Environmental Socio-Scientific Issues in Initial Teacher Education

ENSITE (2019-2022) is an Erasmus+ project supporting the development of future science and maths teachers’ environmental citizenship and related teaching competences.

We face severe global environmental challenges such as climate change, plastic waste and loss of biodiversity. To develop sustainable solutions of these challenges, people need skills to deal with these challenges – not only profound scientific know-how but also transversal skills such as critical thinking, creativity, responsible citizenship competences and forward-looking skills.

ENSITE supports this endeavour. Researchers from 11 European countries work closely together to develop an innovative approach which aims at improving higher education by including environmental socio-scientific issues in science initial teacher education.

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Our world is facing tremendous global environmental challenges such as climate change, drinking water shortage and loss of biodiversity. To develop sustainable solutions of these challenges, our educational system has to fulfil the obligation to enable citizens to deal with complex problems. To do so, people need competencies – not only profound scientific know-how but also transversal skills (such as critical thinking, creativity, responsible citizenship competences and forward-looking skills). This is important as sustainable decisions cannot be taken only based merely on scientific facts, they are also influenced by ethical, cultural, ecologic and economic aspects. Dealing with environmental issues will also promote interdisciplinary co-operation in science, technology, engineering and maths.

This is the starting situation which ENSITE picks up. Research proposes the engagement of socio-scientific issues (SSI) as one promising path to developing environmental citizenship competencies. ENSITE aims at improving higher education by including environmental SSI in science initial teacher education (ITE). To this end the project consortium will develop an innovative approach to supporting teachers in developing competences in dealing with environmental SSI as well as in acquiring teaching skills to supporting their future students at school in becoming responsible citizens themselves.

In the longer term, ENSITE is expected to contribute to a widespread shared awareness of social and environmental responsibility.


Eleven university-teams from across Europe develop modules for initial teacher education (ITE). These intellectual outputs (IOs), to be found in the section on initital teacher education,  cover subject knowledge on socio-scientific issues (SSI) and how to deal with them, implication for learning/teaching processes, pedagogical concepts to design lessons, and the role of teachers’ background which affects teaching SSI. We perform several pilot activities validating our IOs at partner higher education institutes (HEI) and paving the way for long-term implementation.

Furthermore, three summer schools will be organised to engage students from all over Europe in a variety of innovative activity and stimulate inter-cultural and social experiences. We also organize national and international multiplier events to promote the project among relevant educational stakeholders, initializing dialogue on the matters at hand and substantiate our findings.


The project consortium consists of higher education teams from eleven institutions across Europe comprising experts in science education, environmental issues, pedagogical concepts to acquire transversal and forward-looking skills, students’ mobility, diversity in science courses/classrooms and larger scale dissemination.

The project coordinator is the International Centre for STEM Education at the University of Education in Freiburg, Germany.

Open the tabs below to find out more about our project partners.

University of Education in Freiburg, Germany


The University of Education in Freiburg (PHFR) is a specialised, public higher education (HE) institution with a mission in both research and teaching, focusing on the field of teacher education and the educational sciences. PHFR offers degrees at all cycle levels for primary and secondary school teachers and future professionals in the broad field of education.
PHFR’s research covers the full span of educational, pedagogic and subject-didactic fields. The University places special emphasis on research that is relevant to improving HE teaching and has earned a particular reputation for its research on, and dissemination of, innovative practices and pedagogies in maths and science education. Several large-scale international and interdisciplinary research, development and dissemination projects have been carried out over the past decade at the maths and science education departments of the PHFR. As a result of this work, the University can currently resort to an international network of stakeholders in maths and science education of over 1000 contacts relevant to the project’s scope. Linking research and teaching, practice-orientation and policy-connections are thus among the PHFR’s distinguishing strengths – in particular in the field of maths and science education.

In 2017 Prof. Katja Maass and her team established the International Centre for STEM Education (ICSE) at PHFR. The ultimate aim of ICSE is to help improve STEM education across Europe, that is, to give students insights into authentic features of STEM subjects and their connection to real-life contexts, to raise achievement levels in STEM and to make science literacy accessible to all students no matter what their gender, their cultural background or their socioeconomic background, and to promote the interest of young people in STEM careers.
Our focus in STEM education research and its transfer into day-to-day practices is therefore on issues such as:

  • The research on innovative teaching approaches such as inquiry-based learning, connections to real-life contexts, interdisciplinarity or to the diversity in classrooms
  • The development, implementation and evaluation of feasible and impactful professional development concepts
  • Research on concepts to scale up teacher professional development, also considering systemic barriers
  • Development, in situ-evaluation and refinement of high-quality classroom materials and professional development materials, anchored in the field of design research


The ICSE team at PHFR is coordinating the ENSITE project. The key persons involved in this project combine a multi-disciplinary background and expertise in (1) coordination and management of international projects, (2) mathematics and science education in initial teacher education (ITE), (3) higher education (HE), and (4) student mobility.
Furthermore, the team has broad experience in coordinating several large-scale European projects focusing on research, materials development and the broad dissemination of innovative teaching and learning approaches in maths and science education. The team’s expertise comprises the management of large-scale projects, including all administrative, legal and financial aspects. Also, the team has extensive experience in organising influential policy events, building successful international dissemination strategies, managing quality in international projects, as well as embedding project-funded activities into broader relevant contexts to ensure long-term impact and sustainability.

Katja Maaß, Director of ICSE and the coordinator of ENSITE, is a researcher, educator and leader of international projects in mathematics and science education. She holds a master’s degree in mathematics and biology, acquired her PhD in mathematics education in 2004 and was awarded professorship in the same year. Her main professional interests are real life applications of mathematics, inquiry-based science teaching and socio-scientific issues in STEM education. Her research has been published widely in the most prestigious journals in the field. Next to teaching and research, her work is characterised by a strong practical and melioristic concern towards advancing science teaching. Katja has successfully coordinated numerous large-scale European projects to foster innovation in STEM education, including award-winning projects like PRIMAS, mascil, COMPASS, MaSDiV, IncluSMe or STEM PD Net. Her work is distinguished by both a local and international orientation and she relies on excellent networks to research, policy and practice. As the founding director of ICSE she aims to take European collaboration in STEM education to a next level so as to maximise quality, equality and innovation in day-to-day STEM teaching.

Director International Centre for STEM Education ICSE



Oliver Straser studied Mathematics with a minor in Physics in Essen and Heidelberg, Germany, and graduated from the University of Heidelberg (Diplom). He worked as a scientist at the University of Freiburg and received his PhD under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Soergel in Mathematics. Since 2015 he has been working as a vocational school teacher.

Assistant Director and Programme Specialist



Laura Wanckel, the project manager of ENSITE, holds a M.A. in Arts and studied art history, history and literature at the University of Dresden and Hamburg. Before she came to the ICSE she completed a training in project management. Her professional experience includes working as a curator for several exhibitions at a museum and in public relations. In addition to curatorial work, her focus was on exhibition organization and coordination as well as the organization of events. Laura also created marketing concepts and was responsible for the editing and production of the advertising material.

Assistant Director and Project Manager, ENSITE



PHFR team leads:

  • O1: The nature of environmental SSI
  • O 13: Design of learning environments for ITEL

PHFR team is involved in:

  • O3: Collecting data
  • O4: Analysing big data
  • O7: Aims of SSI and the curriculum
  • O11: Scaffolding: Supporting students by providing a framework for how to deal with SSI

University of Klagenfurt, Austria

Institute of Instructional and School Development, Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt, Austria

The Institute of Instructional and School Development (German abbreviation: IUS) focuses its activities on those who learn and those who teach, on learning arrangements, organisations, and the educational system. It operates in the action fields of research and development, as well as those of teaching and counselling in the educational sphere, and it actively participates in national and international projects. IUS is part of the young and innovative University Klagenfurt (UNI-KLU) in Austria, located at the intersection of three diverse cultures: Austria, Slovenia and Italy.

The University’s scientific achievements regularly earn national and international recognition. The projects carried out here serve as important impulse generators for the business location Carinthia. Teachers, teacher educators and other contributors to the field of education are supported in their professional development (PD) by innovative programmes. These interventions are evaluated both formatively and summative, involving quantitative and qualitative measures. The insights gained are communicated to the national and international community of educators and educational researchers.

