CASTeL’s research priorities are:


Evidence based research in STEM curriculum, pedagogy and learning


Inquiry and innovation in STEM education practices and policies at all levels


Science and mathematics initial teacher education


Practitioner research and continuing professional development in STEM education

Current Projects

Supporting Transitions Across Mathematics and Physics Education (STAMPEd)

This ERASMUS+ project  is focused on Supporting Transitions Across Mathematics and Physics Education. Transitions in education can provide several challenges for both students and teachers. Between the ages of 10 and 16 students undertake several transitions in their school lives. These include transitions across school systems (e.g. primary level to second level), transitions between different teachers, transitions across subjects (for example from general/broad science curriculum to a specialised physics curriculum and transitions across maths and physics) and several other social transitions. These challenges can be particularly prevalent in Mathematics and Physics, as from the ages of 10 upwards, students can begin to have specialist teachers in these subjects, and links start being made between the two subjects. Transitions across school systems and between subjects can also provide challenges for teachers. Sometimes different teaching approaches can be used in different schools, and with different aged pupils. Similar content in both Mathematics and Physics can also be approached in different ways by different teachers. Education before the age of 12/13 is generally provided by generalist teachers before students move to specialised teachers for both mathematics and physics after this.

The main aim of the STAMPEd project is to develop ways that both pupils and teachers can be supported in these transitions. The project will aim to build on the work already done in the Erasmus+ funded 3DIPhE (Three Dimensions of Inquiry in Physics Education) Project . In particular, this project aims to use the learning experiences of 3DIPhE project to support teachers of physics and mathematics (at both primary and second level) to carry out Practitioner Inquiry (PI), and form Professional Learning Communities of Teachers (PLCTs). The practitioner inquiries will be focused on two areas: Transitions in learning between Mathematics and Physics (discipline transitions) and Transitions across primary and secondary Mathematics or Physics (structural transitions).

STEM Teacher Internships

In 2016, Dublin City University, Accenture and the 30% Club launched a pilot internship programme aimed at highlighting the careers available in STEM to pre-service STEM teachers as well as giving them hands-on experience of STEM careers in a corporate environment. Through the support of strategic partners, 30% Club, Connecting Women in Technology (CWIT) group and Science Foundation Ireland, the programme has been expanded (2016-2020) to include 30 host organisations and 70 pre-service teachers from the BSc Science Education, BSc Physical Education and Mathematics/Biology, BEd Primary Teacher Education (specialising in Digital Learning, Science and Mathematics) and PME Masters in Primary; Post-primary School Education at Dublin City University have completed twelve-week paid internships. Host organisations include: Abbvie, Accenture, AIB, Alexion, Allergan, Astellas, Bank of Ireland, Citibank, Deloitte, Ericsson, Ervia – Gas Networks, Ervia – Irish Water, EY, Fidelity International, Fidelity Investments, GE, HPE, IBM, Intel, Mallinckrodt, Microsoft, MSD, PWC, SSE Airtricity, Stryker, Takeda, Virgin Media, Vodafone and Xilinx.

Assessment of Transversal Skills in STEM (ATSSTEM)

Assessment of Transversal Skills in STEM (ATSSTEM) is an innovative policy experimentation project  being conducted across 8 EU countries and involving a partner network of 12 educational institutions. ATS STEM aims to provide teachers and students with efficient and necessary digital assessment approaches in development of second level students’ transversal skills in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). This model is being developed, implemented and evaluated as part of a large-scale classroom pilot project leading to policy recommendations at both national and European levels for further transformation of education. Teachers, researchers as well as students involved in the project will help map new pedagogical approaches and learning outcomes in order to affect systemic changes that allow them to succeed in achieving their educational goals. Project activities also aim to ensure policy makers have a deployment strategy for engendering creative learning environments appropriate to their national or regional context.

