The ENGAGE project is part of the EU Science in society agenda to promote more Responsible Research and Innovation’ (RRI).

ENGAGE is about equipping the next generation to participate in scientific issues to change how science is taught. Traditionally students gain an image of science as a body of content, whereas RRI deals with uncertain areas of knowledge, where values and argument matter as much as facts. This shift is hugely challenging.

Responsible Research and Innovation -RRI is a new concept highlighted by the European Commission that refers to the transparent  interactive process by which citizens and innovators helping each other by sharing their informed-based opinions and ethical views about innovative products or innovation methods including their potential risks and benefits.

How could citizens be equipped at an early age to discuss socio-scientific issues by applying science knowledge, ethical values and inquiry skills? Science Education plays an important role for responsible citizenship in the contemporary age.

ENGAGE focuses on a more inquiry-based methodology, which gives students opportunity for self-expression and responsibility for coming to informed decisions.

Our aims are:

  • to help teachers address contemporary science issues and applications relevant to students
  • to develop teachers’ beliefs, knowledge and classroom  practice for ‘RRI’.
  • to provide students a strong foundation to engage in science issues they will meet during their lives

The 21st century is marked by the pace of scientific advancement. Latest discoveries related to various emergent fields such as nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, neuroscience, biotechnology are frequently announced to citizens through science-in–the-news. These daily innovations often highlight issues closely connected to people’ lives, for instance, food security, enhanced health, energy and environment. On the other hand, the impact of scientific innovation is unpredictable and requires scientific knowledge and skills for reflecting on social and ethical implications. This requires societies being able to deal with promises and uncertainties and reflect on potential benefits and risks.

Educators need to equip students for making sense of the cutting edge technology and science that affects our lives and understanding how scientific research is developed in a responsible way. Teachers must also develop pedagogical know-how and practice to help learners to integrate science knowledge with ethical values for evidence-based thinking.

ENGAGE online Teacher’s community is built around:

  • Science-in-the-news and open curriculum materials
  • Open Online Courses for just-in-time learning
  • Partnerships system for school-scientist projects

In order to maximise student achievement, ENGAGE offers:

  • research-informed pedagogical tools
  • guided inquiry materials
  • explicit skills teaching

ENGAGE professional learning and curriculum development approach goes beyond training events.
Its three-stage path will propel teachers in their own inquiry to become expert with RRI:

  • Adopt combines exciting learning materials based on dilemma and group discussion which are pedagogical tools for teachers to get students engaged in socio-scientific issues related to RRI. It offers online courses and workshops for teachers’ coaching and feedback. Students are engaged to apply inquiry skills for developing informed based opinion which is essential for RRI.
  • Adapt, offers expert’s toolkit of examples, explanations, strategies and activities to help students learn effectively skills for RRI. Problem Solving Sequence Tool shows how our 10 inquiry skills help learners understand the responsible decision making process  on  research and innovation. Class Discussions Tool shows that we are modelling in class how citizens should be involved in the process of RRI.
  • Transformprovides  open-ended projects to put teachers and students into partnership with practising scientists and learn about RRI directly. Scenario tool will provide the relevant guidance for establishing meaningful projects and performance assessment will help participants to co-evaluate the process.

RRI considers that technology and science progress are the bases for a better future. However, innovations must be planned carefully to address societal needs in accordance with societal values in order to maximize the benefits and reduce any harmful impact. The ENGAGE RRI curriculum, therefore, aims to equip students to be able to form evidence-based opinions on societal needs and social values. The ENGAGE materials and pedagogical tools then were designed to help teachers to support students in understanding four emerging areas and develop ten inquiry skills for RRI.

The four emerging areas provide relevant background for ENGAGE materials and learning activities:

1. Technology Impact: Technological and Scientific developments are the basis for a better future but must be planned carefully in order to maximise the benefits and reduce risks, particularly any harmful impact.

2. Big Science: Science is no longer an individual search for knowledge, but a collaborative and complex enterprise, done in teams. Funded largely by corporations and governments and politically determined, it favours practical applications and key areas in society. This means responsible innovations must address societal needs in accordance with societal values such as people, environment and economy.

3. Values thinking: In emerging science and technology, there are often uncertain issues with unclear implications that require socio-ethical thinking. Decisions should be made by taking into account the views and concerns of various perspectives and actors in societies.

4. Science-Media: Much of our scientific information is interpreted by the media, who may give an unbalanced, biased, black and white or sensationalised account. The source of information needs to be assessed in terms of its purpose, scientific credentials and currency. Critically read media reports about science, identify  data, evidence and values thinking used to back up the claims, as well as evaluate its strength in terms of repeatability and reproducibility.

Scientific inquiry skills for RRI focus on ten abilities with the aim to equip students for active engagement in contemporary science.

1. Devise Questions: Define a clear scientific question which investigates cause or correlation relationships between different factors.

2. Interrogate Sources: being able to question different sources and assess their validity and trustworthiness by judging the reliability of the source, check for bias and evaluate evidence for claim.

3. Examine consequences: being able to evaluate the merit of a solution or competing solutions to a real-world problem, based on scientific ideas, principles and empirical evidence, by identifying and reflecting on consequences and/or logical arguments regarding relevant economic, societal, and environmental considerations.

4. Estimate risks: being able to measure risks and benefits by assessing its probability, weighing up and combining its probability and the scale of its impact as well as balancing against the benefits to the individuals or groups affected.

5. Analyse patterns: being able to interpret observations and data in a variety of forms to identify patterns and trends by making inferences and drawing conclusions.

6. Draw conclusions: Deciding whether the claim made by a piece of research is supported by sufficient data.

7. Critique claims: being able to check strength (quality accuracy and sufficiency) of evidence provided and identify lack of clarity of justification, by commenting on whether the reasoning follows logically from the evidence and provides strong support to the claim.

8. Justify opinions: being able to synthesise scientific knowledge, implications, and value perspectives into an informed opinion by describing key arguments supported by empirical evidence and scientific reasoning and identifying values based thinking, to support or refute a viewpoint on an issue or a solution to a problem.

9. Use ethics: Being able to understand and use three kinds of ethical thinking: utilitarianism, rights and duties, virtues in order to make informed decisions and explain why different people may have different viewpoints about an issue.

10. Communicate ideas: Being able to effectively describe opinions and accomplishments with text and illustrations, both orally and in writing, in a range of formats, using the major features of scientific writing and speaking.

Big Stuff Blog: