|M.Sc Student||Argaman )Cohen( Sarit (Sara)|
|Subject||Characteristics of Mentoring "Ecotop"-Inquiry Projects|
by Environmental Studies Teachers
|Department||Department of Education in Science and Technology||Supervisor||Professor Tali Tal|
The environmental studies curriculum for the high school includes an inquiry project named “Ecotop”. The students are required to investigate a local environmental problem such as air pollution, water pollution, solid waste and recycling, noise hazards or areal planing.
The teachers, who advise their students in the interdisciplinary inquiry projects, face difficulties related to a) the interdisciplinary contents, whereas their own training is usually in one discipline and b) the requirement of conducting an independent, interdisciplinary inquiry project.
Due to these difficulties, the students are often referred to external guiding agents such as the Society for Protecting the Nature (SPNI) or the regional environmental agencies. This guidance is often generic and lacks appropriate follow-up and supervision on the part of the teachers and does not emphasize the unique contribution of the student due to predefined research topics. Further more, it is very expensive and contradicts the regulations of the Ministry of Education.
With respect to the above-mentioned, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of the Environment initiated a professional development program which aimed to empower the participating teachers to advise their students in executing their own “Ecotop” projects.
The 112 hours professional development course included: enrichment in the field of environmental studies, research methods, using technology tools such as data processing instruments and Internet applications, field work and acquiring some research experience by conducting a mini research. The program was executed at the Department of Education in Technology and Science in the Technion.
The objectives were to characterize the required skills for mentoring students in inquiry projects, and to describe the characteristics of mentoring interdisciplinary inquiry projects as perceived by teachers with different mentoring experience.
The research approach was qualitative-interpretative. The participants were 15 teachers who joined the professional development course at the Technion. The data sources included open-ended questionnaires, in-depth interviews with the teachers, and observations in the teachers’ working sessions.
The findings indicate that there is a perception difference between the experienced and the inexperienced teachers in mentoring with respect to a) the skills required; b) the mentoring approach the teachers use; and c) the mentoring characteristics that were identified. Teachers who have sufficient content and pedagogical content knowledge demonstrated student-centered mentoring style, which encouraged autonomous learning. Inexperienced teachers with insufficient content knowledge demonstrated rigid and interfering mentoring style, that did not encourage their students to perform autonomous learning.