Development and dissemination of a teaching learning sequence on nanoscience and nanotechnology in a context of communities of learners

Dimitris Stavrou *, Emily Michailidi and Giannis Sgouros
Department of Primary Education, University of Crete, Rethymno, Greece. E-mail:

Received 27th March 2018 , Accepted 14th June 2018

First published on 29th June 2018


Introducing Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (NST) topics into school science curricula is considered useful for an in-depth understanding of the content, processes and nature of science and technology, and also for negotiating the social aspects of science. This study examines (a) the development of an inquiry-based Teaching–Learning Sequence (TLS) on NST topics, which incorporates socio-scientific issues and out-of-school learning environments and (b) the dissemination of the developed TLS through the training of further teachers. In both cases, a participatory design, in particular Communities of Learners (CoLs), was established, consisting of teachers, science researchers, science education researchers and science museum experts. As a theoretical framework for the TLS development, the Model of Educational Reconstruction is used. The qualitative analysis of the obtained data highlights that teachers’ interactions with colleagues in the CoL on issues regarding the educational reconstruction of the different aspects of the TLS impact the process of its development. Regarding the dissemination of the TLS, the findings indicate that teachers modified several elements of the TLS and particularly the included activities, influenced by their mentors’ prior experience and their own rich contextual knowledge. Finally, guidelines for the development and dissemination of a TLS are discussed.


Cutting-edge research topics in science teaching can augment students’ interest and promote scientific literacy, as they make them realize the necessity of acquiring some basic scientific knowledge in order to express informed opinions about its use in everyday life (Kolstø, 2001). These topics also provide students with the experience of science as a procedure instead of the “ready”, rigid science they are usually taught, as they can explore fascinating, real examples of scientific applications, making the lesson more attractive (Schank et al., 2007).

The flourishing domains of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (NST) set up such a cutting-edge research field that promises to have extensive implications for the entire society. The emergence of novel mechanical, optical, electrical, magnetic, thermal, chemical and biological properties on the nanoscale as compared to bulk behavior (Roco, 2003) constitutes a unique particularity of NST that distinguishes it from other disciplines and paves the way for the development of new products and technologies. These applications have been proven to capture students’ interest as they are both impressive and relevant to their everyday life as they are already widely used (Jones et al., 2013).

Moreover, NST is based on fundamental, cross-disciplinary scientific concepts such as size and scale, structure of matter, size-dependent properties, forces and interactions (Stevens et al., 2009). This fact renders NST an interdisciplinary field, whose integration in science lessons may enhance students’ understanding of interconnections between traditional disciplines (Blonder and Sakhnini, 2012; Kähkönen et al., 2016). Regarding chemistry education, researchers have proposed specific links of NST to the existing chemistry curriculum topics, such as structure and bonding, chemistry of food and atomic structure (Blonder and Sakhnini, 2017). Rushton and Criswell (2012) argued that infusing ideas and activities related to NST can allow the exploration of chemistry concepts in innovative and meaningful ways. Indicatively, exploring the different colors of gold at the nanoscale supplies opportunities to introduce the intersection of scale, structure and properties to students. Other scholars have attempted to integrate NST to chemistry lessons (e.g.O'Connor and Hayden, 2008) or have developed instructional materials that explicitly connect core chemical concepts, e.g. surface area, to those at the nanoscale (Muniz and Oliver-Hoyo, 2014). Recently, instruments developed to measure the understanding of NST have been proposed as a diagnostic educational tool for traditional chemistry concepts, e.g. random motion, forces and interactions on the atomic scale (Schönborn et al., 2015), further highlighting the link between the two fields.

Finally, as is the case with all emerging technologies, there is still much uncertainty around the risks of NST, regarding which the scientific community has not yet reached a consensus. This uncertainty when introduced to students may enlighten the making of scientific knowledge as a process, as well as the limits of scientific research (Gardner et al., 2010; Simonneaux et al., 2011). The aforementioned features largely highlight the contribution of NST topics in the technological and scientific literacy of future generations and explain the growing science education researchers’ interest towards its integration in science lessons (Hingant and Albe, 2010).

As mentioned above, contemporary scientific topics, such as NST, are inherently ambiguous and incorporate issues that usually involve a controversial dimension and instigate discussions on their social implications (Levinson, 2006). Therefore, introducing NST topics into school science curricula can be useful not only for an in-depth understanding of the content, processes and nature of science and technology, but also for social, political, moral and ethical developments of students (Sadler, 2004; Jones et al., 2013). Recent studies investigate the role of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) as a framework for negotiating the social implications of contemporary scientific research (Blonder et al., 2016). RRI was originally conceived as a European policy that would regulate the processes of scientific research and technological innovation in order to confine the risks of their applications and to inspire people's trust towards them (Owen et al., 2012). To this end, RRI's aim is to form a shared understanding of the roles and responsibilities of diverse stakeholders that take part in these processes as a means of ultimately bridging the gap between science and society (Sutcliffe, 2011). RRI consists of six dimensions that are considered essential for the accomplishment of the abovementioned aim: engagement of all societal actors, gender equality, science education, open access, ethics and governance (European Commission, 2012). Despite the fact that RRI's interconnection with science education is fundamental, attempts for its integration in science lessons are rather new. In particular, several EU projects as IRRESISTIBLE, ENGAGE, PARRISE and RRI-tools have offered opportunities for the development of teaching material addressing its aspects.

