New EU Project

Assessment of Inquiry Learning in Science

Dublin (IE), February 2012 - The Irish Minister for Education and Science, Ruairí Quinn TD, has launched a €3.75m EU-funded initiative that aims to revolutionise the way science is taught and assessed in classrooms across Europe. The project, SAILS (Strategies for Assessment of Inquiry Learning in Science), is funded by the European Framework Programme (FP7) and is coordinated by a team from Dublin City University. It is led by Dr. Odilla Finlayson, Dr. Eilish McLoughlin, Dr. Paul van Kampen, Dr. Sarah Brady, and Dr. Deirdre McCabe of CASTeL at DCU.

The long-term aim of the project is to generate a greater interest in science subjects at school, improve the take-up of science at third level, and also to increase the number of skilled graduates for employment in science and technology.

The SAILS consortium consists of thirteen partner organisations, including universities, SMEs and the multi-national organisation, Intel, from across twelve countries - Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Sweden, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.

Dr. Odilla Finlayson, the project coordinator for SAILS, says, "An inquiry-based approach has been highlighted as having the potential to increase student engagement in science. The main objective of this project is to support teachers in adopting inquiry-based science education (IBSE) at second level."

"In particular, we will focus on how key skills and competencies, such as critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, and collaboration, can be developed through IBSE and how they can be appropriately assessed. SAILS not only aims to prepare teachers to be able to teach through IBSE, but also to be confident and competent in the assessment of their students' learning."

Through a focused approach of implementing all the necessary components for transforming classroom practice, i.e. teacher education, curriculum, and assessment around IBSE pedagogy, a sustainable model for science education will be developed through the SAILS project.

"We consider that the SAILS project is important in Ireland at the current time, particularly with the focus in national curricula on key skills and competencies. The development of appropriate teacher education programmes directed towards the assessment of skills will be a significant output for informing science education across Europe", said Dr. Eilish McLoughlin, Director, CASTeL, and coordinator of the ESTABLISH project funded under the FP7 programme in 2010.