The IUS is open for different scientific paradigms. In order to investigate the impacts, evaluation and research of processes and products are conducted continuously and systematically. The IUS is co-ordinating and researching the Austrian-wide Network ECOLOG – Ecologizing Schools for Education for Sustainable Development commissioned by Ministry of Education. Ecological experience gained through this initiative perfectly fits to ENSITE’s objectives concerning environmental citizenship.


Stefan Zehetmeier is an Associate Professor at University of Klagenfurt, Austria. He holds a PhD in education and a Habilitation in teacher education. His research interests include teacher education, school development and action research.



Andrea Frantz-Pittner holds a master’s degree in biology and a PhD in science education. Since 1997 she has been the scientific director of the NaturErlebnisPark Science Education Center in Graz. Since 2002 she is involved in the IMST programme of the Alpen-Adria University of Klagenfurt. Her work focuses on the development and research of experiential teaching formats for science education, the linking of teaching and out-of-school learning, education for sustainable development and low-threshold education in urban green spaces.



Christina Pichler-Koban holds a doctorate from the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences (BOKU) in Vienna. Since 2003 she has been working for E.C.O. Institute for Ecology in Klagenfurt and since 2016 as a research associate at the Alpen-Adria-University of Klagenfurt. She works in inter- and transdisciplinary projects at the interface between ecological planning and social sciences. Her focus is on the development and implementation of innovative educational and school projects on natural science topics and the work with Citizen Science methods.



KLU team leads:

  • O6: Negotiating social, political or ethical dimensions in SSI
  • O11: Scaffolding: Supporting students by providing a framework for how to deal with SSI

KLU is involved in:

  • O3: Collecting data
  • O4: Analysing big data
  • O5: Decision-making
  • O9: Developing a SSI lesson I – focus on didactic aspects

Bulgarian Academy of Sciences in Sofia, Bulgaria

Institute of Mathematics and Informatics at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences in Sofia, Bulgaria

The Institute of Mathematics and Informatics at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (IMI–BAS) celebrates its 70th anniversary in 2017. It is recognised as a leading national organisation for research and applications in the field of mathematics and informatics. It welcomes annually more than 200 guest scientists, conducts about 25 international conferences, workshops and schools, 18 permanent open scientific seminars and 7 scientific and methodological journals thus providing opportunities for direct communication with the world scientific elite.

In addition, IMI-BAS is the only institute of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences with an Educational department. The education-related activities of the Institute include the professional development of teachers, mentoring PhD and MSc students, and developing the research competences of high-school students who have demonstrated great potential in doing mathematics and informatics.

It should be noted, that IMI-BAS is the main provider of scientific, methodological and technical support in inquiry-based mathematics, informatics and IT education (IBMIE) at all levels and forms, in Bulgaria. This support is carried out by designing strategies and a system for implementing IBMIE in a national context, by organising various types of PD courses and by developing open access learning environments that enhance IBMIE with a focus on the acquirement of key competences.

Thanks to the system for PD of teachers in mathematics, IT and informatics developed by IMI-BAS, a network of such teachers acting as multipliers of the IBL ideas has been established which facilitates and encourages teacher- and practitioner engagement at a national level. The current activities of IMI-BAS as a centre for inquiry-based learning (IBL), and more specifically, for inquiry-based mathematics and informatics education (IBMIE), include various types of PD courses and events, as well as open access learning environments (VirMathLab, VivaCognita, and BG Mascil) related to STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics).


Evgenia (Jenny) Sendova is an Associated Member of the Institute of Mathematics and Informatics at the Bulgarian Academy (IMI-BAS), participating in the activities of its Department of Education in Mathematics and Informatics. She has been working with pre-service and in-service teachers, as well as with high school students since 1970 in national and international context.



IMI-BAS team leads:

  • O3: Collecting data

IMI-BAS is involved in:

  • O4: Analysing big data
  • O5: Decision-making
  • O8: Beliefs on teaching SSI
  • O10: Designing an SSI Lesson II
  • O12: SSI and assessment

Charles University Prague, Czech Republic

Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic

The Faculty of Education (FoE) is one of seventeen faculties of the Charles University (CUNI), Prague, Czech Republic. Its primary goal is to train teachers and other pedagogical personnel for all types of schools and other educational institutions, at various levels of study and forms. The Faculty provides university-level pre- and in-service teacher education in all fields. FoE with about 250 academic staff is currently training approximately 4200 students in BA and MA and Ph.D. study programmes, plus nearly 10 000 students taught within a wide range of combined forms of study programmes. FoE is actively engaged in international collaboration (TEMPUS, 5FP, 6FP and 7FP, ERASMUS+ KA1, KA2, KA3, etc.). For its international activities and collaborations, FoE exploits about 60 bilateral agreements and it has about 190 bilateral ERASMUS agreements (mainly with universities in Germany, France, Slovakia, Spain and Poland). FoE is responsible for the quality of scholarships, cultural development and the education of teachers. Educational and research activities in various areas of STEM teacher’s education are guaranteed and managed by appropriate departments. All involved departments cooperate with representatives of educational practices, mainly with schools at all levels of the Czech educational system and organisations connected with the Czech Ministry of Education but also with companies, research institutions and other organisation in public or private business sectors.

The STEM oriented departments of FoE have a long tradition in ITE. Our STEM ITE programmes involve subject didactics, subject content knowledge and pedagogical knowledge. We have gained valuable expertise through providing a multi-perspective teaching approach and will be able to give advice to partners who work on developing teaching materials but also be able to evaluate the outcomes. Our STEM programmes offer many activities that involve cooperation with environmental stakeholders from all over the Czech Republic, mainly with the Centre for Environmental Studies and other non-governmental institutions oriented to environmental education in formal and non-formal learning environments. In our STEM teachers study programmes we include general subjects on “Environmental Education” which offers great possibilities to exchange with our network partners (industry and other businesses and NGOs) on particular SSI topics. In courses of subject didactics, we have included topics related to environmental education, too and are very keen on specialising these courses. Through our various initiatives and activities, we are very experienced in linking educational research and STEM teaching with environmental aspects in different ways, i.e. cooperation with developers of teaching aids, environmental monitoring institutions, companies from the area of food technology, robotics, etc.


Therefore, CUNI leads development of IO5 – decision-making based on confronting (scientific) positions and uses the SSI of global food provision to exemplarily elaborate on relating decision-making processes.


Prof. Dr. Martin Bílek is full-professor at the Department of Chemistry Education (Vice dean of the Faculty of Education) Faculty of Education (FoE) at the Charles University of Prague. He graduated as a chemistry and physics teacher for secondary school at the Pedagogical Faculty Hradec Králové (M. Ed., 1988). In 1996 he received Ph.D. in pedagogy/educational technology at Pedagogical Faculty of the Charles University in Prague, followed by the habilitation (Assoc. Prof., 1999) and inauguration (Prof.) in didactics of chemistry at Faculty of Natural Sciences of the M. Bel University in Banská Bystrica (Slovakia) in 2006. His scientific and pedagogical activities are focused on didactics of natural sciences and technical subjects, with a special focus on chemistry, curricular analysis of natural science education and Information and Communication Technology in science and technical education. He is member of many scientific societies and boards and published about 160 research and pedagogical publications.



CUNI team leads:

  • O5: Decision-making

CUNI is involved in:

  • O1: The nature of environmental SSI
  • O6: Negotiating social, political or ethical dimensions in SSI
  • O5: Decision-making
  • O9: Developing an SSI lesson I – focus on didactic aspects
  • O11: Scaffolding: Supporting students by providing a framework for how to deal with SSI

National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece

National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece

The National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (NKUA) was founded in 1837. It is a research-oriented institution consisting of 33 departments and offering a variety of undergraduate and post-graduate programs. The Department of Mathematics has 54 academic staff, and over 3000 students. It cooperates, through inter-state and inter-university agreements, with universities and research centres in Europe and internationally, for the promotion of science, scholarly research and exchange of information. The department is responsible for the education of prospective mathematics teachers since about half of the students of the Department of Mathematics follow a teaching career after their studies.