Taking into account that learning is an ongoing process, which is extended outside the school context as well, science education researchers have also turned their focus on the possibilities that out-of-school learning settings provide for students’ and generally the public's engagement with NST. Specifically for students, scientific field trips in museums, research centers, etc. have been proved to be beneficial as they may stimulate students’ interest, scientific curiosity and engagement (Pedretti, 2002; Chin, 2004). Therefore, in the last few years, many science museums and centers modified their educational programs and exhibits in order to present more contemporary research topics along with their ambiguous nature (Chittenden, 2011). Regarding NST, many efforts towards this direction have been made such as the Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network (NISE Net – in the US, which enhanced the incorporation of NST in museums, advanced the educational programs in research centers and developed a large number of teaching materials (Bell, 2016). Recent research endeavors (Sleeper and Sterling, 2004; D’Acquisto and Scatena, 2006) also examined the exhibit development process as a tool for active learning, as when learners are engaged in developing an exhibit they are motivated to learn more on the related topic and acquire that new knowledge by summarizing, analyzing, and synthesizing information from various sources.

Despite the fact that research on all the above-mentioned educational approaches – introducing NST topics in science education, negotiating RRI dimensions and bridging formal and out-of-school learning settings – is increasing, as far as educational practice is concerned, they are still considered as novelties. Therefore, our attempt to develop a TLS on NST topics incorporating all these issues and the sequential larger-scale implementation of that TLS should be understood as a part of the efforts for the development and dissemination of educational innovations.

However, any required change in education ultimately relies on teachers who should be considered not just as “carriers” of reforms in the classrooms but as equal participants and active interpreters throughout the reform process (Pintó et al., 2003). Related research shows that teachers face significant constraints both in teaching NST topics effectively (Kumar, 2007; Jones et al., 2008; Bryan et al., 2015) and in negotiating the aspects of RRI in their lessons (de Vocht and Laherto, 2017; de Vocht et al., 2017). From the above derives the necessity of professional development programs for teachers in order to be able to efficiently incorporate NST topics enriched with social concerns in science lessons.

One of the methods that science education researchers have employed in order to inform teaching practices in science classrooms is the development and dissemination of suitable teaching learning sequences (TLS; Méheut and Psillos, 2004; Psillos and Kariotoglou, 2016). TLSs constitute “both an interventional research activity and a product” that highlight the close interconnection between the proposed teaching approach and the expected learning process to be followed by students as a result of TLS implementation (Méheut and Psillos, 2004, p. 516).

We believe that chemistry education has to meet today's requirements for teaching up-to-date topics. Possible instructional problems that arise during teaching cutting-edge research topics, such as NST, might be overcome if basic ideas of NST could be accessed, even at an early stage, within the context of school lessons of science and chemistry education. Therefore, in our study we focus on in-service teachers’ efforts in developing and disseminating a Teaching Learning Sequence on NST topics for primary and secondary education. More specifically, the task was: (a) in Phase A to develop an inquiry-based TLS on NST topics, which incorporates the aspects of RRI and out-of-school learning environments (science centers and science museums) and (b) in Phase B to support further teachers to implement the developed TLS in their classrooms. In both Phases (A) and (B), a participatory design (Couso, 2016) was established, in particular a Community of Learners (CoL; Loucks-Horsley et al., 2009), consisting of teachers, science researchers, science education researchers and science museum experts.

The specific aim of the study is twofold. On the one hand, in Phase A the aim is to reveal the aspects in which teachers focus as they design and develop the TLS (i.e., NST, RRI, exhibits, etc.). Considering that teachers utilize the diverse expertise in this group in order to confront the emerged challenges, we give a particular emphasis on their interactions in this context, in the sense that they document teachers’ interest and major concerns towards the different aspects of the TLS.

On the other hand, in Phase B, our aim is to shed light on specific aspects of the dissemination of a given TLS on NST topics. As the dissemination of a TLS is a rather complex procedure that inherently incorporates teachers’ intermediation, the main aim of Phase B in this research is to delve deeper into this process by delineating teachers’ imprints on the TLS. Specifically, the transformations that teachers conducted to the TLS, with the support of a teacher–member of the TLS's designing team, in order to adapt it to the context of each classroom are examined, as well as the professional resources (as knowledge, experience, etc.) to which teachers resorted to re-design the TLS.

Theoretical background

TLS development in collaborative settings

Teachers play an important role in any educational innovation as they are called upon to implement it (Anderson and Helms, 2001) and in this view, they need to be active participants in such an endeavour. Hargreaves (2003) argued that engaging teachers as designers of new curriculum materials is a prerequisite for a sustainable change in curriculum reform.

