HOMI BHABHA CENTRE FOR SCIENCE EDUCATION
Highlights of Annual Report 2010-11
I. Research & Development (R&D) in Science, Technology and Mathematics Education
In R&D this year significant new results were reported on visuo-spatial thinking and reasoning, leading to new teaching methods. Gestures of cognitive significance were designed to link concrete models with abstract diagrams in physics and biology, resulting in better student learning. Two Ph.D. theses were awarded on this work.
In Design and Technology (D&T) in School Education, students' and teachers' ideas about design and designers were investigated. Workshops for school students were conducted on design and technological activities, focusing on evaluation strategies used by students. Project Based Learning, a method currently recommended for all schools by National and State agencies, was studied for its learning potential, through a series of workshops, a teachers' seminar and follow-up visits to schools. Systems thinking was studied in students.
Investigations of students' thinking about socio-scientific issues, and on inclusive science education, were initiated. Science Education for Diversity, an international European Union funded project, led to study of available evidence on the relationship between cultural and gender diversity and science education, and preparing of a synthesis of six country reports. A study on gender imbalance at the pre-university level appeared as a publication in Current Science, attracting nationwide attention.
Mathematics Education Research aimed at developing a model of professional development for teachers of mathematics in the context of the recommendations of National Curriculum Framework (2005) towards more learner-centred approaches. Workshops and case studies were carried out. A study of out-of-school mathematical knowledge aims to explore how this knowledge may be used to support school learning. Students from Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM)-run English and Urdu medium schools located in Dharavi area of Mumbai city are participating.
Students' conceptual understanding of general relativity was investigated through four cognitive studies. The research diagnosed and interpreted students' conceptual vulnerabilities as they engaged with the subject in an introductory course. Analysis of their responses yielded significant insights on a range of concepts and issues in this discipline. One Ph.D. thesis was prepared (submitted in April 2011).
A study on students' misconceptions in heat and thermodynamics led to the development of activities to help students understand these areas. Students' difficulties in drawing inferences from graphs were studied. Studies were conducted on students' misconceptions in secondary level biology, and on understanding of biogenesis. Data collection for a study of the outcomes of teaching science as an inquiry was completed.
Interdisciplinary studies on the structure and dynamics of knowledge included "Refined concept mapping" and "Dependency Networks". Supporting software development was carried out, with the first stable release candidate of GNOWSYS, a knowledge organisation tool. Several workshops on free and open source software for education were conducted around the country.
Curriculum and Material Development continued with work on an inquiry-based middle school science curriculum. Online teacher resource materials were developed for the Homi Bhabha Curriculum for Primary Science. Marathi translation of the Small Science Class 1&2 Teacher's Book was published. Two Small Science books in Hindi and English were reprinted.
26 Episodes of the FAQ program of POGO channel were prepared for the second season. Second Editions of the books "Aapli Suryamala" and "Aapale Vishwa" were brought out by Manovikas publication. "Aapli Suryamala" was awarded the "H. M. Mote award" for the best book for children of 2009, by Marathi Vidnyan Parishad, and "Durbini ani Vedhashala" was awarded the "Raja Kelkar Puraskar" for the best science book for students, 2009, by Sahitya Sanskriti Mandal, Government of Maharashtra. In a project coordinated by HBCSE for the Maharashtra Rajya Vishwakosh Nirmiti Mandal, the first part of the 3-part volume of the Kumar Vishwakosh (Junior Encyclopedia) on biology and environment in print and online versions was released at the hands of the Chief Minister of the State on Marathi Divas.
The project on Open Educational Resources for Schools aims to develop, field test and make available relevant digital learning resources to students, teachers and parents. Development of the website was completed and materials uploaded on it. Other materials under preparation include "All about Microscopes", "Teaching Chemistry through Activities" and "Questions in School Science". The innovative and dedicated website for electronic materials in Hindi (http://ehindi.hbcse.tifr.res.in) was further enriched. A feature called 'Science kii Duniya' carries the major achievements and events in science and technology on that day in history.
Collaboration with National and State agencies continued. HBCSE participated in developing with NCERT teachers' manuals to assist "Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation" in classrooms. Proficiency tests for Class 10 science and mathematics were developed for the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE). A Ph. D. programme in science and mathematics education was developed with the School of Science, Indira Gandhi National University, (IGNOU). Textbooks for Class IX and X, developed under HBCSE's advice by Kerala State Council of Educational Research and Training at Thiruananthapuram, were published. Assessment modules (Swadhyaya Pustika) in Science for Stds. V, VI, VII & VIII were prepared with Balbharati (Government of Maharashtra). Consultancy was extended to several experimental schools.