All members of the NKUA team are experts in initial teacher education of future mathematics teachers. We have significant experience in developing a reform-oriented primary and secondary curriculum for mathematics teaching in the context of an initiative of the Ministry of Education (collaboration with the Institute of Educational Policy of Greece). One of the main aims of this curriculum was to exploit real life contexts and situations in mathematics teaching. Furthermore, we designed part of the developed materials and resources to challenge in-service teachers to bring socio-scientific issues into their classroom teaching. Most part of the students, after their graduation, will pursue a career in the educational field. Hence, having a mathematical background, addressing their values and attitudes towards controversial scientific issues and supporting them to include these issues in science and mathematics teaching are one of main aims of our department. This brings added value since we can transfer that knowledge to environmental socio-scientific issues and enhance our scientific scope.

The members of the team have already collaborated in national and European projects such as Mascil (2013-2016) or IncluSMe (2016-2019).


Chrissavgi Triantafillou’s research is centered on mathematics and science teacher knowledge and practices and their development of teaching innovations and materials. She is carrying out research on the professional development of mathematics and science teachers related to inquiry-based learning and on the argumentative practices developed in mathematics and science school textbooks. In the last years she was involved in pre-service and in-service teacher education activities.



Giorgos Psycharis is Assistant Professor in Mathematics Education in the Department of Mathematics (National & Kapodistrian University of Athens). His fields of interest include the design of learning environments for mathematics with the use of digital technologies in middle school and pre-service and in-service teacher education (secondary mathematics teachers). He has worked in five EU-funded projects including Mascil and InsluSMe.



Despina Potari is a professor in Mathematics Education in the Department of Mathematics (National & Kapodistrian University of Athens).  She has been visiting professor in different universities in Europe and US and currently at Linnaeus University in Sweden. Her research interests are mainly on the development of mathematics teaching and learning and teacher development and in particular on the role of different contexts and tools in the classroom setting as well on teacher knowledge and teaching practices. She is associate editor of the Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, member of editorial boards and teams and reviewer for international journals and conferences. She has participated in European projects and in Mascil and InsluSMe.



NKUA team leads:

  • O7: Aims of SSI and the curriculum

NKUA is involved in:

  • O1: The nature of environmental SSI
  • O3: Collecting data
  • O10: Designing an SSI Lesson II
  • O12: SSI and assessment

University of Malta in Valetta, Malta

University of Malta in Valetta, Malta

First established in 1592, the University of Malta (UoM) continues to be the highest teaching and learning institution of the country. The University strives for excellence, is very active on the international scene and has link agreements with many universities in Europe and beyond. The Maltese team comes from the Faculty of Education which was set up within the University in 1978. The faculty provides for national needs in initial teacher education for schools in the primary and secondary school sector and is engaged in research and projects at a national and international level. It also offers several post-graduate programmes at Masters and PhD level. The Faculty has strong links not only with the national Educational authorities but also with all schools in both primary and secondary sectors. Within the Faculty of Education, the Department of Mathematics and Science Education (DMSE) has an extensive experience of initial teacher education. It offers courses in Mathematics Education, Science Education and Geography Education in initial teacher education programmes and post-graduate research programmes. The research activities of the Science and Mathematics teams within DMSE target teacher education and teaching, learning and assessment in Mathematics and Science among other things. The DMSE also collaborates with the local Educational authorities in developing curricula, running professional development for teachers in schools and for organizing national conferences in Mathematics and Science education. The main philosophy which guides the science and mathematics teams within DMSE is the development of reflective teachers who have a commitment towards student-centred learning and who engage all students in relevant, meaningful and enjoyable experiences of science and mathematics that prepare them for life as future citizens.

The team has been involved in collaborations with schools on initiatives related to mathematics and science education. Members of the team participated in several other projects like PRIMAS (Promoting Inquiry in Mathematics and Science across Europe), Capacity Development of Faculties of Education in International Approaches to Teacher Education, E-PLIPS (Implementation of a European Dimension by Peer Learning in Primary School), SPICES (Social Promotion of Intercultural Communication Expertise and Skills), IncluSMe (Intercultural learning in science and mathematics education) and MaSDiV (Supporting mathematics and science teachers in addressing diversity and promoting fundamental values). With this experience, the team will bring in its expertise related to assessment to this project in the development of a module that supports prospective teachers in applying principles of assessment to assess student learning through SSI.


Josette Farrugia is a Senior Lecturer in Science Education and head of the Department of Mathematics and Science Education. She is currently involved in the initial teacher education programmes and post-graduate courses offered by the University of Malta. Dr Farrugia has been regularly involved in teacher professional development courses related to practical work and investigations in science, inquiry-based learning, assessment and design of assessment tools and tasks to develop and assess different skills, among others. Dr Farrugia participated in the FP7 project, PRIMAS, IncluSMe and MaSDiV. Inquiry-based learning, problem-solving and teacher professional development are among Dr Farrugia’s research interests.



UoM team leads:

  • O12: SSI and assessment

UoM is involved in:

  • O1: The nature of environmental SSI
  • O7: Aims of SSI and the curriculum
  • O8: Beliefs on teaching SSI

Utrecht University, Netherlands

Utrecht University, Netherlands

The Freudenthal Institute for Science and Mathematics Education (FI) is part of the Faculty of Science of Utrecht University (UU) in the Netherlands. The mission of the institute is to stimulate and broaden the interest, knowledge and skills of students and teachers in the field of mathematics and the natural sciences, and stimulating reflection on the sciences and their rich multicultural history and foundations. A focal point for this is the relation to the National Science Agenda (“Nationale Wetenschapsagenda”) and the goal to prepare citizens for and educate them to participate in a diverse, quickly changing, technology-oriented society (scientific citizenship). The institute offers support for teachers and provides courses for student-teachers in learning the necessary basic skills (21st century skills) such as combining new information and insights with available knowledge, problem solving skills, creativity, reflection and cooperation. Among these skills, special attention is paid for metacognitive prompts and language-producing activities that foster the importance and role of language in mathematics and science learning, as this learning is largely a social and communicative practice.

The Freudenthal Institute has a longstanding tradition on design, research and development of learning and teaching materials in the STEM area (in particular in science and mathematics education) for science classrooms, initial teacher education and in-service teacher education. This experience was used in prior European projects like Primas, Mascil, MaSDiV, Parrise and IncluSMe. High importance is on producing materials that are easy to access, interpret and use.

The ENSITE-team of the Freudenthal Institute has experience in developing classroom materials for inquiry-based approaches to science and mathematics teaching and with use of socio scientific issues (SSIBL). The SSI-experience is developed in the Parrise project. Furthermore, the institute has a tradition in designing classroom materials for statistics and involving analysis and visualization of big data.


Michiel Doorman works as a researcher and teacher trainer at the Freudenthal Institute of Utrecht University. His interests are context-based mathematics education and coherency between mathematics and science learning. In the past, he has been involved in the Comenius project Compass, the FP7 projects Primas and Mascil and also in the projects IncluSMe and MaSDiV. In addition to these European projects, Michiel Doorman also participates in various national projects on designing educational materials and connecting science and mathematics. He is member of the board of the Dutch association for mathematics teachers.



Monica Wijers is a researcher, designer and initial teacher educator in mathematics education with a focus on secondary and vocational education. She is an expert in the design of authentic tasks for inquiry-based learning in mathematics that involve group work, creativity and problem solving. She participates in various national projects on designing educational materials for a variety of target groups, from functional illiterate adults to high school teachers and university students in teacher education. Wijers also participates in the national platform for language-oriented education that advocates the importance of language development in all disciplines and she participated in the European FP7 project Mascil, MaSDiV and IncluSMe.

Contact: m.wijers@uu.nlv


Vincent Jonker is a researcher in the area of mathematics education including primary, secondary and vocational education. He has expertise on serious gaming in the field of science and mathematics education and on game design for STEM. In the Mascil project he has been work package leader of WP3 (Classroom materials for inquiry-based science teaching in rich vocational contexts). He is coordinator of the national network of teacher educators for mathematics (ELWIeR). His areas of interest further involve mathematical literacy (functional math) for several target groups, and professionalization of math teachers.



