Mati Morales is a secondary school teacher at INS Francesc Ribalta (Solsona) and she is a member of the network of pilot schools of Xplore Health since 2013. She explains us her experience implementing Xplore Health’s educational resources and engaging her students in participatory research and governance projects, which aim to empower high school students to participate as responsible citizens in a knowledge based society.
Do you think that science education should cover both scientific knowledge and also the social context and the ethical and legal implications?
I think it is very necessary, because many times the debate in the classroom starts from the latest science news, which often take into account the social, ethical and legal aspects, and you have not foreseen it beforehand. If when I teach science I do so taking into account these other aspects, the debate is more structured, agile and productive. It is also important to challenge students’ beliefs promoting their critical thinking skills.
Do you think that bringing current research into classroom helps improving science learning?
I think it is the right path, because it helps students realise that what they are learning is useful for society and valuable for them as citizens. This is the best way to arouse their curiosity and motivation. I also think that we, teachers, are not doing it as much as we should not only in biomedicine, but also in other branches of biology such as in the fields related to the study of the natural environment or ecology, where there are many options to participate in projects such as in citizen science and voluntary environmental programmes.
Do you think the Xplore Health portal is a good tool to encourage educational innovation?
The activities suggested in the Xplore Health portal allow us to teach biology contents from another approach. In one hand, they offer contexts to deal with biomedicine topics in class through educational resources that explain some laboratory techniques not available in regular educational centres, such as virtual experiments. On the other hand, the activities suggested approach these topics from many different perspectives: curricular concepts, technological advances, ethical aspects, etc. Finally, they also provide methodological tools.
Student worksheets that can be found in the Xplore Health portal encourage collaboration with different social actors. How do you value this type of interaction during the educational process?
I value this kind of interaction very positively, because it allows us to approach the scientific problems from different points of view and contributes to enrich the debate. We think about different perspectives that would never arise when teaching strictly the curricular concepts.
How could collaboration with different disciplines and subjects be facilitated?
From subjects such as ethical-civics, tutoring or a subject called Sciences for the Contemporary World; I see easy connections to complement the science curricula. For example, in Spain during the third year of high school, some tutoring lessons are coordinated with the collaboration of science teachers to deal with topics such as sexual education, nutrition and drugs. For other topics, it is more complicated and this kind of interactions might be facilitated through project-based learning initiatives. In our centre, there are some projects that involve teachers from two or three different subjects, which work together and share the assigned hours. Such initiatives are still quite unusual although I think that project-based learning will make it happen more frequently in the nearing future.
What competencies do you think that Xplore Health promotes, and which are generally left aside in science classes on a regular basis?
The resources of Xplore Health promote a wide range of skills to enrich science education. For example, the scientific competences are promoted when students are asked to adopt measures of prevention and healthy habits, or when they have to apply the scientific reasoning to solve daily live challenges. Social competences are also promoted, such as the formation of an opinion and the active participation in projects to exercise social rights, duties and responsibilities. In addition, they also develop linguistic or values and ethics competencies, as they are encouraged to overcome prejudices when debating, giving innovative answers to bioethical controversies or developing reports based on information search strategies to acquire new knowledge.
What is your experience with inquiry-based science education, cooperative learning and formative evaluation?
In our high school, we do not usually use textbooks for teaching science subjects. We upload the educational materials on a Moodle platform as a support and use a dossier of activities in the classroom. We use resources from Xplore Health, form the portal ARC (Aplicació de Recusos al Currículum) and from the CDEC (CESIRE, Suport a la Innovació i la Recerca Educativa). The activities can be either individual or group activities, promoting cooperative learning. These activities are available in a Moodle course and any teacher can take them and adapt them to her needs. As for the formative evaluation, I have just started to use self-assessment and peer to peer evaluation tools and the outcomes are positive although I have not yet consolidated it.
What do you think makes Xplore Health a different and useful educational program for high school science education?
As mentioned above, the online innovative resources such as virtual labs or the games make this project unique.They are very stimulating and offer very up-to-date contents on knowledge and research in biomedicine. On the other hand, there are projects such as Sana Ment or Co-ResponsHIVility, which allow students to have an impact that goes beyond the classroom, as their opinions are taken into account for policy decisions and makes them feel involved in authentic tasks.
At Xplore Health we foster educational innovation through inquiry based science education, project based learning, group dynamics and formative evaluation. At the same time, we encourage the interaction of students with different stakeholders to participate as responsible citizens in a knowledge-based society. Do you think that in 2050 there will be some educational centers not joining this initiative?
I think it should be extended to all subjects and to the different branches of biology. I also think that this tendency to teach curricular contents in a more contextualized way is reaching other subjects, and it will become more relevant when project-based learning will be fully adopted by our educational system. In terms of interaction with different societal actors, it may be more complicated depending on the area where the educational centre is located, although these difficulties are getting less insurmountable thanks to the digital technologies.