Title: Development of Inquiry Based Learning via IYPT
Period: 1. 11. 2019 - 30. 6. 2022
Leading organization: Fyzikálny ústav Slovenskej Akadémie vied
Participating organization : University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Mathematics and Physics
Principal investigator UL FMF: Sergej Faletič
Research activity: Physics
International Young Physicists’ Tournament (IYPT) is a unique educational platform for high school students which was conceived more than 30 years ago but which epitomizes at the same time the most recent educational trends. It requires developing of what is called 21st century skills and performing of a full-blown scientific inquiry. IYPT may be contrasted both to the numerous knowledge-based competitions and to those "inquiry-based" activities which present pupils to simplified bits of inquiry only. One more feature borrowed from the real-life Science research is that participants have to present the results of their inquiry to the judgement of their peers, to defend them and to engage in a scholarly discussion. Also, the complexities of the real-life research problems are not spared here and we have a counterexample to the often-made observations that ‘‘We condition students to expect simplicity. When they encounter complexity they may feel betrayed, disillusioned or ‘‘simply’’ lack the skills to interpret the circumstances’’ . The nature of the competition thus motivates students towards carrying their own theoretical and experimental research, critical thinking and working with information resources and scientific literature, presenting and discussing of their findings, and collaborating with colleagues, teachers and scientists. These are exactly the competences thanks to which an overwhelming fraction of successful competitors develops a brilliant professional career not only as excellent research scientists in physics, but also as successful entrepreneurs or specialists in e.g. medicine, law or economy. Despite this large potential of the IYPT platform to train students in competencies so demanded in the current modern economic environment, the competition itself is so challenging that its impact is limited to a few best teams in a country.
The aim of this project is to make available the most important approaches routinely employed in IYPT to a much broader audience. The key point is to strengthen the skills of teachers in inquiry-based education; at the same time, inquiry-based education will be promoted among students. An important benefit of using the IYPT platform is that this is done in the context of a real scientific work. In particular, this means that the inquiry-based approaches are complemented by communication skills and by a close international collaboration among diverse participants, which include teachers, students and scientists acting as advisers and jurors in IYPT.
In order to fully profit from the diversity of national IYPT environments, there will be six partner institutions together with the coordinator from various countries executing the project. Each of them is in a close contact with dozens of high schools participating in IYPT on the national level; this implies that the project shall directly involve many tens of high-school teachers and a hundred of high-school students. The kick-off of the project will consist in the development of an IYPT toolkit, which will summarize the current experience of partners on IYPT. This summary of knowledge will aid teachers in launching their own project-oriented activities, and motivate students to participate in them. Subsequently, research studies on the development of scientific and soft skills via IYPT will be carried out, based mainly on questionnaires and interviews. These will enable to identify the teaching approaches which best furnish the key competences for students’ success in IYPT. This knowledge will subsequently form a basis of scientific and policy papers providing recommendations on inquiry-based learning via IYPT. In this way, the general audience will gain an access to the results of the project. An important activity of the project consists of multiplication events, which allow gathering of all involved target groups: teachers, students and scientists, as well as policy makers so that they can contribute to the policy recommendations. These meetings will provide a natural opportunity for gathering information and feedback from participants, and at the same time, to disseminate results among all target groups. The project will provide freely accessible methodologies supporting inquiry-oriented education in physics, with a possible extension towards other natural sciences and other subjects. Through the multiplication events, selected teachers will be directly trained towards inquiry-based teaching in physics. All these pieces will contribute to the ultimate long-term goal: progress towards a modern education providing people with deep knowledge and useful competences, contributing to the prosperity and development of the entire society.
 Allchin, D.: 1999, ‘How School Science Lies’, Paper presented at the 5th Annual Conference of the International History, Philosophy and Science Teaching Group, Como, Italy (p. 244)