UU team leads:

  • O4: Analysing big data

UU team is involved in:

  • O2: Reasoning, argumentation & critical thinking
  • O3: Collecting data
  • O6: Negotiating social, political or ethical dimensions in SSI
  • O7: Aims of SSI and the curriculum
  • O10: Designing an SSI Lesson II

Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway

Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, Norway

The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) is situated in Trondheim and is the largest university of Norway with about 36000 students. The Department of Teacher Education at NTNU has Norway’s largest academic environment within teacher education and educational research.

It offers practice-oriented and profession-oriented Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD degree programmes. In addition, it has a broad portfolio of further education for teachers and school management. Our research and our performing art and educational development work is directed towards school, classroom and workshop. Our research contributes to the national and international development of knowledge about learning and education in a lifelong perspective.

NTNU is a multi-disciplinary university with a strong profile in science and technology, and a focus on programs of professional study. Therewith, NTNU contributes to competitive Norwegian business and industry sectors as well as supports a capable public sector through collaboration in new practices, processes and products. Three specific trends will be important for NTNU in the strategy period until 2025: more intense competition, strengthened interaction with society, and willingness to change. NTNU wants to prioritize innovative and exploratory learning processes of high quality, grounded in research-based knowledge about learning. They have a long tradition of learning through real tasks and problem-based learning. This closely relates to the university’s understanding of the community assignment and its special responsibility for interdisciplinary skills. Two of the core tasks for initial teacher education at NTNU are 1) Develop research-based teaching materials and learning resources for school and teacher education, 2) Educate teachers that stimulate students to engage in development and innovation work. Thus, the aims of the ENSITE project fit very well into the strategies of our university at all levels.

Within science and mathematics education, the research profile encompasses several internationally and nationally esteemed research projects (e.g. Learners Perspective Study – LPS, EU PRIMAS, Teaching better Mathematics – TBM, TransMaths Norway, and MathTextbook Scandinavia, EU mascil, EU FaSMEd, EU INSTEM, Literacy, LOCUMS, IncluSMe). Our expertise includes ICT and learning, entrepreneurship in education, inquiry-based science and mathematics education, conceptual understanding and literacy. The Norwegian ENSITE team are experienced teachers, teacher educators and educational researchers from the field of science education and ICT.


Dr Ragnhild Lyngved Staberg holds a Ph.D. in biology and science education and is an Associate Professor at NTNU, Department of Teacher Education. She has taught bachelor and master courses at college and universities for 20 years, and has 12 years’ experience from teacher education at NTNU. Staberg participates in different national research projects in science education (e.g. dealing with use of IBST-based strategies in primary school and use of ICT-technology). Since 2010 she has taken part in several EU funded projects – mainly dealing with teacher professional development; PRIMAS, mascil and FaSMEd, partly as Work Package-leader. She has also co-authored a textbook on biology for science education courses for the Norwegian teacher education programme. She was a member of the European Advisory and Impact board for the EU project MaSDiV and also worked for the IncluSMe project.


Intellectual Outputs (IOs)

NTNU team leads:

  • O9: Developing a SSI lesson I – focus on didactic aspects

NTNU team is involved in:

  • O2: Reasoning, argumentation & critical thinking
  • O5: Decision-making
  • O7: Aims of SSI and the curriculum
  • O11: Scaffolding: Supporting students by providing a framework for how to deal with SSI

Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra, Slovakia

Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra, Slovakia

Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra (CPU), Slovakia, has been formed as a modern European general university where a dominant role is played by science and by open and vivid communication both within local environment and within the world.

The university offers a variety of study programmes at bachelor, master and doctoral level, providing strong flexibility, innovation and diversity in programmes and courses with respect to contemporary research and educational practice. In addition to its long tradition in training of teachers for primary and secondary schools, CPU also offers study programmes for future social workers, experts for cultural organizations and institutions, political scientists, catechists, journalists, archaeologists, historians, musicologists, biologists, environmentalists, mathematicians, physicists, computer scientists, psychologists, gemmologists and other professionals. During the period of existence of the institution, students who graduated at the university have influenced education of several generations and the institution has built up a network of cooperating teachers and schools in the whole Slovakia. Teacher trainees accomplish pedagogical practise at schools not only in Nitra region, but also in other regions, villages and cities in Slovakia. Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra, as one of the first universities preparing teachers in Slovakia, responds to the current lifelong education system for teachers very actively. Lifelong, continuing, further educational programmes for pedagogical employees are accredited at most of the university departments. In-service teachers participate in educational activities, research projects focused on mapping different attributes of pedagogical practice. The University is well recognised as a reliable partner of various formal or informal contacts within the regional institutions and educational bodies and enterprises. Impact of the projects and activities of the university is very well recognised within the whole Slovakia. University teachers are regularly invited to various Slovak national educational bodies, councils and expert groups to fulfil important mission concerning their expertise in general research as well as in research in education. These contacts open the possibility to propose, discuss, disseminate and influence the educational and research policy bodies in Slovakia towards innovations in education and educational research.

The uniqueness of CPU in education is represented by teacher training programmes in Hungarian language tailor made for future teachers in the ethnically mixed areas of Slovakia and the training of teachers, social workers and public education for Roma ethnicity. The Faculty of Natural Sciences belongs to the leading faculties in Slovakia which offer an education in the field of natural sciences, mathematics and informatics. Following the tradition of more than fifty years the faculty fulfils its mission in teachers’ education in mathematics, biology, chemistry, physics and computer science as well as in cross curriculum subject ecology and environmental studies.

At Constantine the Philosopher University, project teams consist of experienced university teachers, experts, complemented by young pedagogical post-doctoral staff as well as by doctoral students in study programmes oriented on scientific research in pedagogy, general didactics (theory of instruction) as well subject didactics such is: mathematics, physics, ecology, computer science and technics. University teachers and researchers from Faculty of Natural Sciences have been involved and successfully completed several high-quality research and educational projects. Project with the most valuable impact to teacher’s education and professional development of teachers are: FP7 PRIMAS, MaT2SMC, DynaMAT, MOTIVATE ME in Maths and Science, Math2Earth, COMPASS and IncluSMe.


Sona Ceretkova is associate professor of mathematics education in the Department of Mathematics, Faculty of Natural Sciences, CPU Nitra. She is an experienced team leader of national and international projects in mathematics and science education, co-author of textbooks of mathematics for lower secondary school and organizer and lector of courses of professional development of mathematics teachers. She works as regional expert in Mathematics Olympia competition and national contact person for contests Mathematics B-day and IMMC. She is supervisor of PhD students of Theory of Mathematics Education; Faculty of Natural Sciences Scientific Board member and ICMI Slovakia representative. The main focus of her research is inquiry-based education in mathematics, interdisciplinary and didactical principles of mathematical tasks and teachers’ education and evaluation of teachers’ competences.



CPU team leads:

  • O10: Designing an SSI Lesson II

CPU team is involved in:

  • O1: The nature of environmental SSI
  • O2: Reasoning, argumentation & critical thinking
  • O4: Analysing big data
  • O5: Decision-making
  • O8: Beliefs on teaching SSI
  • O12: SSI and assessment

Hacettepe University in Ankara, Turkey

Hacettepe University in Ankara, Turkey

Hacettepe University (HU) is a major state university in Turkey with over 30,000 students and 3,500 academic staff. The university has 13 faculties, 9 schools, 1 conservatory, 13 institutes and 35 research centres. The Faculty of Education is able to meet the challenge of contemporary education through its highly qualified academic staff, who are open to change and development and who also benefit from international experience and cooperation. The Faculty of Education has strong links between research and schools, and has a collaboration agreement with more than 50 kindergartens, and primary and secondary schools.

Hacettepe University STEM & Maker Lab was established in 2009. They have researchers with extensive experience in STEM curriculum development, in-service teacher training activities and public engagement of STEM to improve the quality of education. Our team member at the Hacettepe STEM & Maker Lab has involved in several EC Erasmus+ projects (ENSITE, MaSDiV, EMERGENT, STEM, STEM PD Net, STING, and INSTEM), FP7 projects (e.g., S-TEAMSAILS, MaScil), and H2020 project (e.g. MOST).

