their specialism. Thus, about many topics, they rely on particular advisors, people who do research, people who bring together ideas or who is looking for new ideas and invite them to analyse a topic and refer to them in order to implement measures or finance projects. For this reason, advisory boards are usually considered relevant as intermediate stakeholders to reach policy-makers. On the other hand, they need facts and products to show when they speak about the measures and the projects that were financed or that they would like and promise to carry out. They do not have much time to look for information and prefer dissemination material that has strong communication appeal. From the evidence gathered by the DESIRE research activities, the first thing they look for is: teaching and learning material, repositories of resources and practices and networking efforts. The least used source of information they look for is
contributions. Therefore, this is what they ask from their advisory boards.
Reaching Policy Makers
III.2 YOUR CHANNELS TO REACH POLICY MAKERS As for the channels, media-based strategies, text-based strategies and face-to-face strategies are all used, but with some preferences since policy-makers are more likely to consult some rather than others. As for text-based information, they prefer brief documents or project reports (possibly short versions). As for media-based strategies, Internet is the main gate to get informed. Surprisingly, mass media, on the other hand, is not a commonly used source of information for policy-makers. Finally, concerning face-to-face dissemination strategies, traditional fair, conferences, and seminars are the most used modalities for policy makers to get informed and this is not surprising since it may happen quite often that they attend these kinds of events to give a speech and to politically support certain initiatives (this is part of their political strategy).
III.3 BEST PRACTICES TO REACH POLICY MAKERS Some of the successful strategies mentioned by policy makers relate to the fact of being involved and informed at an early stage of the project by the project team. Moreover, being sometimes the language a barrier (50% of the policy makers interviewed considers it true) in order to go in depth reading about project outcomes, the fact of being informed at the beginning of the project is an added value for having the time to become familiar with the project.
Chapter 2. Exploitation « Now I'm gonna spread the news That it feels this good getting used Keep on using me 'til you've used me up Use me, use me » Grace Jones, Use Me.
I. ADAPT TO TARGET NEEDS AND DESIRES OF USERS Though dissemination is a crucial part of all projects, science education ones usually have to deal with an additional challenge: how can your resources be effectively used by your targets? How can you facilitate the appropriation of these resources by the users, their integration in the targets daily work? And most of all, will the resources be used after the end of the project?
Build resources that will be used and re-used. Not only do you need to reach teachers and other stakeholders, you also have to convince them to actually use the results, offer them the resource in an easy-to-use format, help them to adapt it, make sure the activities will be a long-lasting success. All of this has to be carefully taken into account when the resources are being developed. The choice of materials used to circulate STEM resources is a delicate one. Everybody agrees that quality is the key. However, high quality is not limited to contents and artistic value. There are always different elements to be taken in consideration, like the ability to relate to that resource –a video referring to a very distant reality is less likely to work
than something teachers and their class feel closer to them–; the applicability of the contents to the local context, or the possibility to build a similar experience.
One of the main challenges is to have a resource that is adaptable to different contexts. This may be done by using a very broad and transversal topic (e.g. Health) by suggesting several ways to use the materials, by explaining a method to adapt the resource to any situation. The material can also be seen as an inspiration, fostering users to
reproduce it while adding a local character.
“I think a crucial thing is to build in several mechanisms for allowing "user feedback", or whatever you might call it. Another method I have come across is to have a sort of advisory board or panel of "consultants" for the project, including not only academics but all kinds of people. Getting their view on intermediary reports and ideas is also useful...” Just like for dissemination, involving future users in the conception will ensure that the resource is adequate. Various involvements are possible: Future users being co-designers of the resource. A group of guinea pigs trying the resource as it’s being made.
Future users being part of an advisory board, giving its opinion at
“One thing we did in an EU project I am part of was to have a stakeholder meeting in the middle of the project. We presented our initial ideas and topics (…) BEFORE actually going out and doing empirical work. That gave us the opportunity to get their views on several things: that our frames are useful to them, that we didn't miss something out, to already disseminate some ideas, to establish contacts... We will have another such meeting towards the end of the project.”
This group of users can exchange at a European level thanks to online tools. It could then be the start of an online community of users, which will be helpful for the sustainability of the results. Last, keep in mind that most of the produced materials are text-based. Other formats, such as experiments, videos, games or other unusual activities are much rarer, thus more appreciated!
II. SUPPORT USERS TO EMPOWER THEM Your resource is perfectly tailored for your target? The game isn’t won yet. The users usually like and need to sculpt, change or hack the materials that are given. If your resource looks like a complex and oneblock finished product, the users will not have much freedom with it. In order to use and manipulate it, the user wants to have a “hackable” material: something modular, that can be easily modified or used in other ways. Your target also needs to know how to integrate bits and excerpts of the innovative contents and methods within well-consolidated and welltested ones. This way, the user can test and adapt the new materials progressively, and integrate them within the daily work. In particular, science communicators and teacher trainers can use this approach to trigger interest towards the new approaches within their audience. Help your teachers: they have to be successful with students! Your material should include some theoretical background, some practical activities, and also an emotional dimension, involving the social relevance, the impact of science, and its relevance to the students’ life. A content that is embedded within a story is more appealing, more functional and easier to apply in a classroom context.