The development of teaching materials is a process that can be described in terms of virtual practice, which is different from the teaching in classroom practice. Carlgren (1999) states that the development of teaching materials is an integral part of teachers’ role in teaching and ultimately an aspect of their professionalism. Indeed, teachers’ active engagement in curriculum development practices positively affects educational innovation (Penuel et al., 2007). Moreover, engaging teachers in the process of curriculum development promotes their sense of ownership of the educational innovation and ultimately the likelihood of its faithful implementation (Johnson, 1993). Concurrently, the idea of the teacher as a developer is that the design and the development of the curriculum material suitable for their own students can be considered as professional development for the teachers involved (Ball and Cohen, 1996).

Given these insights, many studies in the contemporary research literature focus on teachers’ participation in collaborative curriculum design teams, as a framework to promote their professional development (Huizinga et al., 2015; Becuwe et al., 2016; Voogt et al., 2016). Teachers’ professional learning in collaborative contexts such as teams or communities can be viewed from a situated perspective resulting from interactions with colleagues (Wenger, 1998), reducing their isolation (Thomas et al., 1998) which has been viewed as a restrictive factor for their development (Hobson, 2001). Furthermore Voogt et al. (2011) argued that teachers’ professional interactions with peers and experts in curriculum design teams broaden teachers’ perspectives and have a significant impact on their professional development. Consulting the research literature in the realm of teachers’ education, someone can get useful insights for the optimal conditional factors of the group and the organization of its work that are prerequisites for a prolific collaborative curriculum development (Stoll et al., 2006; Vescio et al., 2008).

Large-scale implementation of TLSs

Curriculum materials – which usually include instructional resources as complete TLSs, lesson plans, worksheets, etc. – are considered as an important means through which educational innovations are operationalized and infused and instruction and teaching practices are improved (Davis and Krajcik, 2005; Rogan, 2007; Forbes and Davis, 2010). Therefore, the dissemination of TLSs and curriculum materials and the expansion of their impact to larger numbers of teachers in a variety of school contexts is a major concern of the science education research community in order to bring about educational change (Fishman and Krajcik, 2003; Pintó et al., 2014).

However, the process of dissemination is much more than just replicating the same TLS into multiple contexts (Barab and Luehmann, 2003). In fact, by a constructivist perspective, enacting an exact version of a TLS as intended by its designers is not feasible. This occurs because when a teacher implements a TLS developed by any external designer, its elements are filtered through the teacher's cognitive system, his/her beliefs, teaching goals and convictions (Pintó et al., 2014). In this way the TLS is interpreted by the teacher and unavoidably it gets re-structured (Pintó et al., 2003; Squire et al., 2003; Remillard, 2005). Consequently, the process of large-scale TLS implementation inherently involves teacher's adaptations to the specific context that his/her students, teaching style and other local circumstances formulate (Brown and Edelson, 2003).

In the context of current approaches that underline the participatory relationship between teachers and curriculum materials (Remillard, 2005; Brown, 2009; Forbes and Davis, 2010), teachers are viewed as active agents who interact with curriculum artifacts to develop teaching interventions. Specifically, curriculum materials play an active role in this relationship by influencing their ideas and practices while teachers from their side, depending on their personal resources, modify the materials to address their teaching goals (Brown and Edelson, 2003). From this point of view, teachers’ adaptations of curriculum materials are not complications to be avoided, but rather an ongoing process to be accordingly supported. As such, the researchers and designers of TLSs should provide teachers with sufficient guidance to use them in useful ways and to contextualize them to meet their local needs (Squire et al., 2003).

This goal can be served either by revising the form of the disseminated TLSs or the support provided to the teachers. In terms of TLS development, one way to achieve this is by increasing the “transparency” and the flexibility of the TLS in a way that its pedagogical rationale is clearly communicated and teachers are encouraged to take ownership and adapt it to their school context (Fishman and Krajcik, 2003; Pintó et al., 2014). Cohen and Ball (1999) described two characteristics of TLSs that should be carefully balanced for the educational innovation to be likely to be adopted and sustained: the explicitness with which the intended teaching practices and learning goals are described (namely specification) and the provision of materials and resources required for implementation (namely development).

Research has shown that implementing educational innovations is a lengthy and challenging procedure for the teachers who are called to change their teaching style or enrich their knowledge (Davis, 2003). Therefore, introducing such an innovation should be accompanied by ongoing support for the teachers during the attempted implementation in order to face the challenges that arise (Bitan-Friedlander et al., 2004). Research further suggests that this continuous support is more effective to be provided within a context of communities of practice by more experienced colleagues who act as mentors (Jones et al., 1998; Bitan-Friedlander et al., 2004; Rogan 2007). According to Rogan, (2007) these communities of practice may act as a scaffolding to support teachers in taking ownership of the educational innovation.


Theoretical framework of the TLS development

As a theoretical framework for the TLS development, the Model of Educational Reconstruction (MER) was used (Duit et al., 2012). This model has been developed as a theoretical framework for studies investigating whether it is worthwhile and possible to teach particular science concepts, principles and views of the nature of science. The major aim is to bring science content structure and educational concerns into a balance when developing teaching and learning sequences (Stavrou and Duit, 2014). The model is based on a constructivist epistemological position of teaching and learning (Duit and Treagust, 2003) and consists of three closely interrelated components: (a) Clarification and analysis of the science content, including hermeneutical–analytical research on subject matter clarification and analysis of the educational significance of a particular science content. (b) Research on teaching and learning, comprising investigations of students’ perspectives and their development towards the scientific view as well as studies on teachers’ views and beliefs of the science concepts, students’ learning and their role in initiating and supporting learning processes. (c) Design and evaluation of teaching and learning environments, comprising the design of instructional materials, learning activities, and teaching and learning sequences.

