This week (22-27 July 2012), 14 experienced and 49 early career researchers are gathered in the Physikzetrum, the building of the German Physics Society, in Bad Honnef. This is the biannual summer school for PhD students organized by the European Science Education Research Association.
The summer school comprises invited lectures on contemporary science education research issues, workshops with an emphasis on research methods and paradigms and a number of sessions of group work.
During this week each student will take turns to present their research design and preliminary findings in front of two coaches and a group of another six students. They will then receive detailed feedback by the whole group and the coaches separately so that they can then go back and improve their design but also work more consistently from hope at connecting with the international research community and developing their scientific voice.
This part of the summer school is a very intensive and normally very rewarding experience for everyone. One of the things that I find challenging as a coach is to remind myself that these are all research studies that have emerged in a diversity of educational system contexts and also with markedly different programme structures across the many universities represented here. I have to consciously refrain from thinking about what I personally find interesting or not and how I would perhaps myself have organized a study in the particular domain. For me the real challenge has been to try and really understand how each of the participants is thinking about their work and starting from where they are at to try and offer a few specific ideas as an outsider that might be helpful in developing the study in a way that would enhance the interest and value from the perspective of the international community of science education researchers. In doing this I find it supportive to get to know the members of my group as well as possible but also to talk to people from other groups in how they go about synthesizing the information from the written synopsis, the poster, the presentation and the interactions with each PhD researcher in a meaningful whole.
I find that in doing this I am developing a lot of respect for the substantial and devoted efforts of these new colleagues that I see around me every day of this week. I am hopeful that in these difficult times that many of us are experiencing, we, as a community, will also contribute in a small way in keeping thoughtful reflection, evidence-based practice and deep understanding high enough in our social priorities so that we can continue to support the researchers’ work that is so necessary in making education a valuable and rewarding experience for all young people.
University of Cyprus
24 July 2012