ENERGE – Energizing Education to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

With the aging of the existing post-primary school building stock (new schools/deep retro-fits can take years from planning to completion) there is a need for low-cost solutions that enable long-term resource efficiency in schools & reduced greenhouse gas emission (GHG). EU building energy directives & climate actions to 2020 & 2030 underpin this necessity. ENERGE addresses this need using targeted physical interventions that combine a web based platform & building sensors (e.g. electrical, thermal etc) with behavioural studies & new educational approaches that enable schools engage in energy & GHG mitigation. This holistic, adaptable & multidisciplinary approach will combine sociological, pedagogic & communications expertise with low cost technology, ICT interventions & systems engineering. ENERGE will be demonstrated in schools in France, Germany, Luxembourg, Ireland, the Netherlands and the UK. ENERGE aims to achieve a minimum 15% reduction in total energy consumption at 12 demonstration site schools over the project period & will engage and enable management, teachers, students and maintenance staff (entire school ecosystem) to reduce energy consumption by developing a new web-based platform tailored to different stakeholder within the school ecosystem. Long-term impacts will be consolidated by the development of additional and revised educational material to supplement existing school curricula (for students aged 12-18 i.e. formative years). ENERGE will track the effects of project initiatives beyond the school environment into the domestic environment of staff and students (24 homes) to monitor how interventions in school can have wider impacts beyond the school environment. ENERGE committees will be established in the demonstration schools to provide a focus for transnational engagement of project schools, longterm studies of the project impact & to enable the whole school community engage with & sustain energy efficiency & GHG mitigation.

Let’s Talk about STEM

Let’s Talk about STEM is a pilot project, funded by Science Foundation Ireland, and led by DCU’s Institute of Education in conjunction with the Centre for the Advancement of STEM Teaching & Learning (CASTeL) in DCU. This project is a collaboration between researchers in psychology and STEM education to deliver a pilot programme to address the underrepresentation of women in STEM by targeting girls’ early engagement with science. Drawing on twenty years of robust international research and initiatives, this project delivers a STEM education programme for parents and educators of young children which highlights the potential impact of language on children’s perception of, and motivation to engage with, science. In particular, it emphasises girls’ views of themselves as capable users of, and investigators in, science. The programme invites parents, early childhood educators, infant classroom teachers and informal STEM educators to participate in workshops during which they consider evidence on the role of language in differentially motivating girls and boys interest in and persistence with scientific learning., funded by SFI Discover, is a website designed for and with teachers. It contains activity plans, continuous professional development materials and video clips based on activities carried out in Irish primary and preschool classes. Plans are based on the draft specification of the forthcoming primary mathematics curriculum and Aistear and are suitable from preschool to third class. The website offers a video-based approach to continuous professional development and modules relating to mathematical tasks, talk and the use of play and picture books are available. Currently, we are working to extend the activity plans on offer to include the senior classes of primary school. We are also developing new professional development modules in response to a survey of teachers’ needs and preferred formats.

3DIPHE – Three Dimensions of Inquiry in Physics Education

This ERASMUS+ project  is focused on different levels of inquiry relevant for physics education
a) Inquiry based learning for pupils; b) Practitioners’ inquiry for teachers;  c) Inquiry of coaching for partners
d) Educational research design of 3DIPhE. The goals of the project are to establish professional learning groups (PLG) of teachers practitioners and train them to inquire their own practice of inquiry based learning (IBL).  In regular PLGs’ meetings, we will discuss the inquiry problems, modes of inquiry, methods, evidence, and conclusions. We will reflect on improvement of the IBL in classroom. PLGs from different countries will exchange their experience, discuss their problems and reflect on methods, evidence etc.  Results of these process will be presented at national and international events. Good examples of IBL praxis will be presented in a written, publicly available form.  Based on the experience we will develop a course on practitioner inquiry. Based on the experience we will develop a course on coaching PLGs.  Regular accompaniment and inquiry of all processes within the project will result in an extensive educational design research study.

Open Schools for Open Societies

This project supports a large number of European schools to implement Open Schooling approaches by a) developing a model that promote such a culture, b) offering guidelines and advice on issues such as staff development, redesigning time, and partnerships with relevant organisations (local industries, research organisations, parents associations and policy makers), and c) suggesting a range of possible implementation processes from small-scale prototypes through to setting up an “open school within a school” or even designing a new school while it is testing and assessing them in more than 1,000 school environments in 12 European countries. The themes of the project activities developed and pursuit in participating schools that will take place will focus on areas of science linked with the Grand Societal Challenges as shaped by the EC, will be related to RRI and will link with regional and local issues of interest. The project is coordinated by Ellinogermaniki Agogi Scholi Panagea Savva (EA) and has 20 partner institutions. The project aims to describe and implement at scale a process that will facilitate the transformation of schools to innovative ecosystems, acting as shared sites of science learning for which leaders, teachers, students and the local community share responsibility, over which they share authority, and from which they all benefit through the increase of their communities’ science capital and the development of responsible citizenship.