The process of Educational Reconstruction is recursive in nature in much the same way as the cyclical progression in “Developmental Research” or “Design Based Research” (Psillos and Kariotoglou, 2016).

Oriented to the basic assumptions of MER, the TLS development process in the present study was based on the following key features of teacher's thinking on planning and analyzing instruction (Duit et al., 2012):

(a) Constructivist views of teaching and learning, meaning being aware that students interpret everything presented to them from their private perspectives and they should embed new science topics in contexts that make sense to them.

(b) Awareness on fundamental interplay of instructional variables, meaning being aware of the interplay of Aims & Objectives, Content, Methods and Media in instruction, so as to provide learning opportunities that allow students to construct the knowledge intended themselves.

(c) Thinking in terms of the processes of educational reconstruction, meaning being aware that science content knowledge has to be adjusted to students’ perspectives and pre-instructional conceptions.

More specifically, the TLS development recursive process followed in this study is shown in Fig. 1.

image file: c8rp00088c-f1.tif
Fig. 1 The process of designing and developing the TLS following the principles of MER.

Initially, teachers were familiarized with the basic principles of NST along with products and nano-related applications according to cutting-edge science research in this field, i.e. nanocatalysis for environmental protection, thermochromic materials, and self-cleaning materials. Concurrently, they were informed of the latest research literature regarding the empirical studies on students’ perspectives along with the optimal instructional methods and exemplary teaching materials developed for the NST instruction. Based on the aforementioned feedback, teachers clarified the educationally significant topics of NST in order to integrate them in the TLS (arrows 1a and 1b shown in Fig. 1). The next step was to design and develop the TLS, considering contemporary research on students’ perspectives and the instructional approaches regarding specific topics under inspection (arrows 2a and 2b shown in Fig. 1). Teachers’ reflections on the implementation process (arrow 3a in Fig. 1) in conjunction with the related literature in NST teaching (arrow 3b in Fig. 1) triggered the evaluation process of the implemented TLS. The final outcome of this process (arrow 4a shown in Fig. 1) in conjunction with teachers’ recommendations considering the recently acquired experience in TLS development (arrow 4b shown in Fig. 1) guided TLS finalization along with the development of teaching material for teachers and students.

Participants and context of the TLS development

The setting in both Phases (A) and (B) follows a participatory design, especially through the formation of CoLs. The CoL in Phase A consisted of members with different credentials and diverse expertise: (a) five in-service teachers (2 chemistry teachers, 2 physics teachers and 1 teacher of primary education) with teaching experience ranging from 12 to 28 years and all of them were highly-qualified individuals since four of them had a PhD in science education and one of them a PhD in chemistry, (b) four science education researchers, (c) two researchers from the field of NST with expertise in the recent advancements in the field of NST and (d) three experts in science communication. All teachers participated in this study voluntarily and the conduction of the research for both phases had been approved by the National Institute of Educational Policy.

The shared task was the development of an inquiry-based TLS in NST topics, aspects of RRI and out-of-school learning environments (science centers and science museums). Proposals from each member in the CoL were assessed and valued in the negotiation of the group, regarding decision-making for the development of the TLS. The procedure of the design, implementation and evaluation of the TLS was one year long in a period of time and was divided into three interrelated stages (Fig. 2).

image file: c8rp00088c-f2.tif
Fig. 2 The different stages and the timeline of the research design in Phase A of the study.

(a) In the first stage (Plan and Prepare), a series of six virtual meetings were carried out since the members of the CoL were located in different districts of Greece. In each meeting, the members of the CoL were familiarized with an aspect regarding the TLS development as shown in Table 1.

Table 1 Content of virtual meetings of the CoL members in the stage of Plan and Prepare
Virtual meeting Subject under inspection
1st NST as a science content
2nd Research in science education regarding the teaching and learning of NST
3rd Inquiry-based learning in science education
4th Aspects of RRI
5th Principles for developing science exhibits
6th Integration of the WEB 2.0 tool in science teaching

Each topic was introduced by the attendant expert who had developed and distributed, prior to the meetings, a specially developed document highlighting the main aspects of the topic under inspection. In a following three-day workshop, CoL members participated in guided visits to science laboratories and science museums. They were familiarized with nano-products and related applications along with interactive science exhibits. Furthermore, they had the opportunity to interact with exemplary teaching materials used in teaching and learning NST topics, according to the latest literature review.

(b) In the second stage (Design), teachers’ proposed guidelines for the TLS design were the subject under inspection in a new round of four virtual meetings. The members of the CoL had the chance to contribute in group discussions, swap ideas and reflect on the proposals of their colleagues. Subsequently, teachers presented their primary teaching modules in a new two-day workshop and a single teaching module was finalized as an outcome of intense interactions and constructive collaboration among the members of the CoL.