Beside the development of an intellectual output, the Turkish team support the ENSITE project with its outstanding experience in dissemination and use of media technologies. Hacettepe University STEM & Maker Lab has been collaborating with the University of Education in Freiburg since 2010. This collaboration also enhanced our partnership with other PD centres in Turkey. As a result, we contributed to the Turkish Academy of Science PD courses, and worked closely with the Turkish Ministry of National Education on Professional Development activities to promote STEM education nationwide. For instance, our team member, Prof. Gultekin Cakmakci, has been involved in many STEM teacher training workshops organised by the Turkish Academy of Science and/or the Turkish Ministry of Education or funded by The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK). His workshops centred on the nature of STEM practices, classroom norms and the nature of classroom discourse to build socially inclusive approaches in STEM education. Prof. Gultekin Cakmakci, among others, has developed the new Turkish Science Curriculum, which has been implemented in Turkey since September 2017.

Since 2015, in collaboration with the Turkish Ministry of National Education and partners from the industry, we organise STEM & Makers Festivals in different cities. Until now, more than 200,000 participants (ages three and up) have attended and engaged with IBL activities.

Hacettepe University STEM & Maker Lab has experience in widespread dissemination of EU projects’ resources through PD courses, STEM Festivals and press. STEM News Aggregator,  which aggregates science, technology, health, education and business news content from a variety of sources (e.g. online newspapers and popular magazines) and feeds them to its users.


Gultekin Cakmakci is a Professor of Science Education at Hacettepe University and has been teaching courses on STEM education and public engagement with STEM. He is the director of Hacettepe STEM & Maker Lab and also director of Hacettepe Science Center. We do believe that formal, informal and non-formal education should engineer the future of a society by empowering their imagination, creativity and innovation. That is what we aim to achieve within our activities.

He has involved in several national and international projects such as European Commission H2020 (e.g., MOST) and FP7 projects (e.g., SAILSS-TEAM, and MaScil). He, among others, has developed the new  Turkish Science Curriculum, which has been implemented in Turkey since September 2017.

Gultekin Cakmakci is a board member of the “Public Communication of Science and Technology (PCST)”, ,  and “Journal of Research in STEM Education” and has been elected a life member of the PCST Network. This award is given in recognition of exceptional service to individuals who have made a distinguished contribution to the international science communication community.





HU team leads:

  • O2: Reasoning, argumentation & critical thinking

HU team is involved in:

  • O8: Beliefs on teaching SSI
  • O6: Negotiating social, political or ethical dimensions in SSI
  • O9: Developing a SSI lesson I – focus on didactic aspects
  • O10: Designing an SSI Lesson II
  • O12: SSI and assessment

University of Nicosia, Cyprus

University of Nicosia, Cyprus

University of Nicosia (UNIC) is the largest private university in Cyprus with over 7000 students. It is an independent, co-educational, equal opportunity institution of higher education, which offers a wide range of programmes to students from around the world. The University through its five Schools (Medical School, School of Business, School of Education, School of Humanities, Social Sciences and Law, School of Science and Engineering), offers 40 Bachelor degrees, 32 Master degrees and 11 doctoral programmes in business, science, medicine, education and the liberal arts. International in philosophy, the University hosts students from all over the world, in a multicultural learning environment, promoting friendship, cooperation, and understanding. The University pursues excellence in education through research and high teaching standards, in a continually improving academic environment.

The School of Education employs 22 full-time faculty and 32 part time while it offers degrees in Primary and Pre-primary Education, Masters degrees in Education (with 8 specializations), and PhD in Education. UNIC’s degree programmes are accredited by the Cyprus Government, the NCA of USA and some European Accrediting Bodies. It currently has over 5500 students enrolled and around 28% of its student population are non-Cypriots, something which makes it a multicultural institution where diversity and pluralism are valued. The School of Education at UNIC has extensive experience participating in EU funded projects. One of the tasks of the research group within the School of Education is to conduct research to contribute to the improvement of education. In addition, we are experienced coordinators and participants of projects funded by the EU, the US Department of Education, and large corporations focussing on research, material development and the broad dissemination of innovative teaching and learning approaches, namely DIALLS (Horizon2020), CSRC (Teaming/Phase1) Mascil, Engage, Primas (FP7 SiS), IncluSMe and Masdiv (Erasmus+), PreSSES (Comenius). We have strong expertise on special education, educational psychology, adult education, technology-based learning, science education inclusive education, school improvement, social inclusion, intercultural education, teacher development, ICT, e-learning, distance education, collaborative inquiry, research, and evaluation.

The interdisciplinary team at UNIC for the ENSITE project comprises of experts in mathematics education, science education, and psychometrics, along with a number of other colleagues and PhD students. Our research team has strong expertise and relevant publications in the areas of science education and socio-scientific issues, development of teaching and learning materials in higher education, teacher professional development in socio-scientific issues and designing of evaluation tools. A special focus in the PD courses has been dealing with socio-scientific issues, making science relevant and support citizenship science. We are highly interested in transferring our knowledge to particularly improve ITE programmes across Europe and deepen our own knowledge, in particular with regards to European diversity and how it influences global decisions and environmental issues.


Dr. Maria Evagorou is an Assistant Professor in Science Education at the University of Nicosia, Cyprus. Her research focuses on exploring and enhancing students’ argumentation and system thinking skills within science education with the use of technology. More specifically, the emphasis of her work is on students’ talk when they engage in the discussion of socio-scientific issues and how the use of online technologies can enhance students’ argumentation skills and inquiry-based learning. Her work combines both qualitative and quantitative research methods. Maria has published in referred journals and books, has co-edited a book titled Trends in Science Education (in Greek) and has received EU funding to work on projects on argumentation in science. Maria is currently a strand coordinator for the European Science Education Research Association conference, and a member of the editorial board of JRST.



Nicolas Mousoulides is an Assistant professor of Mathematics Education at the University of Nicosia. Mousoulides is a well-established researcher in the area of mathematics and engineering education. His research interests include: (a) Mathematical Modeling and Metacognition, (b) Development of Engineering Problem Solving Skills through Mathematical Modeling, (c) Integrating ICT in Mathematics and Science Teaching and Learning, and (d) Curriculum development in STEM. Mousoulides has published more than sixteen original articles in peer reviewed academic journals and chapters in books, and more than thirty-five research papers in international conference proceedings. Mousoulides has experiences in working as a lecturer in education and engineering departments in five universities in Cyprus and Greece. He has also worked as a coordinator, senior researcher, and researcher in ten research projects, funded by the European Commission, the NSF, and the Research Promotion Foundation. He is currently the coordinator of the ModelMath project (funded by Cyprus Research Promotion Foundation), and senior researcher in one FP7 (Science in Society) and one NSF (Technology and Mathematics Education) funded projects.



UNIC team leads:

  • O8: Beliefs on teaching SSI

UNIC is involved in:

  • O2: Reasoning, argumentation & critical thinking
  • O6: Negotiating social, political or ethical dimensions in SSI
  • O9: Developing a SSI lesson I – focus on didactic aspects
  • O11: Scaffolding: Supporting students by providing a framework for how to deal with SSI


Program: Call 2019 Round 1 KA2 – Cooperation for innovation and the exchange of good practices; KA203 – Strategic Partnerships for higher education

Duration: 36 months (September 2019 – August 2022

Grant awarded: 446.984,00 EUR

Project number: 2019-1-DE01-KA203-005046

National Agency: DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Auslandsdienst)

On this site we will publish 12 teaching modules on environmental socio-scientific issues (SSI) for higher education (HE) to be used in lectures and seminars for future mathematics and science students in initial teacher education.

The modules will address future teachers’ competencies in dealing with environmental issues themselves, thus learning about them first, and then second, their skills in teaching such issues.

Both learning and teaching these skills relate to

  • scientific competencies
  • transversal skills like critical thinking, innovative mind-sets and forward-looking skills and
  • taking into account the social ethical and cultural aspects related to SSI when making decisions.

First modules will be published in 2021.

Module 1: The nature of environmental SSI

Module O1 will be developed as a basis for the other modules in this project and it promotes a comprehensive understanding of environmental socio-scientific issues (SSI) guided by research and the educational discussion on SSI. It will provide meta-knowledge on characteristics of SSI and on how to deal with them. The aim of this module is to present a conceptual foundation for the other modules. In relation to the overall aim of motivating and enabling future teachers to include SSI into their teaching it will also initiate first reflections on future teachers’ beliefs on including SSI into teaching and give future teachers reasons for doing so.