Outdoor learning for Primary and Early Childhood

This project is a collaborative event involving BEd primary and Early Childhood Education students, primary teachers, primary school children and outdoor learning experts. The project will initially involve a 2 day workshop for the students and primary school teachers, developing their expertise in the area of outdoor learning and bringing the primary curriculum outside. The students, with the support of the outdoor learning experts, will then facilitate a 4 week outdoor learning programme with children from a local primary school. The students will have the opportunity to reflect on and share their experiences with students from at least one other European country. The experience of both the students and the children will be investigated.

This project is a collaboration between Dr Orla Kelly, School of STEM Education, Innovation and Global Studies, with Tomás Aylward (IT Tralee) and is funded by Higher Education Authority as part of their Erasmus+ 30th Anniversary Celebrations.

Enhancing Student Engagement through the Outdoor Spaces and the St Patrick’s Campus Community Garden (SPCCG)

This project aims to further develop the existing community garden on the DCU St Patrick’s Campus and to develop the use of outdoor spaces as a resource to enhance student engagement. This builds on the work on outdoor learning which the students experience across a number of modules and programmes. This project is led by Dr Susan Pike.

Dr Orla Kelly, School of STEM Education, Innovation and Global Studies, and colleagues from a number of schools in the DCU Institute of Education have been awarded funding under the DCU 2017 Quality Improvement and Development (QuID) Fund for this project.

Sustainability Education

This Education project is aimed at supporting primary school teachers from Ireland, Germany, USA and Mexico to effectively teach about sustainability. The project will involve 80 primary school teachers from the four countries participating in a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programme, based on competencies-oriented sustainability education (Wiek et al., 2011).  The programme will support teachers in helping children to develop essential sustainability competencies while engaging with various subject areas in their respective National Curricula. The project partners will explore the transferability and scalability of the CPD model to establish if the programme can lead to changes in school education, which ultimately would result in a generation of children with deeply rooted sustainability competencies.

Improving gender balance

Optimizing students’ experience with science in their first three years of secondary school

Improving Gender Balance is a pilot project designed to address issues around gender and physics in schools. It seeks to take a holistic approach to changing students’ experience with physics in order to encourage more students, especially girls, to choose to take it. By working with teachers, schools and students to change perceptions of who can study science and tackle the inequities that prevent students from engaging in physics, this project will promote the importance of STEM education in student’s lives and, through the project’s work with physics teachers, support STEM education itself.


10th Congress of European Research in Mathematics Education

CERME 10 took place at the Croke Park Convention Centre, 1–5 February. This congress, hosted by the Institute of Education, Dublin City University, was the largest conference in mathematics education to take place in Ireland to date. The 772 participants (including 42 from Ireland) came from 52 countries (29 of which are in Europe).

CERME 10 was organised under the auspices of the Centre for the Advancement of STEM Teaching and Learning (CASTeL). The Local Organizing Committee comprised members of the School of STEM Education, Innovation and Global Studies (Institute of Education) with support from the School of Mathematical Sciences (Faculty of Science and Health). Immediately preceding the conference, YERME Day (for Young Researchers in ERME) was held on Tuesday 31st January and Wednesday 1st February on the St Patrick’s Campus of DCU. It provided an opportunity for participants to meet key European researchers in mathematics education, developing an understanding of their work and methodological approaches.


The GIREP-ICPE-EPEC 2017 conference will take place in Dublin City University, Ireland. The conference theme will be “Bridging Research and Practice in Physics Teaching and Learning”.

This conference will be hosted by the Centre for the Advancement of Science and Mathematics Teaching and Learning (CASTeL) at Dublin City University (DCU), Ireland and is jointly organised by:

  • The Conference of International Research Group on Physics Teaching (GIREP)
  • European Physical Society – Physics Education Division (EPS PED) and
  • International Conference on Physics Education (ICPE) of the Commission C14 of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP).