(c) In the third stage (Implement & Reflection), the module was appropriately adjusted and implemented by the five teachers in their classes, i.e. in a primary school class (aged 11–12), in two lower secondary classes (aged 14–15) and in two upper secondary classes (aged 16–17). In a final two-day workshop, teachers shared their experiences from students’ reflection on the implemented module. This process triggered the negotiation of the group on finalizing the TLS.

Participants and context of the TLS dissemination

The TLS that resulted from the above process (which is briefly given in Table 2) provided an instrument for spreading up the educational innovation to teachers who were not part of the initial development effort. Thus, in Phase B each of the five aforementioned teachers (hereinafter called “mentors”) trained 2–4 teachers, in implementing in their classrooms the NST module developed in Phase A. In total, 15 more teachers (4 chemistry teachers, 7 physics teachers and 4 primary education teachers), who were serving as in-service teachers in 4 different districts of Greece, participated on a voluntary basis in Phase B of the study. These 15 teachers were trained in the context of 5 new CoLs. The core of the new CoLs was now the mentors and the new teachers. The researchers and the experts from Phase A now had a supportive role participating in the new CoLs according to the teachers’ needs.
Table 2 Main structure of the module
Engage Lesson 1 Introduction
Lesson 2 Visiting the science museum
Explore & explain Lessons 3 and 4 Nanoscience applications: self-cleaning materials
– How small is nano?
– Size-dependent properties
Elaborate Lesson 5 RRI issues:
– Newspaper articles
Lesson 6 Visiting the research center
– Discussion with experts on NST and RRI issues
Exchange & evaluate Lesson 7 Construction of exhibits

In Phase B, the whole procedure of teacher training, implementation of the TLS in their classroom and getting teachers’ feedback lasted for about 10 months and was divided into three stages as depicted in Fig. 3.

image file: c8rp00088c-f3.tif
Fig. 3 The different stages and the timeline of the research design in Phase B of the study.

(a) The first stage (orientation) included a kick-off meeting where the main axes of the NST module were presented followed by 1–2 CoL meetings, either face-to-face or online. During the CoL meetings, teachers along with their mentors discussed NST issues, the aspects of inquiry-based science education (IBSE) and the involved RRI dimensions.

(b) The second phase (re-design) covered the meetings (varied between 2 and 4 according the CoL) during which the modules were thoroughly examined. In that period, the teachers with the support of their mentors conducted necessary adaptations to the module in order to implement it in their classrooms, planned their lessons in detail and prepared the teaching materials they would use.

(c) The third stage (implementation) concerned the enactment of the TLS under real class conditions. During that period of time, 3–5 meetings of the CoLs took place, but mentors also provided ongoing, personalized support to teachers to address any need that arose. During the meetings, teachers described the implementation in their class so far, discussed the difficulties that arose and reflected on their teaching, receiving feedback from the other teachers and the mentor. They also thoroughly discussed with the mentor the implementation of the activities that would follow in the next 1–2 lessons until the next CoL meeting. This stage ended with the process of development of interactive exhibits by the students during which apart from the CoL meetings, a workshop by science communication experts was held, in order to equip and orient teachers towards supporting their students.

Two months after the completion of the implementation, a final plenary meeting was held, where teachers were asked to reflect on their experiences implementing the curriculum. During the meeting, teachers presented among other aspects, the modifications they made to the TLS and their view on the support they had received from the other members of the CoLs.

The developed TLS

The TLS in question aimed at introducing primary and secondary students to NST topics, specifically to raise awareness on RRI, by increasing students’ content knowledge on NST issues. Moreover, the module targeted in giving students a sense of the role of NST in our everyday lives and the potential risks it may have for the environment and society. In this endeavor, formal (school) and out-of-school (visits to science centers and museums) activities were used. In order to answer to the needs of the wide range of students’ ages that were addressed (ages 11–17), the TLS included recommendations for specific adjustments of the activities.

The TLS (which is briefly presented in Table 2) consisted of seven 90 minute lessons oriented towards an inquiry-based approach. Elaborating further on this aspect, science learning does not refer only to understanding and applying scientific knowledge, but to the scientific processes that lead to new knowledge as well, in order to explain the natural world (Bybee et al., 2006). Given this perspective, structuring activities in a way that will engage students in making observations, posing questions, generating hypotheses, and analyzing and interpreting empirical data among other processes, is a promising practice in order to familiarize them with scientific inquiry (Bell et al., 2010). In this view, Bybee et al. (2006) developed the instructional model of 5E, namely Engagement, Exploration, Explanation, Elaboration and Evaluation, which integrates such inquiry processes, in order to make science instructions more effective. Apart from the 5E stages of Bybee, our TLS was enhanced with an additional stage of Exchange. Within the Exchange stage, students were called to communicate their newly acquired knowledge by designing and developing a science exhibit.

