LATVIAN SCIENCE TEACHER EXPERIENCE IN LEARNING TEAM FOR IMPROVEMENT OF INQUIRY TEACHING PRACTICE
As of 2006, the new secondary education standards requiring for student scientific inquiry have been introduced in Latvia. Student scientific inquiry is a new approach for the science teachers in Latvia. Based on the initial research carried out in Latvia on the teachers’ progress in implementation of scientific inquiry, it may be said with confidence that scientific inquiry has entered the learning process. However, the results of a teacher survey, as well as expert lessons observations show the contradiction between the real situation in the classroom and teachers’ own perception confirming that in order to develop skills for effectively organizing scientific inquiry there is a need to improve teacher analytical and reflection skills.
In order to be successful in inquiry teaching, a teacher has to be immersed in his/her performance, take part in discussions, exchange opinions, practice, analyze and reflect on their own and their colleagues’ learning. When a teacher, presented with a problematic situation in the classroom, is looking for a solution developing an understanding of what they can do, it may be useful to test ideas through experimentation in an action research way. The action research was chosen as a tool for Teachers’ Continuous Professional Development (CPD) in order to improve their own inquiry teaching practices and reflection skills. Teacher learning teams for the action research aimed at improving individual inquiry teaching practices and reflection skills were for the first time established in Latvia in 2011.
The research poses a question – how does the work in teacher learning teams for the action research facilitate improvement of their inquiry teaching practices and reflection skills?
Two learning team groups were formed, a group leader was prepared. 12 science teachers from the Innovative experience schools network with previous innovative experience provided by the National Center of Education were united in group A (2011). Over a period of 6 years since 2005, teachers of Group A were on regular basis enrolled in various professional development activities on how to lead scientific inquiry, analyze and reflect on their own and their colleagues’ performance. 10 chemistry teachers from Daugavpils with no innovative experience and specific training in implementing student scientific inquiry were united in group B (2012).
A new continuous collaborative professional learning model was implemented during the academic year 2011/2012 including 9 workshops (5 hours each). In between workshops, teachers carried out their action research individually. Each workshop included reflection, discussion, input, work on tasks, collaboration activities.
The efficiency of learning teams for the action research was analysed using records and transcripts of the workshops, as well as pre- and post-workshop teacher self-evaluation surveys, which measured benefits according to a 5-point Likert scale. The surveys showed improvement of all skills establishing the competency to effectively organize student scientific inquiry: whereas the pre-workshop self-evaluations fluctuated from 2.3 to 3.4, the post-workshop self-evaluations varied from 4.3 to 4.9, showing an increase by 1.1 to 2 points.