As an introductory module ‘The nature of environmental SSI’ will focus on the following topics:


  1. First examples for environmental SSIs
  2. Reflection on specific characteristics of environmental SSI
  3. Definition of SSIs
  4. How to deal with SSI in general: Steps needed to deal with an SSI in the sense of active responsible citizenship.

When thinking about teaching SSI the first important thing is convincing future teachers of including SSI into teaching. Therefore, this module will also encourage reflecting on future teachers’ beliefs on teaching environmental SSI and will provide motivation and purpose of including them into teaching. Another important aspect is the explanation about the relevance of SSI in relation to the (HEI, national and European) curriculum and educational directives.


  1. Making students aware of their own opinion on the connection on environmental SSI and mathematics and science and their beliefs related to such issues.
  2. Why should environmental SSIs be included in mathematics and science teaching?
  3. Environmental SSI in classroom teaching: an example for use on secondary level.
  4. What do students learn when dealing with such a task?


Dealing with Socio-Scientific Issues


From Maass, Doorman, Jonker, Wijers (2019).

Module O1 raises the aspect of environmental SSI in initial education for future science and maths teachers and gives first insights in the potential of SSIs with regard to science and maths teaching and what roles (future) teachers and their beliefs play. This module for higher education (HE) will be used in lectures and seminars for science students in initial teacher education (ITE).

Lead Partner: Pädagogische Hochschule Freiburg

Module 2: Reasoning, Argumentation & Critical Thinking

The aim of module 2 is to enhance future teachers’ competences in reasoning, argumentation and critical thinking. Therefore, this module provides resources and strategies to help prospective teachers to grasp underlying ideas and to create effective learning environments for reasoning, argumentation and critical thinking. To achieve this objective, we use media reports as a starting point.

The focus will be on future teachers’ learning, but module 2 will also give an outlook on how to use media reports in future teachers’ teaching. Intellectual Output 2 will propose some examples involving in strategies that can be adapted by future teachers as a model for designing their own activities.

In this module 2, we will innovatively promote prospective teachers’ understanding about socio-scientific issues (SSI) through STEM-related media reports. Our goal is to use media reports as an instructional tool to help prospective teachers, and, in return, their future students to become better informed and more discerning consumers of scientific information and to increase their motivation and willingness to learn STEM. We will put a particular emphasis on reasoning, critical thinking and argumentation skills, which includes evaluating the credibility of evidence, establishing the validity of explanatory conclusions, models or predictions, and evaluating sources of both conclusive and inconclusive science. Advanced reasoning and argumentation skills are necessary to grasp the underlying ideas behind media reports of STEM related to environmental SSI.

Module 2 will focus on the following topics:


  1. Media Literacy
  • Media Literacy and scientific literacy
  • Environmental SSI in the media
  1. Reasoning, Argumentation and Critical Thinking
  • Models on reasoning, argumentation and critical thinking
  • Similarities and differences of these models
  1. Using media reports as a starting point to discuss environmental SSI
  • Strategies for evaluating media reports of scientific research
  • Analysing media reports of scientific research
  • Using science-related news and different reasoning, argumentation and critical thinking models to discuss SSI in the media

photo: pixabay

HEI teaching staff and science and maths ITE students/users will gain awareness on how to use STEM media reports to extract relevant data and become better informed but also understand how to form an opinion on through media-provided data. We expect that a general awareness on the complexity of information provided through media will evolve and an awareness on how individuals can critically question provided information.

Lead Partner: Hacettepe University

Module 3: Collecting data

Lead Partner: Institute of Mathematics and Informatics at the Bulgarian Academy of Science


Module 4: Analysing big data

Lead Partner: Utrecht University


Module 5: Decision-making

Lead Partner: Charles University


Module 6: Negotiating social, political or ethical dimensions in SSI

Lead Partner: Universität Klagenfurt


Module 7: Aims of SSI and the Curriculum

Module O7 for Higher Education will be used in lectures and seminars for mathematics and science students in Initial Teacher Education (ITE). The module will focus on the aspects of environmental socio-scientific issues (EnvSSIs) that are related to the educational goals of schools and how future teachers can embed them in curricula. In European countries, curricula are mainly given through national authorities.

The literature review suggests that there is a need for integrating Environmental Socio-scientific issues in science and mathematics curricula.

Some of the arguments that support this view are:

  • students’ development of argumentation skills and sensitivity to such issues;
  • improve students’ conceptual understanding of the related notions (e.g., global warming) and processes (e.g., modelling) involved;
  • resolving students’ misconceptions on such issues;
  • enriching the mathematics and science curriculum material.

The rationale to include EnvSSIs in classroom results in preparing teachers in this direction. It seems that several challenges exist that teachers face in designing and implementing these tasks in classroom activities. Some of these challenges are teachers’ value-free beliefs; teachers’ ill-preparedness in teaching EnvSSIs; many contextual restrictions and difficulties teachers face as regards classroom management issues.

Thus, developing a professional development model in order to prepare European prospective mathematics and science teachers to handle these issues in classroom teaching is a necessity in these years. The module O7 aims to provide specific directions related to teaching and learning EnvSSIs.

Topics for learning Mathematics and Science

  1. Areas of mathematics and science education suitable to be related to EnvSSIs.
  2. STEM as a framework for identifying EnvSSIs. How can EnvSSIs and STEM education be implemented through curriculum materials and key practices?
  3. Levels of knowledge, social and cultural NOS, ethical development. This part of the module will be connected to module 1, which focuses on the nature of SSI, module 6 and negotiates the social, political or ethical dimensions underlying SSIs.
  4. Aims of teaching EnvSSIs including students’ conceptual development and higher-order thinking.
  5. Students’ understanding of the socio-political elements involved in EnvSSIs and competences in ethical reasoning and decision-making.
  6. SSI in mathematics curricula: examples of relevant thematic areas, practices and situations
  7. EnvSSIs in science and mathematics curricula: examples of relevant thematic areas, practices and situations in partners’ national curricula.
  8. Developing a model for EnvSSIs on learning and teaching in mathematics and science. This part of the module will be the basis and point of reference for the modules 9-12



Extending a typical mathematical textbook task

One of O7 aims is to support prospective teachers to extent typical textbook tasks.

Module O7 is innovative in that it analyses curricula in relation to environmental issues. It connects them to day-to-day teaching by supporting future teachers in understanding the curricula and adopting their requirements in their teaching.

The expected impact is that future teachers will be enabled to interpret the curriculum so that they see options for implementing environmental issues and can also justify their proceeding to anyone questioning this (e.g. parents favouring traditional approaches to science teaching).

Lead Partner: Ethniko Kai Kapodistriako Panepistimio Athinon

Module 8: Beliefs on teaching SSI

Lead partner: University of Nicosia


Module 9: Developing a SSI lesson I – focus on didactic aspects

This module gives future teachers help with designing a lesson. On one side it will be based on research related to socio-scientific issues (SSI) and on the other side on education for sustainable development (ESD). The module will also draw on the educational approach of inquiry-based learning. As an example, we will use the huge challenge of “plastic waste”, implications for human kind and nature, and proposals on how to deal with this in an educational context. The aim of this module 9 is to present an up-to-date status of the research on SSI issues related to plastic waste, and contribute to raise public awareness among the young generations. In this work schools and teachers have an important role to increase students’ knowledge and awareness about plastic as a waste problem, as well as the scale of the problem. While amount and types of plastics/micro plastics waste are quite well documented, there is still a lack of knowledge on physiological impacts. In the field of SSI and education related to plastic waste, the research is fragmented, and results related to public awareness and public induced actions are incoherent.


Module 9 will focus on the following topics:

Learning dimension:
Future teachers are supposed to

  • Understand the life cycle of plastic bottles, from production to waste, mainly in their own country, but also with an international perspective
  • Identify different dimensions of the plastic dilemma (historically, economically, socially, environmentally) and take part in discussions on this dilemma
  • Develop competencies (knowledge and skills) that enable them to take critical action (action competence)

Teaching dimension:

Future teachers are supposed to

  • Apply plastic dilemmas to teach about the role of science in society
  • Use inquiry-based learning approaches to teach plastic dilemmas in an SSI-perspective
  • Learn to set up socio-scientific issues (“wicked problems”) on plastics in their context
  • Teach students to work with socio-scientific issues (identify and argue for different aspects)
  • Plastic pollution as a “wicked problem” in their national and/or local curriculum – how is it treated?