Applying the 6E model in the TLS. In more detail, the TLS was structured as follows:
Engage. Students’ engagement with the topic of NST took place (i) through videos that present current NST applications such as self-cleaning materials which are developed in the laboratories of a local research institute and (ii) through a visit to a science museum aiming to attract their interest through their interactions with exhibits on NST. During this visit, students were also introduced to the principle of developing interactive science exhibits.
Explore & explain. Subsequently, students got acquainted with the size of nanoparticles and their impressive size-dependent properties, through their contact with real nanomaterials and a multitude of hands-on activities conducted in their regular classes. More specifically, students explored the sizes of nanoscale objects by measuring everyday objects in nanometers and classifying representative entities on the macro-, micro- and nano-scale. Moreover, by experimenting with effervescent tablets and examining the chemical reaction rate of different sizes of potato cubes, students investigated the surface area-to-volume ratio (Stavrou et al., 2015). Afterwards, the students made use of the surface area-to-volume ratio in order to interpret the properties of superhydrophobic materials and the change of nanogold colloids’ optical properties. With their teacher's support, students collected and analyzed data and they drew conclusions dealing with experimental activities and filling-up the correspondent worksheets.
Elaborate. In this stage, students had the opportunity to elaborate their findings and discuss RRI issues. At first, students were familiarized with RRI aspects through newspaper articles on NST research and discussed with their teachers the ethical aspects that emerged, such as safety, toxicity or difficulty of nanomaterials’ disposal. During the discussion about the development and circulation of novel nanoproducts, the need for regulations by stakeholders arose, approaching in this way the aspect of governance. Afterwards, students visited a research institute and interacted with experts from the field of NST, discussing with them the issues regarding both the scientific topic of NST and the aspects of RRI. Specifically, student–researcher interactions were mostly focused on the products and applications of NST which had been developed in the laboratories of the institute as well as on scientists’ code of conduct regarding ethics, the transparency of scientific research and funding.
Exchange & evaluate. After their initial familiarization with NST and RRI issues, students got engaged with designing and developing interactive science exhibits, in order to communicate their knowledge and their concerns about the use of NST. For students to be able to carry through this demanding process, the main principles of exhibit development and science content communication to the public were explained by science museum experts during the visit to the science center. Student-curated exhibits were hosted by the local science centers and were presented by the students themselves on a specific day. The exhibits also constituted a means of evaluating students’ understanding of both the NST content and RRI aspects.
The teaching material. The TLS was described in a teaching pack ( consisting of:

• A teacher's guide which contained the teaching objectives of each lesson, the proposed duration, the necessary materials, a detailed description of the course and the individual activities, as well as information on the scientific content, the students' underlying ideas and instructions for performing the experiments.

• A booklet of students’ worksheets for the activities where students could write down their predictions and observations, the collected data and their conclusions.

Data collection

A part of the data was jointly collected by questionnaires developed in the IRRESISTIBLE project ( In Phase A data were collected by: (a) a questionnaire on teachers’ views about inquiry in teaching and learning of science, RRI and science exhibit's development by students, and (b) video recordings of the CoL meetings (Fig. 2, namely 3 workshops and 10 virtual meetings).

In Phase B we used three main data sources: an open-ended questionnaire on teachers’ adaptations on the TLS which was issued to the teachers and the mentors right after the completion of the lessons, the recordings of CoL meetings which were held during the Re-design and Implementation stage, and the worksheets developed by the teachers. While the questionnaire on teachers’ adaptations gave us a capture of the performed transformations, the recordings of the CoL meetings – during which all these decisions were discussed in detail – shed light on teachers’ intentions and the overall negotiation that preceded the adaptation.

Data analysis

Due to the exploratory nature of this study, we used methods of qualitative research for data analysis (Cohen et al., 2011; Mayring, 2015).
Phase A. Data analysis started with the questionnaire on teachers’ views about inquiry, RRI and out-of-school learning in science teaching in order to set their starting point. The next step was to transcribe the video recordings of the group meetings which consisted of 40 hours of audio-visual data.

Afterwards, we analyzed the data from the video recordings in order to identify teachers’ interactions with colleagues in the CoL. In this view, there were quantitative estimates of the frequency with which teachers purposefully interact with teachers or experts (namely researchers in NST, researchers in science education and experts in science communication) in the CoL.

Concurrently, the specific topic under inspection during these interactions was registered and categorized (Table 3). Given the shared goal of developing a TLS, teachers’ discussions with peers and experts in the CoL focused on issues regarding the diverse aspects of the TLS and the way that they can be educationally reconstructed following the principles of the MER. In this view, the topics under inspection during teachers’ interactions with colleagues unveil the way that teachers try to interpret and transform the acquired knowledge in a TLS that will facilitate their students’ learning. At this end, these topics are correlated with the aspects of the Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK; Shulman, 1987).

Table 3 Categorization of the topics under inspection on teachers’ interactions with colleagues in the CoL
Emerged codes Criterion
Strategies for specific science topics (teaching material) Issues regarding the supply, the adaptation, the conceptual power or the evaluation of simulations, models, activities or experiments
Science-specific strategies (inquiry and out-of-school learning features) Issues regarding the implementation of inquiry and the integration of out-of-school learning features in the TLS
Science content (Nano/RRI) Issues regarding the clarification and the elaboration of concepts regarding NST and RRI
Exhibits Issues regarding exhibit development

