1 Graz University of Technology (AUSTRIA)
2 Open University Netherlands (NETHERLANDS)
3 Verein für Bildung und Erziehung der Grazer Schulschwestern (AUSTRIA)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN15 Proceedings
Publication year: 2015
Pages: 6035-6045
ISBN: 978-84-606-8243-1
ISSN: 2340-1117
Conference name: 7th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 6-8 July, 2015
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Recent European studies have shown that students´ interest in scientific subjects has decreased. However, these subjects are known to be crucial in maintaining future innovation and research quality.

Economic experts see the capability of innovation as one of the most important factors in Europes economic growth and therefore stress the need for independent, critically and creatively thinking young adults. Nowadays, the challenge for students is to rapidly learn and adapt to an internet dominated, overloaded environment, where so called 21st century skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, reasoning, and analysis become a prerequisite for daily tasks and challenges. Inquiry-based learning (IBL) has been widely recognized for its efficacy in science education, extending traditional formal learning settings by student-centred, activity-driven exercises.

Through the support of technology-enhanced learning (TEL-) environments students may be enabled to easily advance their knowledge without direct assistance from a teacher. In the mean time teachers are challenged to provide appropriate learning resources, guidance and instructions, in the background while they need to keep up with students’ learning progress. However, there is a lack of pedagogical instruction and frameworks that facilitate an easy and efficient integration of software tools into a teacher’s daily curriculum.

The European research project weSPOT aims to bridge this gap, bringing science learning and teaching in combination with today’s curricula and teaching practice, by creating a highly flexible Working Environment with Social and Personal Open Tools, to support students in developing their inquiry skills. It is based upon a well-defined pedagogical model that divides the learning process into phases and phases into concrete activities.

The social learning environment provides widgets for carrying out activities and a flexible configuration interface that allows teachers to determine activities their students need to complete. Complementary mobile software enables students to collect data in the field and learning analytics and guidance tools allow for immediate feedback, reflection and continuous support. Since IBL is often criticized for the lack in teaching learning content, a domain modelling tool which is used by teachers to define the knowledge domain has been included in the platform too. Teachers and learners can assign learning resources to later navigate through the knowledge structure in a self-regulated manner or access learning content through a recommendation plugin.

This paper describes the weSPOT approach in general and how it is used by teachers and students in synchronous and asynchronous teaching. It illustrates the design and setup of multiple studies conducted in secondary school classes of different school types in Austria and the Netherlands. On the basis of teacher interviews as well as from a research team perspective, problems, lessons learned and the implementation of improvements are explained and discussed. A special focus is placed on the level of guidance that students need when first engaging with the concept of IBL, and the evolvement of learning behavior teachers could observe over time.
Inquiry-based learning, Secondary school education, Technology enhanced collaborative learning, Formative evaluation, weSPOT.