ESERA 2017

The theme of the conference, Research, practice and collaboration in science education underlines aspects of great relevance in contemporary science education research: the need to reflect on different approaches to enhancing our knowledge of learning processes and the role of context, designed or circumstantial, formal or non-formal, in learning and instruction. Highlighting these themes does not mean underestimating or neglecting other important aspects of science education research and practice.

ESERA 2017 is cohosted by CASTeL, DCU and EPI-STEM, University of Limerick

Differential Equations for Physicists

Investigating Students’ Difficulties with Differential Equations in Physics

There are numerous cases in physics where the value of a quantity and changes in that quantity are related. For example, the speed of an object depends on its acceleration. Except in highly idealized settings, the analysis of these cases requires students to recognize, set up, and solve a differential equation (DE). In many universities, including DCU, DEs are studied in mathematics before they are applied in physics. However, the aims of mathematicians and physicists can be very different, leading to different emphases in instruction and consequently, difficulties for students in applying mathematical knowledge of DEs in the physics setting. Other potential reasons why DEs present a problem for physics students include gaps in students’ mathematical knowledge, conceptual issues with DEs, and educational transfer issues. The aim of this project is to identify and understand students’ difficulties with differential equations in physics, and to develop a pilot curriculum that seeks to resolve them.

Mind the Gap: A Cross Border Study Addressing the Transition from Primary to Post Primary Mathematics Education

The aim is to establish primary and secondary mathematics teachers’ levels of awareness of each other’s curriculums at the key transition stages and how to support students in this.

This project is a collaboration between Dr. Niamh O’Meara, University of Limerick; Dr. Ian Cantley, Queen’s University; Dr. Mark Prendergast, Trinity College Dublin & Dr. Lorraine Harbison, CASTeL.

RDS STEM Learning Programme

Developing primary school teachers’ pedagogical and conceptual knowledge of science and mathematics

The RDS STEM Learning Programme is an innovative and interactive professional development programme aimed at developing primary school teachers’ pedagogical and conceptual knowledge of science and mathematics. A professional development programme with a difference – developed by teachers, for teachers – RDS STEM Learning challenges teachers to embrace children’s natural curiosity and to focus on how they think, not what they know. It is also a community for shared learning amongst teachers, providing know-how and confidence in science and maths teaching. The classroom benefits of RDS STEM Learning are many: literacy and numeracy improvements; better problem solving; oral language development and integration of inquiry skills across the curriculum. This programme is provided by a collaboration between RDS, SFI Discover and CASTeL.


Supporting teachers to integrate tablet technology in the Junior Cycle classroom

The SmartClass project addresses the challenges of integrating tablet technology into classroom practice at Junior Cycle level. Intel have funded a prize to provide a tablet device to an entire first year cohort of Junior Cycle students with curriculum content for all subjects pre-loaded on it. CASTeL are responsible for providing professional development to the teachers, examining teacher’s pedagogical practices and evaluating the benefits, to both the teacher and the students, of the integration of tablet technology in classroom practice. In order for teachers to effectively integrate technology into classroom practice, several challenges have been identified, which include hardware, software, administration and support. However, teachers own beliefs and attitudes towards technology and pedagogy have been identified as intrinsic barriers specific to each teacher that must also be addressed. The Smartclass project brings together Intel, CASTeL and an Irish Second level school to collaboratively address all of these challenges.

Facilitating Lesson study in Mathematics

Lesson Study is a teaching improvement process that has origins in Japan where it is a widespread professional development practice. However, it is now practised internationally (e.g., US, China, Europe incl.Ireland) with student teachers and in schools/HEI’s. Working in a small groups, teachers/educators collaborate with one another, discuss learning goals, plan an actual classroom lesson (called a “research lesson”), observe how their ideas work in an actual lessons with students and then analyse the lesson from the perspective of students’ learning and development of thinking. Lesson Study has been used as a basis of research, and teaching and learning activities in SPD since 2006. It is currently being used to

  1. develop preservice and qualified teachers’ mathematical knowledge for teaching,
  2. research primary/post-primary transitions in mathematics and
  3. facilitate school-based CPD.

Physics Busking

A national STEM education initiative to promote the awareness and engagement of the Irish public with STEM

Physics Busking is a national STEM education initiative based on the traditional mode of street busking (street entertainment). This programme involves recruiting and equipping buskers with the necessary skills and knowledge to engage with the general public at national fairs/shows, etc. using interactive STEM experiments and demonstrations. The concept of Physics Busking was established in Ireland in 2005 by the Irish Science on Stage team through a collaboration between CASTeL and the Institute of Physics in Ireland.