In this study, the process of data coding was oriented towards the aspects of PCK, as conceived by Magnusson et al. (1999). More specifically the component Strategies for specific science topics in the model of Magnusson et al. comprises issues regarding the activities, experiments, simulations and models considering NST instruction, namely the Teaching material, as shown in Table 3. Indicatively, activities comprised measuring the dimensions of an object with a nanoruler or classifying representative entities according to their size in order to elaborate on the notion of size and scale. Web simulations were utilized in order to support students’ understanding regarding the notion of the surface area-to-volume ratio (SA/V) or to comparatively visualize representative entities from different scales. Models were used in order to represent, for example, the water repellent surface of a hydrophobic material. Students were also engaged in hands-on experiments in order to experience the different properties of hydrophobic and hydrophilic materials and size-dependent properties, i.e., the rate of chemical reaction as a potato is submerged in a hydrogen peroxide solution or dissolving effervescent tablets of different sizes. Correspondingly, the component Science specific strategies in Magnusson's model comprise issues regarding the development of an inquiry-based TLS, along with issues considering the integration of out-of-school learning features. Issues regarding teachers’ familiarization with the science content of NST and the aspects of RRI constitute the prerequisite knowledge base for the teachers in order to develop the TLS. Finally, issues regarding teachers’ perspectives on exhibit development were registered as a distinct code, considering that exhibits are an integral part of the implementation process.

Phase B. The purpose of the study in this phase was to examine the dissemination process of a given TLS on NST topics, in terms of the adaptations that teachers who were called to implement it in their classrooms performed. To this end, the aim of the analysis in this phase was to portray (i) the types of TLS elements that were subjected to transformations throughout this process and the frequency of those transformations and (ii) the types of personal resources that teachers motivated in order to re-design the TLS as well as the frequency of transformations that were attributed to each one of them.

According to Brown and Edelson (2003), the use of curriculum materials by the teacher can be explained as an interplay between his/her own personal resources (as knowledge, educational goals and beliefs) and the curricular resources (as subject matter, tasks/activities, physical objects and/or their representations). Based on this approach, in order to shed light on the interactions between the teachers and the given TLS, we set up coding keys (i) for the elements of the TLS that had been submitted to the transformation and (ii) for the types of personal resources that teachers and mentors mobilized to enact these transformations.

First of all, we transcribed verbatim all of the recorded mentoring conversations from the 5 CoLs. We defined as transformation any of the teachers’ enacted deviation from the TLS as this was developed in Phase A and operationalized through the teacher's guide and the student's worksheets.

As regards the analysis of the elements of the TLS that had been submitted to transformation, firstly, we examined thoroughly the open-ended questionnaire entries and thereafter teachers’ answers describing their modifications were coded and categorized (Table 4).

Table 4 Categorization of the TLS elements that were subjected to modifications
Emerged codes Criterion
Content Teachers added or omitted content elements from the TLS
Activities Teachers added, omitted or substituted activities of the TLS with alternative ones
Objects Teachers used alternative representations or materials to carry through with the activities

Afterwards, we gathered data from the transcriptions of the CoL discussions in order to define who had originally suggested each modification and distinguished them in those introduced by a teacher of the CoL or by the mentor. Finally, the total number of modifications per category for all 15 teachers cumulatively was admeasured.

As regards the analysis of the types of personal resources that teachers mobilized to enact these transformations, we examined thoroughly the transcribed CoL conversations to trace the factors that the person who originally introduced each modification explicitly invoked for his/her proposition. From the coding of the transcribed data, five different kinds of personal resources that teachers mobilized for their transformations emerged and an equal number of categories was formulated (Table 5).

Table 5 Categorization of teachers’ personal resources invoked for the conduction of modifications
Emerged codes Criterion
Subject matter knowledge Teachers derived elements from their content knowledge to modify the TLS
Knowledge of students Teachers derived elements from their knowledge of students’ capabilities and interests to modify the TLS
Prior experience Teachers derived elements from their prior experience to modify the TLS
Knowledge of the classroom context Teachers derived elements from their knowledge of the implementation context to modify the TLS (time, material and administrative constraints)
Goals and beliefs Teachers derived elements from their professional goals and beliefs regarding the educational innovation to modify the TLS

Finally, the absolute frequency of the transformations that were due to each of the categories of personal resources was admeasured. Again, the transformations were distinguished from those originally introduced by a teacher of the CoL or by the mentor.

Results and discussion

Developing the TLS

Teachers’ initial perspectives on the aspects of the TLS. The analysis of the questionnaire indicates that teachers had educationally informed perspectives along with previous experience regarding inquiry-based science teaching. They were interested in acknowledging new educational approaches regarding an inquiry-based instruction of cutting-edge science topics. They lacked knowledge regarding the aspects of RRI. Indeed, they were interested in familiarizing themselves with this novel notion, along with the prerequisites that emerge in the process of educationally integrating them in science teaching. The process of supporting students in science exhibit development is another aspect of the TLS in which they lacked previous experience. Interestingly, teachers possessed positive attitudes towards the potential benefits from such a process, considering their students. Their pre-existing knowledge considering NST topics was restricted in the related knowledge acquired during their bachelor and postgraduate studies and they lack any previous experience in teaching such topics.
Teachers’ perspectives on the aspects of the TLS in the different stages of the TLS development. The first aim of this study was to highlight teachers’ concerns towards developing a TLS in NST topics, as they emerge from their interaction with colleagues in the specialized context of the CoL. The average rates of these interactions are shown in Fig. 4. The component “Experts” in this figure represents the rates at which teachers articulate their perspectives to an individual researcher (in NST or in science education) or an expert in a science museum. Obviously, the component “Teachers” represents teachers’ interactions with peers in the CoL.
image file: c8rp00088c-f4.tif
Fig. 4 Teachers interactions with colleagues in the context of the CoL.