II. Olympiads and Related Activities
The Olympiad selection procedure at HBCSE in all the six subjects (mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy and junior science) is standardized. For science and astronomy Olympiads, it consists of: two theory tests conducted all over the country in collaboration with the Indian Association of Physics Teacher (IAPT), Association of Chemistry Teachers (ACT) and Association of Teachers in Biological Sciences (ATBS). The first test, conducted in over 900 centres all over the country, has mainly objective type questions; the second test conducted at 15 centres, has subjective problems, and is of high difficulty level comparable to the international Olympiads. This constitutes the Indian National (Physics / Chemistry / Biology / Astronomy / Junior Science) Olympiad Examinations (INPhO, INChO, INBO, INAO and INJSO respectively). While the participation in the first test runs into tens of thousands (in the 2010, about 39,000 in Physics, 31,000 in chemistry, 10,000 in biology, 11,000 in astronomy and 16,000 in junior science), the second test sees the participation of the top 300 students in each subject. In the next phase of selection, about 35 students in each subject are selected from the Indian National Olympiad examinations and are invited for orientation-cum-selection camps held at HBCSE. Students appear for several theoretical and experimental tests, leading to the selection of Indian Teams for the final international Olympiads. The selected teams for international Olympiads again go through two weeks of pre-departure training at HBCSE. A similar pattern of selection and training is followed in mathematics under the aegis of the National Board of Higher Mathematics.
Out of the 33 student team members who represented India in the International Olympiads in Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Mathematics, Astronomy and Junior Science, 30 bagged medals and this included 10 gold medals.
Camps were conducted for the National Talent Search (NTS) awardees from the Western Maharashtra region, and the Indian team for the Intel Sponsored International Science and Engineering Fair. As every year a Junior Mathematics and Science camp and Olympiad was conducted for the Atomic Energy Education Society (AEES).
III. National Initiative on Undergraduate Science (NIUS)
The National Initiative on Undergraduate Science was launched in the summer of 2004. Till date over 500 undergraduate students have been exposed to this programme, which includes initiating and guiding students for proto-research, preparing and editing lecture notes, and promoting undergraduate research. It also includes the development of theoretical and laboratory courses, R&D in science education and training of students and teachers in experimental science. Another aspect has been to assist college teachers in setting up modest research programs so they might locally mentor students. To this end a number of college workshops and conferences were organized. More than a hundred undergraduate students were invited to attend extended nurture camps, of whom a fair fraction were from non-metropolitan colleges.
NIUS camps and projects were conducted in Physics, including Astronomy and Astrophysics (Neutrino physics, Stellar oscillations, Accretion disc, Radio astronomy, Black hole and dark matter physics, Gravitational Waves); theories of fundamental computing (EPR Paradox and Bell Inequality, Quantum Computing, Quantum Teleportation, Neural Networks, Genetic Algorithms) and Electronic Properties of Nanostructures were also covered. From the current batch 47 students are pursuing NIUS projects. In addition 25 students from earlier batches of NIUS Physics also visited HBCSE to complete their projects and prepare manuscripts for publications and conferences.
NIUS Chemistry camp was conducted from which 20 students were selected for project work. In addition 15 students from earlier batches of NIUS Chemistry also visited HBCSE to complete their projects and prepare manuscripts for publications and conferences.
NIUS Biology camps were conducted, covering Cell Biology, Microbiology, Biochemistry, Bioinformatics and Molecular Biology. Four this batch 3 students are currently pursuing NIUS projects.
IV. Teacher Orientation and Science Popularization
HBCSE members contributed to programs in science, mathematics and astronomy for students and teachers in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh. Popular Science Lectures were delivered at educational institutions around the State. Intensive and large-scale programs on hands-on science were conducted for underprivileged students from BMC schools from slum areas, Employees Union, Pune Municipal Corporation, Central Salt and Chemicals Research Institute, Bhavnagar and Surendranagar, GMRT, Science day celebrations, etc.. Several popolar astronomy workshops and observation sessions were conducted. In School Mathematics a series of long and short duration workshops were held through the year for educational officers and teachers of the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sanghtana. Several vacation camps were held on hands-on activities in mathematics at HBCSE and in rural areas. Hands-on workshops were organised for ICT in Education, using free and open source software.
HBCSE, in collaboration with Atomic Energy Education Society, conducts a community development programme every year (in 10 centres around the country, since 1999), which aims at identifying talented students in the vicinity of Atomic Energy projects, from rural or tribal belts, who are socially, educationally and economically disadvantaged, and providing them free education and financial support.
School students, students from colleges of education, practicing teachers and teacher educators often visit the centre. A visit programme is prepared taking into account the needs and requirements of the visiting group. About 32 such visits were organized in the academic year 2010-2011. On the occasion of the National Science Day on February 28, 2011, HBCSE had an Open House for the school and college community. About 1800 students, teachers and parents visited.
The Hindi Cell was involved in promoting the use of Hindi language in general at the Centre and in particular in the area of science popularization.
V. Major Conferences
1.Asian Science Camp, HBCSE, August 17-22, 2010 HBCSE
2.epiSTEME-4 : Fourth international conference to review research on Science, Technology and Mathematics Education, HBCSE, January 5-9, 2011.
3.Second Indo-Swedish Meeting on Mathematics Education February 24-26, 2011.
4.International Conference on Education in Chemistry, HBCSE, November 12-14, 2010.