Energy in Action

Enhancing the teaching and learning of Energy at Junior Cycle

Energy in Energy is an exciting new programme developed by CASTeL, to facilitate Junior Cycle students to learn about energy. The programme provides a range of activities that investigate energy in a real world way, exploring how and why as a society, we need to develop new ways of looking at our energy resources. Exploring our Energy is underpinned by and supports the Junior Cycle Curricula in Science, CSPE, Geography and Home Economics. The activities in this programme will help young people to develop their knowledge about energy, energy efficiency and conservation through inquiry pedagogy. CASTeL facilitates a teacher education programme for science teachers to experience the programme and activities as a learner and to support teachers in adopting an inquiry approach for the teaching of energy concepts at Junior Cycle level. The teachers’ brochure (teachers-guide) gives a brief outline of the resources which can be individually downloaded from their website here.

Science on Stage

Supporting and facilitating STEM teachers to share teaching ideas across Europe

Science on Stage Ireland provides a collaborative network of and for science teachers, supports a platform for exchanging teaching ideas and is focused on enhancing STEM teaching and learning. This programme coordinates the selection and preparation of a delegation of science teachers to represent Ireland at the biennial European Science on Stage Festival. This programme is provided by a collaboration between CASTeL and the Institute of Physics in Ireland (IOPI).

Mind the Gap: Addressing the Transition from Primary to Post Primary Mathematics Education

The main aim of this research is to investigate issues surrounding the transition from primary to secondary mathematics education in Irish schools.

This project is a collaboration between Dr. Mark Prendergast, Trinity College Dublin; Dr. Niamh O’Meara, University of Limerick; Dr. Clare O’Hara, Central Statistics Office and Dr. Lorraine Harbison, CASTeL.

Developing & assessing students’ conceptual understanding of static electricity at second level

An overview of research and national statistics shows that students experience difficulties in static electricity. Our research identified different elements that students in order to gain a complete understanding of the leaving certificate static electricity topics. Some of these elements are embedded in their mathematics courses, while other required are not. These are vector addition (in one and two dimensions) field line representation and exploring the inverse square law. In our research, we developed a series of tutorial style lessons, consisting of a pretest, a brief plenary, a class worksheet completed in groups, a homework worksheet and a posttest. All of the three elements were covered separately during the mechanics section, and directly reference the tutorials based on Coulomb’s Law, Electric field and Potential difference. This allows us to assess student learning of these elements as they learn them, and in the context of static electricity. This can be used to identify opportunities for further research in related topics.

Maths through Stories: Transforming the way mathematics is taught and learned globally – one imaginative story at a time

Maths through Stories is an international collaborative survey study exploring primary teachers’ beliefs concerning the integration of children’s literature in primary mathematics teaching and learning. The project is led by Dr. Natthapoj Trakulphadetkrai, University of Reading. Team members come from England, Australia, Finland, Hong Kong and Japan. The Irish team consists of Dr. Mark Prendergast TCD, Dr. Lorraine Harbison CASTeL and Sue Miller, DCU.

Follow the link to complete the on-line survey and find out more about the project.

Alternatively, find us on Twitter at @mathstoriesEIRE

Further information can be found at

Investigation of the impact of the Irish Physical Science Curricula on Student learning and achievement

The introduction of ‘free education’ for all in 1966 brought an increase in the student population with a corresponding widening of abilities ranges. With this as the backdrop and focussing on the curriculum as a triptych – content, pedagogical delivery and final assessment (in form of Leaving Certificate examination ) how did each of the three physical sciences – Physics, Chemistry and combination Physics-Chemistry respond to the changing nature of education in Ireland. What informed the content viz. the aims and objectives, actual topic areas of each subject – the students’ needs or economic demands?
How did practitioners respond to the changing nature of student cohort during the 50 years? What determined the pedagogy to adopt – the content demand or the final assessment? As the final assessment was in form of written examination in Leaving Certificate how were the aims and objectives evaluated i.e. did the Leaving Certificate examination reflect the content?

