Story of the EQUALPRIME Project

Discussions about a cross-cultural comparative research project called “EQUALPRIME – Ensuring Quality in Primary Education” occurred throughout 2009 and 2010 among academics from Germany, Australia and Taiwan. These discussions arose because of a shared passion by these academics to work together in an international project to investigate quality science teaching in primary schools in the three different countries. The researchers recognized the benefits and opportunities to observe, compare and learn from the teaching in different countries. During these discussions, a shared understanding of the objectives and aims of a future research project were discussed and funding opportunities were investigated. Most significant and important was the development of a shared repertoire by the founding members of the partnership. This is a 33 page document detailing the shared objectives, aims, research questions, research approaches, data analysis, data sharing, publications and presentation policies . The detail in the shared repertoire provided the researchers with a clear understanding of their responsibilities and commitments.  Below is an excerpt from the shared repertoire – detailing with the research questions:

From the shared repertoire

In this cross-national comparative research project we aim to investigate which forms of teaching practices in primary school can be identified in different societies and educational systems; in what ways current typologies of teaching practice (teacher-dominated instruction, open, student-centred instruction and adaptive instruction) are reflected in these practices; and in what ways these practices enable scientific reasoning of the students. The difference of this study with other similar ones should be that it focuses on cultural elements.

To justify for the cost of an international comparative study, the study needs to be able to explain and focus on cultural aspects. We should bring in the cultural comparison as an important element and look into how culture affects the ways of teaching (for example, the way different cultures capture the knowledge concept, impact of linguistic diversity towards teaching/learning…etc.). It is also about problematizing globalization – with the impact of globalization and policy/curriculum borrowing, are there still differences to learn between cultures?

Given that ‘scientific reasoning’ is key to the research, a broad definition of what it consists of was discussed to provide a rough direction to the focus of the research. Nonetheless, the analysis of the data should not be restricted by such definition.

The following are a new set of research questions preliminarily agreed by the organising board. They are opened to further amendment throughout the research process.

1. What are the characteristic of teaching and learning practices that offer productive opportunities for student engagement in quality learning and reasoning and the development of scientific literacy outcomes?
1.1. What forms of classroom discourse provide opportunities for exploring ideas, reasoning with ideas and observations, and constructing understandings about natural phenomena?
1.2. What forms of classroom discourse develop student competencies with the literacies of science including the development and refinement of students’ representational resources?
1.3. What forms of classroom discourse support broader scientific literacy outcomes such as dispositional outcomes, understandings of the nature of science and its societal interactions.
2. To what extent and in what ways do teaching and learning practices differ in different cultures?
2.1. What evidence is there for a coherent body of science teaching and learning practice in each of the countries?
2.2. How do teachers in different cultures open up opportunities for students to engage in scientific reasoning?
2.3. What are the similarities and difference in science teaching and learning practices in the different countries?
2.4. How are these differences framed by teacher beliefs and particular cultural traditions?
2.5. What different representations do children use in exploring questions about the natural world and in what ways are these culturally framed?

3. What are the implications for teacher education and for the improvement of pedagogical practices in science education?