Outline for research and development

In accordance with the target set by the Ministry of Education and Culture (MEC), Finland seeks to be a forerunner in science education by year 2020. At the background of high-standard science education, the primary factors are research into science education and learning, as well as the research-based development of science education  According to the MEC, this is a vital part of the impact of academia on society.

With its multi-disciplinary, research-based science education work, and in accordance with its strategy, the University of Helsinki supports and promotes

  • children’s and young people’s science hobbies,
  • the general public’s knowledge of science, its various missions, significance, and results,
  • the general public’s scientific literacy, i.e. the ability to understand scientific phenomena related to everyday life, participate in current debates, and make decisions both on a personal and a social level,
  • the teaching and learning of different sciences and school subjects at all levels, from early childhood education to university, and
  • our own recruitment of students, as well as
  • teacher education to produce inspiring and researching teachers.

The Science Education Centre is a top expert hub acting within the university organisation with research and development, as well as coordinating implementation and services in science education. (The centre represents the university in the national network LUMA Centre Finland).

The centre has a part in promoting the university’s name as a creative and international environment for learning and top research attracting people from around the world. Its multidisciplinary problem presentations and intra-unit cooperation adds to the social impact of its research.

The Science Education Centre develops its inter-disciplinary science education work within many non-formal science learning environments and research producing new pedagogic innovations, such as new learning environments, work concepts, approaches, material, etc.

These innovations are distributed, with the help of other actors, by educating future and current teachers and by multi-medial publication, for application in many kinds of science education (including formal education) at different education levels, even world-wide.

The centre is a specialist, research, and development organisation, which does not necessarily implement all the work concepts it develops itself, at least not permanently, but primarily distributes them openly to anyone interested in using them.

The primary objects of research and development are the non-formal learning environments so vital in science education, and the teaching, learning, and other activities happening within them, taking into account the distinctive characteristics of each discipline.

Non-formal learning environments include science-related activities during leisure time for children, young people, and the whole family, such as

  • science clubs
  • science camps
  • science parties, and
  • science events, as well as
  • science hobbies at home

but they can also include learning environments outside the classroom during formal education at different levels, such as

  • university science classes and
  • science adventures organised by universities, as well as
  • museums
  • science centres and
  • nature

The above-mentioned learning environments may also be partially or wholly virtual.

In these learning environments, we can study especially children, young people, and their guardians (how they learn, for example), teacher students or current teachers or supervisors (how they learn, how they educate, or their interaction in the learning environment), or the collaboration between different actors.

One of the primary goals of science education is the promotion of sustainability. The focus area of the university’s strategy strongly affects the research and development of science education at the university.

The focus area of the research and development are

  • research-based and active science study born from the nature of the scientific process
  • studies integrating different science disciplines (and technology and arts), considering phenomena as a whole
  • discursivity (especially in the humanities) and game based learning

For science education, it is also vital to study and develop meaningfull methods of

  • taking the latest innovations in science into consideration, as well as
  • utilising modern technology (including augmented reality, AR, and virtual reality, VR)

The Science Education Centre brings together people at the university researching and developing science education. To support the director of the centre in planning and directing the research and development are professors, university lecturers, and post docs from various disciplines, who are interested in science education.

The research and development of science education is carried out in large national or international projects, as well as smaller studies, mostly theses (doctoral or Master’s).

Generally, the iterative methodology of design-based research (DBR) is used for developmental research, as it not only produces new theoretical information, but also new serviceable solutions for everyday use, such as learning environments, work concepts, pedagogical approaches or materials, which perfectly supports the mission of science education.  On the basis of the theoretical information, current and new work methods can be improved and developed.

Along with studying and developing science education, many researchers at the university study formal school education and teacher education. The needs for improvement brought forth by this research can then be used to direct the research and development within science education.

The international collaboration, mainly with academic partners, will be enhanced. The cooperation with European partners that is somewhat established already will continue and be consolidated.

A new, significant collaboration partner is the LUMA China Center etablished in connection with Beijing Normal University. China has excelled in the meaningful use of e.g. modern technology in support of science education.

International research cooperation will also be furthered by e.g. visits to related research centres abroad and hosting foreign researchers visiting Helsinki.

The centre is seeking backers for its research and development in aacordance with the outlines above from e.g. funds, companies, and the Academy of Finland. In addition, we hope to participate in international research-financing applications (e.g. as part of the application consortium of the national network LUMA Centre Finland).

For partners outside academia in Finland and abroad, we can also offer service packages with research and development of science education.  In future, the cities in the region will be primary partners of the university.

The pedagogical innovations developed at the centre are actively distributed in cooperation with numerous partners.

For the university, the Science Education Centre’s collaboration with teachers in nursery school, classroom teachers, and subject teachers has a central role.

For the surrounding society, the Science Education Centre offers education for teachers working at different levels, either organising it itself or in collaboration with others, such as HY+ or pedagogical teacher associations. The staff of museums and science centres, as well as youth and library officials in the cities, can also be educated in utilising the pedagogical innovations developed be the centre. The innovations can also be used in the science education cooperation between upper-secondary school and universities, in collaboration with e.g. the Open University.

The research is publicised for the science community as articles in national and international refereed open-access publications, conference papers, and proceedings, as well as theses (Bachelor’s, Master’s, Licentiate, and Doctoral).

The results of the research and development are also popularised at various events and by publishing on our own web site, as well as other national and international popularly held multi-media publications.

The open distribution of the innovations also promotes the development of new businesses.