Technology enhanced Resources for Mathematics Education (TeRMEd)

The overall project, funded by the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning (NFETL), aims to develop technology enhanced formative assessment resources that will improve the teaching and learning of mathematics in first year service mathematics modules. The research role in the project initially involved the identification of common problematic concepts and procedures, the types of resources students use and those resources recommended by lecturers (Ní Shé et al. 2017). The second research element is the evaluation of the technology enhanced resources developed and trialled by the project team members.

Enabling Assessment for learning by improving feedback in the Classroom

Embedding assessment for learning practices in the classroom means managing the learning landscape to enable opportunities for both teacher and student to be active participants in all areas of the learning process. Gathering evidence of student progress and achievement in learning is a fundamental essential in this process, as well as students knowing what success looks like and how they might get there. How learning is shaped by the nature of feedback is a common theme across assessment literature. More feedback on feedback is called for.  This research project examines how effective feedback can enable students become independent, self-directed, life-longer learners and develop self-efficacy, to enable assessment for learning practices become embedded in the classroom ‘learning culture’, to promote student learning is my current research focus.

Mathematical Identity

Mathematical identity is the relationship an individual has with mathematics. It includes experiences and knowledge of mathematics as well as how one thinks about the subject. Formation of identity is part of one’s education and it serves as a tool for self-reflection amongst trainee teachers to re-evaluate their own experience of being taught mathematics.
The core focus of this research is to broaden the scope of mathematical identity to a new and unexplored context. Specifically, to that of students who undertake to study mathematics as a constituent part of a degree in Science/Engineering. It is proposed to analyse how mathematical identity can be used to explore the challenges that these students face during the transition from post-primary to third level education in Ireland.

Assessment and Development of Scientific Literacy in Secondary Schools

This research aims to investigate how scientific literacy is assessed and developed in the secondary school curricula of Ireland and Scotland, specifically the Irish Junior Cycle science specification and the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence National 5 science courses. The research consists of case studies examining student and teacher (both pre-service and in-service teachers) experiences of carrying out inquiry based on socio-scientific issues.

The project was awarded funding from the NCCA Research and Development Programme for 2015/16. 

Completed Projects


Challenging misconceptions in science

The TEALEAF project, funded through EU Erasmus Plus, is focussed on enabling children at a range of ages to “provide deep learning experiences connected with the cognitive tools required to conceptualize biodiversity and become biologically literate in an age of ecological threat to the biosphere, living things and humanity itself”. The deep learning experiences will be facilitated through information and communications technologies and in particular through “serious games” developed specifically for learning of, and about, biodiversity.

SUSTAIN (Supporting Science Teaching Advancement through Inquiry)

Developing an innovative IBSE-based ‘toolbox’ on ESD for primary and post primary teachers and teacher educators

The SUSTAIN (Supporting Science Teaching Advancement through Inquiry), funded through EU Comenius, is a pan-European network collaboratively developing an innovative IBSE-based ‘toolbox’ on ESD for primary and post primary teachers and teacher educators.

With its focus on problem-solving and critical thinking, inquiry-based science education (IBSE) is well-suited for teaching Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) at school. Like IBSE, ESD gives explicit attention to developing young people’s creative ability to problem solve and imagine new scenarios through the active learning processes of conceptualising, planning, acting and reflecting. It provides the space for critical thinking to be combined with the creative act of interpreting images of the future. This dimension helps students to develop skills necessary for democratic engagement In response to the 21st century global challenges highlighted by the economic, social and environmental crisis, ESD is taking shape in schools. To ensure that ESD becomes more widespread and brings about the desired awareness among pupils, teacher professional development is paramount: it is essential to provide teachers with appropriate and cutting-edge tools and learning materials for ESD.


Meeting the challenge of assessing inquiry learning in science

The SAILS project, coordinated by CASTeL, demonstrates how inquiry approaches can be used for teaching a range of scientific topics at second level, and has facilitated science teachers to become confident and competent in the assessment of their students’ learning through inquiry. The project team has developed and provided professional development to more than 2500 science teachers in 12 European countries These teachers have strengthened their inquiry pedagogy and assessment practices by developing their understanding of the role of assessment. Through a dynamic collaboration between SAILS partners and teachers, nineteen SAILS Inquiry and Assessment Units have been developed which showcase the benefits of adopting inquiry approaches in classroom practice, exemplify how assessment practices are embedded in inquiry lessons and illustrate the variety of assessment opportunities and/or processes available to science teachers.

