March 2010

Science Teacher Professional Development in Israel

During the week of March 12-20, I had a chance to visit Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot Israel. It is a very special Higher Education institution as it is relatively small and it had graduate programs only. So the number of students at Weizmann is only a few hundreds and it is primarily a research institution. Yet, it has 3 separate units dealing with science education. It has a Davidson Institute for Science Education that deals mainly with teacher Professional Development. It is housed in a new beautiful building and is a state of the art facility for science teacher Professional Development. There is another unit at Weizmann, where I worked many years ago: it is called The Department of Science Teaching. This unit’s focus is research in Science Education. It deals with designing, evaluating and implementing curricular materials in the sciences, it has graduate programs for science educators and is a place where state of the art science education research is conducted. In addition, there is a unit that deals with the science outreach. It is called the Young@Science. It conducts science and mathematics competitions, leads online science and mathematics courses, creates a number of activities during the year to encourage kids in science and mathematics. As part of the outreach process, the unit create an outdoor science museum open to the public (I wrote about it in my earlier post) – Clore Garden of Science. The reason I am writing about it, is because I was amazed at how strong is the link between a premier science institution and science teachers. Moreover, from what I saw, it was obvious that investing in science teachers is part of Weizmann Institute’s commitment to the excellence of science and mathematics teaching. This was something I wish we had here in Canada.

As one of the main goals of my trip was to establish collaborations between Weizmann and UBC, I was invited to give two separate workshops to science teachers and had a chance to talk to many of them informally. The workshops focused on the use of educational technology in science teaching. The teachers described to me similar problems we face here in Canada – lack of support at schools, lack of technology, difficulty in attracting children into science etc. However, these teachers have a place to go.  I think we should create something like that here especially considering that we can connect with science teachers all over BC and Canada online.

To finish it, I would like to put a clip of Weizmann’s president – Dr. Haim Harari who talks about a special school in Tel-Aviv that was founded as a response to improving science education in Israel. Notice, Haim Harari is a theoretical physicist and he invests lots of his effort into improving science education.

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