Plastic bottles from all over the world, photo by Mausund Feltstasjon

This module will exemplify how to deal with a complex, cross-subject theme and through this include more classic science content, as well as environmental SSI related themes.

Lead partner: Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Module 10: Designing a SSI lesson – II

Lead partner: Constantine the Philosopher University


Module 11: Scaffolding

Lead Partner: Universität Klagenfurt


Module 12: SSI and assessment

Lead Partner: University of Malta


Module 13: Guidelines for Open Learning Environments

Socio-Scientific Issues and how to include them in STEM teaching

The nature of Socio-Scientific Issues

Socio-Scientific Issues (SSI) require students to engage in dialogue, discussion, and debate. They are mainly controversial in nature but also require forming opinions and making decisions including moral, ethical or social reasoning issues (Zeidler and Nicols 2009). Most of the time, people have to deal with these issues through incomplete information because of conflicting or incomplete scientific evidence and incomplete reporting. Often these issues involve a cost-benefit analysis in which risk interacts with ethical reasoning (Ratcliff and Grace 2003). Consequently, such contexts especially serve the purpose of educating for scientific citizenship (Owen et al. 2009).

An example of an SSI in the area of biology is the question whether vaccination against measles should be obligatory or not. Opponents of vaccination ignore scientific evidence on vaccination and epidemics, and tend to refer to their own evidence and experts. In order to follow the discussion on this issue as an active citizen, young people need to learn about such issues and how they are influenced by ethical, moral and cultural issues.

photo by Liz Masoner pixabay

We suggest that when dealing with SSIs to follow a cyclic process including steps like search for information and (risk) analysis of sources of information, discourse about (possibly) contradicting scientific results and ethical, social, cultural reasoning (Zeidler and Nicols 2009). Particularly the difference between scientific results and conclusions has to be made clear (Ratcliff and Grace 2003). A possible resulting process is shown in Figure 3.


Fig. 3. Working process for socio-scientific issues (Maass, Doorman, Jonker and Wijers 2019)


Research has shown that SSIs can be used as contexts for learning scientific content (Applebaum et al. 2006; Walker 2003; Zohar and Nemet 2002) and for understanding the nature of science (learning ‘about science’, see part 1) and for citizenship education (Herman et al. 2018; Radakovic 2015; Sadler et al. 2007). In this respect, the authors highlight the following important aspects when dealing with SSIs: (1) recognizing the inherent complexity of SSIs, (2) examining issues from multiple perspectives, (3) appreciating that SSIs are subject to ongoing inquiry, (4) exhibiting skepticism when presented with potentially biased information.

How to include Socio-Scientific Issues in STEM teaching

One approach that has proven to be helpful in science education is inquiry-based learning (Knippels and van Dam 2017). Consequently, combining inquiry-based teaching approaches with SSIs seems to have the potential to promote active citizenship in STEM-education.

By IBL, we refer to a student-centered learning paradigm in which students are involved in inquiry-related processes like observing phenomena and creating their own questions, selecting mathematical approaches, creating representations to clarify relationships, seeking explanations, interpreting and evaluating solutions, and communicating their solutions (Dorier and Maass 2014).

On the teacher’s part, pedagogies evolve from a ‘transmission’ orientation, in which teacher explanations, illustrative examples and exercises dominate and are not questioned, towards a more collaborative orientation. The teacher’s role includes making constructive use of students’ prior knowledge, challenging students through probing questions, managing small group and whole class discussions, encouraging alternative viewpoints, learning from mistakes and helping students to make connections between their ideas (Swan 2005, 2007).

Definitions of IBL, however, differ in the degree of autonomy given to students in the selection of problems and in the responsibility for inquiry processes (Artigue and Blomhøj 2013). In our approach to IBL, we refer to a socio-cultural approach in which learning needs to happen in interactive social classroom settings (Radford 2010) and the teacher takes an active role by creating learning situations inspired by inquiry-related processes. Teachers who take these active roles in guiding their students are more effective than those who take passive roles and let students discover on their own (Askew et al. 1997; Swan 2006).

For the purpose of promoting citizenship education, students need to have an active role, similar to that in IBL, for developing critical thinking and decision making, for learning to take into account ethical, social and cultural aspects, and for learning to deal with controversy (Zeidler and Nicols 2009; Geiger, Goos and Forgasz 2015). Already Dewey (1916) emphasized the connection between IBL and education serving democracy.


Guidelines for Open Learning Environments PDF



Applebaum, S., Barker, B., & Pinzino, D. (2006). Socioscientific issues as context for conceptual understanding of content. Paper presented at the National Association for Research in Science Teaching, San Francisco, CA.

Artigue, M., & Blomhøj, M. (2013). Conceptualising inquiry-based education in mathematics. ZDM Mathematics Education, 45(6), 797–810.

Askew, M., Brown, M., Rhodes, V., Johnsons, D., & Wiliam, D. (1997). Effective teachers of numeracy. London, UK: Kings College.

Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and education. New York, NY: Macmillan.

Dorier, J.-L., & Maass, K. (2014). Inquiry-based mathematics education. In Encyclopedia of Mathematics Education (pp. 300–304). Heidelberg, Germany: Springer.

Geiger, V., Goos, M., & Forgasz, H. (2015). A rich interpretation of numeracy for the 21st century: a survey of the state of the field. ZDM Mathematics Education, 47(4), 531–548.

Herman, B. Sadler, T., Zeidler, D. & Newton, M. (2018). A socioscientific issues approach to environmental education. In G. Reis, J. Scott, International perspectives on the theory and practice of environmental education: A reader (pp. 145–161). DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-67732-3_11

Knippels, M.C.P.J. & van Dam, F.W. (2017). PARRISE, Promoting attainment of responsible research and innovation in science education, FP7—Rethinking science, rethinking education. Impact, 2017(5), 52–54.

Maass, K., Doorman, M., Jonker, V. & Wijers, M. (2019). Promoting active citizenship in mathematics teaching. ZDM Mathematics Education, 51(6), 991-1003. DOI 10.1007/s11858-019-01048-6.

Owen, R., MacNaghten, P., & Stilgoe, J. (2009). Responsible research and innovation: From science in society to science for society, with society. Science and Public Policy, 39, 751–760

Radford, L. (2010). The anthropological turn in mathematics education and its implication on the meaning of mathematical activity and classroom practice. Acta Didactica Universitatis Comenianae Mathematics, 10, 103–120.

Radakovic, N. (2015) “People can go against the government”: Risk-based decision making and high school students’ concepts of society. Canadian Journal of Science, Mathematics and Technology Education, 15(3), 276–288, DOI: 10.1080/14926156.2015.1062938

Ratcliff, M., & Grace, M. (2003). Science education for citizenship. Teaching socio-scientific issues. Maidenhead, Philadelphia, PA: Open University Press.

Sadler, T. D., Barab, S. A., & Scott, B. (2007). What do students gain by engaging in socioscientific inquiry? Research in Science Education, 37(4), 371–391. DOI: 10.1007/s11165-006-9030-9

Swan, M. (2005). Improving learning in mathematics: Challenges and strategies. Sheffield, UK: Teaching and Learning Division, Department for Education and Skills Standards Unit.

Swan, M. (2006). Collaborative learning in mathematics: A challenge to our beliefs and practices. London, UK: National Institute for Advanced and Continuing Education (NIACE) for the National Research and Development Centre for Adult Literacy and Numeracy (NRDC).

Swan, M. (2007). The impact of task-based professional development on teachers’ practices and beliefs: A design research study. Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, 10(4–6), 217–237.

Walker, K. A. (2003). Students’ understanding of the nature of science and their reasoning on socioscientific issues: A web-based learning inquiry. Unpublished dissertation.  Tampa, FL: University of South Florida.

Zeidler, D.L., & Nichols, B.H. (2009). Socio-scientific issues: Theory and practice. Journal of Elementary Science Education, 21(2), 49–58.

Zohar, A., & Nemet, F. (2002). Fostering students’ knowledge and argumentation skills through dilemmas in human genetics. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 39, 35–62.