Professional Vision and pre-service science teachers

This research project involved the development of a module for pre-service science teachers aimed to broaden pre-service science teachers’ views of science teaching, and to extend the types of teaching they experienced as students. Qualitative methods were used to establish the pre-service teachers’ views through the lens of Professional Vision. A new analysis framework was developed that combines argumentation, sense-making and transactivity. This framework was used to investigate the type of discourse the pre-service teachers engaged in while carrying out an open inquiry activity. Their interpretation of a videotaped class in which a group of lower secondary school students engaged in the same activity was also analysed.

Creating a model of conceptual change

This research project investigated promoting student understanding of the Particulate Nature of Matter (PNM) through Inquiry Based Learning (IBL), visualization and modelling. A Practitioner Action Research methodology was employed and student performance at junior second level school was measured using diagnostic and summative testing. A module on this topic was prepared which included a student workbook and a teaching manual. Student and teacher reflections on the learning issues experienced were obtained through interviews and repertory grid analysis based on Kellyian Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) principles. Repertory grid analysis was used to highlight and rate aspects of students’ affective and cognitive learning experiences. Furthermore, in conjunction with PCP, student drawings provided as exam answers when they were asked to think critically within a novel problem scenario were investigated. This exploratory approach enabled the systematic metering of student comprehension of chemistry constructs and served to detect the learning gaps in their construct hierarchy.

Mathematical Knowledge for Teaching

Improving the mathematical knowledge for teaching of pre-service mathematics teachers

Mathematical Knowledge for Teaching (MKT) refers to the wide variety of mathematical knowledge that is required for teaching mathematics. As described by Ball and co-workers, this concept involves a variety of different types of knowledge, referring to the teacher’s general and specialized knowledge of mathematical content, and to their knowledge of mathematics vis a vis their students and classroom teaching. It comprises a ‘third leg’ of mathematics teacher education, in combination with the development of mathematical content knowledge and pedagogical knowledge. This project focusses on means of developing pre-service teachers’ MKT in the university setting, and on how that MKT is enacted in school placements.


Supporting the development of teaching skills for adopting inquiry-based science education at second level

The ESTABLISH project, coordinated by CASTeL, was focused on supporting teachers in adopting Inquiry Based Science Education (IBSE) in the second level classroom. The project partners collaborated with key stakeholders, from across industry and education, to develop 18 IBSE teaching and learning units which serve as exemplary IBSE materials and are openly shared to inspire, guide and stimulate the further development of IBSE resources and practices. In addition, teacher education programmes in IBSE have been developed and adopted across the 11 participating countries and an online programme for is freely provided that introduces and develops teaching skills relevant to IBSE. The impact of the ESTABLISH project is an increased understanding, attitude and ability of teachers to use IBSE in their classrooms; increased student’s motivation and communication during lessons; greater student attitude towards science and taking up careers in science or technology; and increased interaction between those teaching and learning about science and those using science.

Exploring Our Energy

National programme to help children learn about energy through the primary science curriculum

Exploring our Energy is a programme to help children learn about energy through the primary science curriculum. The programme explores energy and science in a real world way, exploring how and why as a society, we need to develop new ways of looking at our energy resources. Exploring our Energy is underpinned by and supports the Primary Science Curriculum (DES, 1999). It will help children to develop their knowledge about energy, energy efficiency and conservation. Based on sound theory, the programme involves good practice, real life learning experiences and whole-school approaches. This programme has been developed through a collaboration between CASTeL and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI).


Design, implement, test and formalise a process of dissemination of inquiry-based teaching and learning methods in science and maths in Europe

Funded by the Euro­pean Union under the 7th Frame­work Programme (for research and tech­no­log­ical devel­op­ment), and super­vised by a high level scien­tific committee, the Fibonacci project aimed at a large dissem­i­na­tion of inquiry-based science and math­e­matics educa­tion (IBSME) in Europe, through the tutoring of insti­tu­tions in progress (univer­si­ties, teachers training centres, research insti­tu­tions, etc.), by insti­tu­tions with high recog­ni­tion in science educa­tion.  The project began in January 2010 and finished in February 2013. 60 tertiary educa­tion insti­tu­tions throughout Europe were involved, reaching a minimum of 3,000 teachers and 45,000 students.