It should not only be thorough but also unique, exploiting some details that catch the eye, that have a special and striking twist.
“These kinds of products are much more likely to be used and spread around. They are in line with the social media attitude: they talk ‘about you’, they foster a personal communication and an inclusive approach.” III. HOW TO MAKE YOUR RESULTS SUSTAINABLE? Will the results be used after the end of the project? As times change, your resource has to adapt. Making it modular and flexible is the first step. Nevertheless, to resist the test of time you resource needs to be alive! The best way to achieve this is to build a community of users. Through networks, associations, websites or social media, at national or European level, users can exchange on the way they use, modify, and experiment your materials. Achieving this objective reveals that your resource is mature enough to live without the project’s support. Thus part of your project should be devoted to the building of this community. First of all, such a community needs a platform as a mean of exchanges: will you use social media, a forum, a website? An existing one or a new one, made for your project? Then, how will you liven up this community? Will you create events, add news? Will you release several versions of the materials? To overcome the challenge of building a community, a good strategy is also to team-up with other resource makers, and to link with other
platforms. Comparing and mixing materials that come from different sources is stimulating! Once again, do not focus on teachers only, but be aware of the teachers’ trainers. Whether it is initial or lifelong training, in formal or informal learning institutions, training that integrated your materials will make it survive.
IV. INFORMING POLICY-MAKERS Some policy-makers gave us useful recommendations that project managers should bear in mind, we can call it the MICE rule. M (mass media and multi-channel strategy): improve the use of mass media to reach the general public, not only relying on Internet, which is of course the first mean of dissemination. I (involvement): stakeholder involvement at early stages of the projects (policy makers at all level, teachers, local communities, etc.). C (clarity and crucial information): communication should be clear, mainly using brief messages and crucial evidence on which policy makers should build their plans and measures. E (evidence): dissemination strategies should communicate clearly how theory and practice can be bridged, for instance between pedagogical theory and teachers’ practice. “Education is an applied field, like engineering”, says Michael Atherton, researcher in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Minnesota, and we should remember that the first players for making it possible are policy makers who draw reforms, set out rules, finance projects and so on.
V. INFORMING PROJECT MANAGERS Some project managers emphasize the need for structuring teacher professional development in Europe in such a way that there is a space to introduce the work of European projects into teacher development programme across Europe. It is considered that such ideal structure might have actually an impact in practice but that would require that the funding institutions supported this and had a strategy for developing such structure first of all and then connected to the projects in order to put content into it. Accordingly, it is advisable to try to combine multiple dissemination channels and to establish connections with already existing networks, associations and portals to get your selected messages across to your stakeholders and facilitate comparison and contrast with other existing initiatives. Some examples of international events on science education that projectsâ€™ managers usually attend are organized by associations and networks, such as ESERA6, NARST7, or IOSTE8.
MUSEUMS AND SCIENCE COMMUNICATORS Even if teachers are your primary target, you should also aim to involve science communicators and science museums, as they are efficient multipliers to spread a new practice. In particular, science centres and museums are regularly organizing teachers training: if they adopt your 6
The European Science Education Research Association The National Association for Research in Science Teaching 8 The International Organization for Science and Technology Education 7
result, it will be presented to hundreds of teachers. Reaching them can be tricky, as they do not use their specific channels. However, they are usually eager to discover innovative approaches. Though they can be reached through social media, the most efficient way to have your resources adopted is to present them at physical events, such as the Ecsite or the PCST Conference. The physical networks are usually more reliable than the virtual ones to spread a practice among science communicators. Partnering with some majors science centres, which will relay towards others, is obviously an efficient strategy. Bear in mind that science communicators have their own needs! Even if your materials are made for teachers, there must be a way to use them out of the classroom. How could your resources be used at science events? Find a way and youâ€™ll have some science museum staff test it with their audience, before spreading it among teachers. Some websites and information points, such as http://research2practice.info, are specifically built for informal learning research, and are thus widely used in the science communication community.