Each year, we reach out to future science teachers across Europe. These intensive study programmes (ISP) allow future science and maths teachers to deepen their knowledge about environmental socio-scientific issues in a multinational environment. In the course of the summer schools, the students engage in a variety of innovative activities and gain first-hand inter-cultural and social experiences.

Summer School 2021 in Bulgaria

Theme: Environmental issues in science education – Deepening future science and maths teachers’ learning by teaching

Organised by the Institute of Mathematics and Informatics at the Bulgarian Academy of Science (IMI-BAS)

Venue: Bulgaria, Sofia

Duration: 21 days in August 2021

Target groups:

  • Science and maths ITE students
  • PhD students in STEM fields
  • High school students interested in working on projects related to environmental socio-scientific concepts

All target groups learn about environmental SSI. Future teachers gain knowledge on pedagogical concepts, widen their teaching scope and have the possibility to actively teach students, whilst PhD students gain experience in both aspects and can elaborate on how the respectively gained knowledge might contribute to their research work.

A social cultural program tailored to enrich the experience of the participants will be provided. Two one-day trips to sites of cultural and/or scientific importance will be included, as well as shorter visits to relevant exhibitions and museums.

The venue will be at the campus of IMI-BAS, one of its frequent conference locations or the campus of a partnering university. The locations are equipped with modern educational and accommodation facilities, quick access to emergency medical help and dedicated security.

The organisers will issue a certificate for each student and each future teacher, describing the scope of the activity and the attained learning outcome. It is intended that participants will get 3 ECTS points.

Summer School 2021 in Slovakia

Theme: Social-Scientific Issues in Mathematics and Science Teachers Education

Organised by the Constantine the Philosopher University (CPU)

Venue: Slovakia, region Nitra

Duration: 10 days in May-June 2021

Target groups:

  • Science and maths ITE students from partners’ and HEIs from the organizing country
  • PhD students in mathematics and science education;

Participants will be actively involved in discussions and will be informed about all other project initiatives and experiences. This will support them in taking up socio-scientific issue ideas to their future teaching and academic work. Participants will have the chance to demonstrate their knowledge and experience obtained during the summer school at the end of the ISP in a scientific colloquium.

A social cultural program tailored to enrich the experience of the participants will be provided. To this end we will include trips to sites of cultural and/or scientific importance as well as visits to relevant exhibitions and museums.

The organisers will issue a certificate for each participating future teacher, describing the scope of the activity and the attained learning outcome. The work and performance of participants, ITE students, will be acknowledged by 3ECTS credits.

Summer School 2022 in Czech Republic

Theme: Socio-scientific issues in maths and science ITE for HE teachers

Czech Republic, Prague: Univerzita Karlova (CUNI)

Duration: 10 days

Main target group:

  • Students of maths and sciences in ITE programmes at higher education institutions.

The program will offer students the opportunity to perceive and analyse different aspects of maths and science education in relation to environmental SSI and their interrelations with cultural, national, religious and other dimensions of society. During their stay prospective teachers will have numerous opportunities for communication both within the international student group and outside when meeting the local population. This will enable them to gain rich experiences concerning socio-scientific issues and their intercultural dimension.

The social cultural programme will include special excursions such as relevant visits to exhibitions (e.g. Czech National Museum, Technical Museum, Centre of Environmental Studies of the Charles University, Non-governmental institution with environmental focus etc.) or school excursions to give prospective teachers an insight into school life in another country.

CUNI will issue a certificate for each student/participant, describing the scope of the summer school programme and the learning outcomes attained. For the successful participation in this summer school, Faculty of Education CUNI will award 3 ECTS credits.


We organize national and international multiplier events for educational stakeholders to disseminate the modules for initial teacher education (ITE) that are developed within the project. The multiplier events aim at initializing dialogue on the matters at hand and substantiate the projects’ findings.

National Event, May 20-21, 2021 in Netherlands – New event date

Theme: Environmental socio-scientific issues in mathematics and science teacher education

Utrecht University, Netherlands

Should vaccination be compulsory? Is it possible to use only ‘renewable energy’? Can global warming be stopped?

The relevance of paying attention to this type of socially relevant scientific dilemma’s (socio-scientific issues) in teacher training for science and mathematics is increasing. After all, education has the task of preparing pupils for a future in which they are able to think along and decide on these kinds of issues.

SSI are little structured, open problems or dilemmas that have multiple solutions. Underlying data plays an important role in making decisions on such issues. Using mathematics, in particular statistics on large databases, therefor can play an important part in this.

In this multiplier event of the ENSITE project we will talk about how science and mathematics teacher educators can incorporate SSI. We focus on environmental SSI and use experiences and ideas from ENSITE and other European projects on this subject (Parrise, MasDiv).

We invite teacher educators of STEM-subjects and other interested parties to register.


Target group: Teacher educators of STEM

Location: Utrecht, the Netherlands


Thursday 20th May 2021, 13:45-17:00 International meeting (ME), hosted online: Environmental SSI in mathematics and science teacher education

Friday 21 May 2021, 10:00-16:00 national (dutch) conference for teacher educators of STEM, with an international track (in English) on Environmental Socio-Scientific Issues in Initial teacher education

If you want to participate please send an email to:

Internationale Event, November 2021 in Cyprus

Theme: International Forum on Teacher Professional Development and Socio-Scientific Issues

University of Nicosia, Cyprus

This stand-alone, international event brings together experts in the area of socio-scientific issues and teacher education to discuss recent trends, synergies and collaboration as well as exploitation capacity.

The specific objective of this multiplier event is to provide a venue for ITE teachers and curriculum developers in Higher Education, and other policy makers to discuss and share good practices and ideas on further improving teacher education related to socio-scientific issues. The multiplier event starts with an invited plenary, followed by workshops and lectures that provide concrete examples of how to include SSIs in ITE for science and mathematics teacher educators.


National Event, February 2022 in Malta

Theme: Seminar on using Socio-Scientific Issues in Science Education

University of Malta, Malta 

The specific objective of this Maltese multiplier event is to introduce project materials and ideas on teaching Socio-Scientific Issues (SSIs) and show how these ideas can be implemented in ITE. Participants will be actively involved in discussions and will be informed about all initiatives and experiences. The national event will involve discussions related to the support and needs of future science teachers when implementing lessons on environmental SSIs in their classroom in the Maltese context.


National Event, June 2022 in Norway

Theme: Workshop on deigning a lesson on environmental Socio-Scientific Issues

Norges Teknisk-Naturvitenskapelige Univeriteit (NTNU), Norway

This Multiplier Event is a national workshop, taking place in Norway linked to the Norwegian education conference. Target groups of this event are teachers in STEM at secondary school, representatives from ITE and researchers from the field of teacher education.

The specific objective of this Norwegian multiplier event is to introduce the modules on Reasoning, argumentation & critical thinking as well as on Designing a SSI lesson as other project materials necessary to deliver a valuable and complete insight into our project and its results. Participants will learn ways how our findings affect teaching and how our materials can be used to design a lesson. They will also learn how they can use media reports as a starting point to raise particular topics in class. We will involve discussions about necessary adaptations to the Norwegian context and participants will gain awareness on how different national contexts influence the design and delivery of a lesson on environmental SSI.


International Event, August 2022 in Slovakia

Theme: Socio-Scientific Issues in mathematics and science teacher education

Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra, Slovakia

This international one-day conference will include plenary lectures as well as seminars and workshops. Target groups of this events are teachers in higher education, PhD students, policy makers, curricula designers and scientists in general pedagogy and theory of education, mathematics and science subjects.

The specific objective of this Maltese multiplier event is to introduce project materials and ideas on teaching Socio-Scientific Issues (SSIs), discuss their contents, relevance and implications. Participants will get to know the project`s outputs, gain knowledge on environmental issues and how they affect their role as teachers of future generations. The event will support them in including Socio-Scientific Issues into their future teaching, academic and scientific work.


The creation of these resources has been co-funded by the Erasmus+ programme of the European Union under grant no. 2019-1-DE01-KA203-005046. Neither the European Union/European Commission nor the project’s national funding agency DAAD are responsible for the content or liable for any losses or damage resulting of the use of these resources.

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