Chapter 3. How can you as stakeholder make a difference? Teachers Project Managers Policy Makers Organisers of activities and expositions in museums and science
centres Science event organisers
Conclusions Now that you have been through this Survival Kit and learn about the DESIRE best practices and recommendations, we hope you are better armed to survive the dissemination and exploitation of your science education project. In this practical guide based on the results of a survey and empirical evidences, our aim was to arm project managers and science communicators with weapons to survive the dissemination and exploitation challenges of science education projects. This survival kit was divided in three main parts: dissemination, exploitation and stakeholders actions. In terms of dissemination to reach teachers, we provide you recommendations and concrete tips to help you planned from the proposal stage. Make sure your strategy is participatory from the design phase to make sure it is oriented toward the teacherâ€™s needs. You should continue involving the teachers also in the dissemination actions. They are the best actors to engage more teachers and show that innovating and using new STEM teaching practices is possible. When designing and implementing your dissemination strategy, it is fundamental to know your target. This should be done by the analysis of the working context, the science curricula of the involved country, and by taking the constraints linked to time and resources that teachers are facing into account. When spreading your project results keep in mind you should tell a story and convince teachers your project results are easy to use. Teachers like
to be approached with teaching materials covering different topics very connected to real life. In terms of channels used, do not forget to include local or regional dissemination activities and allocate resources to face-to-face activities which ensure a better appropriation of your results by the teachers. Do not neglect social media that are massively used by teachers, especially secured one like Moodle. Be brief and smart, as teachers are busy and already fight with their programme and extra-curricular activities, they do not have much time to dedicate to the search for your results. When designing your website, create a specific section for teachers, create a simple navigation and avoid institutional jargon. You can also involve teachers to make a user need analysis. Above all, the most important is to combine dissemination channels. Teachers benefits better from the innovation resulting from science education projects if online dissemination channels and face-to-face events are combined. Keep in mind the incentives that help teachers to find a motivation about your new practices. You should foster professional development opportunities, equipment for the schools, social and professional recognition. In terms of dissemination from project managers to project managers, the format to communicate project outcomes that are appreciated
packages/materials, classroom materials, and resources on scientific content, which have good quality and are accompanied by some support. Another appreciated strategy to present experiences to project managers, instead of using public project reports, is the production of
books. It is also essential to document your experiences and to share them in flexible ways as case studies. Finally, networking is key to make your project results known. Establishing networks of people across projects who could act as ambassadors or champions in each country or in each region of a country will increase the potential to reach out to wider groups. Approaching the question of dissemination of science education project results without tackling the challenge to reach policy-makers would not be sustainable. This is the reason why we invite you to consider this question with a few recommendations. We recommend to target policymakers advisory boards that are formed of specialists that advise them. Prefer dissemination material with strong communication appeal as they usually do not have much time to look for information. Teaching and learning material, repositories of resources and practices and networking efforts are the content most searched by the policy-makers that participated to our survey. Inform them at the beginning of the project, it will be an added value so they have time to become familiar with the project. The second big part of this toolkit refers to exploitation strategy. You should start by adapting to the target needs and desires of users and build resources that will be used and re-used. Keep in mind the applicability of the contents to the local context, or the possibility to build a similar experience. This can be done by using a very broad and transversal topic, suggesting several ways to use the material, flexibility of the method and designing the resource as a source of inspiration to be adapted to the local realities.
Another key element is to support your users to empower them. The flexibility of the format of the resource and support guidelines that accompany the material are elements that will help the final users to use them. To sustain results, the use of networks and communities is broadly advised. To resist the test of time you resource needs to be alive and part of your project should be devoted to the building of a community. Comparing and mixing materials that come from different sources is stimulating.
Draft list of references - Making waves: http://www.saltoyouth.net/rc/inclusion/inclusionpublications/inclusionforall/makingwaves/ - Survival kit for LLP projects: http://www.european-projectmanagement.eu/index.php - A scientistâ€™s survival kit: http://ec.europa.eu/research/sciencesociety/pdf/communicating-science_en.pdf - Communicating EU research & innovation: http://ec.europa.eu/research/social-sciences/pdf/communicatingresearch_en.pdf
This publication emerges from the DESIRE project, an initiative that developed a set of recommendations and identified best practices to ease the spreading of science education projects results. The main aim is to provide insights and guidance to better disseminate and exploit these results to teachers mainly but also to the various stakeholders involved in formal and informal science education projects. The project was carried out by a European consortium including European Schoolnet, INDIRE (Istituto Nazionale di Documentazione per l’Innovazione e la Ricerca Educativa), Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Dansk Naturvidenskabsformidling and Ecsite (The European Network of Science Centres and Museums) and funded under the European Commission’s Lifelong Learning Programme (DG Education and Culture).
What can the DESIRE survival kit do for you?
Provide you information about the targets of your science education project and permit you to look at your diffusion, dissemination and exploitation practices with new eyes.
Identify obstacles which prevent you from reaching a successful dissemination and exploitation of your messages to stakeholders.
Give you survival tools to create a multiplier effect when transferring and implementing results and eventually mainstreaming them into policies.
Provide you practical tips based on lessons learned and experiences from teachers and other science education stakeholder to choose schools outreach models depending on the needs of a given project, especially when implementing in a panEU or multi-country context
Highlight approaches which can federate existing initiatives and point to key European or national services that can act as relays for the results of science education projects
The DESIRE project has been funded with the support of the Lifelong Learning programme of the European Union. This document reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission, cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.