The main features of this figure will be discussed in conjunction with the aspects of the TLS that attracted teachers’ major interest and concerns, during their interactions with colleagues in the CoL. Data analysis revealed a variation in the registered frequency with which a specific aspect of the TLS was raised in individual teacher's interactions with colleagues. Interestingly, the comparative analysis on the absolute rates unveils some common features for all the teachers. The absolute rates at which particular aspects of the TLS attracted teachers’ interest in the different stages of the TLS development are shown in Fig. 5. In the following sections, we deeply elaborate on teachers’ perspectives towards these aspects.

image file: c8rp00088c-f5.tif
Fig. 5 Prevailing aspects of the TLS during teachers’ interactions in the CoL in terms of PCK aspects (Magnusson et al., 1999).
Strategies for specific science topics. Issues regarding the teaching material possess significant high rates in all stages of the TLS's development. However, teachers’ concerns regarding this aspect vary throughout the different stages. Indicatively, during the virtual meetings of the group in the stage of Plan & Prepare, teachers reasonably interacted with experts in the CoL on issues regarding the supply and their familiarization with the exemplary models, experiments, nano-related activities, products and applications of NST, considering that they lacked previous knowledge or teaching experience in this science topic. During the first workshop, they progressively shifted their focus to issues regarding the conceptual power of particular representations and hands-on activities considering the particular needs of their students and the absence of sensory experience on the nanoscale. In this view, their interactions with peer-teachers were upgraded as they valued their practical resources. Indicatively, during the first workshop, a teacher addressed to another:

Your idea of using the cubes is amazing. I am glad that you shared it with us. I was wondering, why are you suggesting this idea for the high grade students only? It is a good idea for my kids too. They can handle it. (Translated excerpt from the first workshop).

In the stage of Design, their interest in interaction is majorly shifted onto peer-teachers as they seek feedback on issues regarding the process of detailed structuring of the TLS. Given that in this stage teachers shared their rationale on properly integrating and adapting the teaching material considering students’ perspectives in each grade (indicated by arrow 2b in Fig. 1), numerous dialogues were elaborated regarding the specific aspect of the TLS. Experiencing the practical alternatives of their colleagues considering the optimal utilization of the exemplary material triggered stimulating dialogues that fostered the generation of new educational ideas, i.e. using newspaper articles as a means to discuss the issues of risk assessment and open governance in science. Given these insights, the rate of the code Strategies for specific science topics in Fig. 5 reasonably stands out, highlighting that this aspect was teachers’ major interest in the process of structuring the TLS.

In the stage of Implement & Reflect, teachers’ contribution to group discussions focused on issues regarding the evaluation of the implemented activities, models and experiments considering students’ reactions. Concurrently, they anticipate feedback from colleagues’ reflection processes in order to validate their perspectives considering the implemented teaching material.

Science-specific strategies. Issues regarding inquiry and out-of-school learning in science teaching were another aspect of the TLS that prevailed during teachers’ interactions with colleagues in the CoL. At the stage of Plan & Prepare, teachers majorly addressed their concerns to the experts on issues regarding the integration of inquiry in a TLS with different aspects. Despite their previous experience in inquiry-based science teaching, they struggled to outline the main structure of a TLS in cutting-edge science topics that integrates the issues of RRI and students’ visits to science centers and museums, given that educationally integrating such aspects was a novelty for the participated teachers. Indicatively, considering students’ visits to science museums, a teacher remarks:

I think that it would be interesting for my students to visit the science museum at the very beginning. It would be probably a good idea for their engagement in the TLS and their familiarization with the idea of developing science exhibits. (Translated excerpt from the video recordings)

This excerpt indicates that teachers are powered by their students’ perspectives in the process of scaffolding the main track of the TLS, represented by arrow 2b shown in Fig. 1.

During the stage of Design, the issues of negotiation regarding students’ interactions with experts out (i.e. visits to science centers and museums) as well as within the classroom context were topics under inspection in group discussions. More specifically, the balanced integration of out-of-school learning features in the TLS along with inquiry classroom activities was elaborated thoroughly in the second workshop. The final outcome of teachers’ intense interactions with peer-teachers at this stage ended up in a shared structure of the TLS for all grades.

In the stage of Implement & Reflect, the evaluation of student–expert interactions in and out of the school context was a topic under inspection in teachers’ interactions with peers in the CoL. It seems that this novel experience for the participating teachers was highly valued considering their students’ reactions. Indicatively, during the third workshop a teacher remarks:

When the researcher of NST visited our school, he demonstrated real nano-products to students. That was quite impressive and stimulated my students in posing queries on issues regarding the applications of these products in various aspects of our daily routine (Translated excerpt from the third workshop)

Science content. NST is an interdisciplinary field that shares fundamental principles with physics and chemistry, among the other disciplines. In this view, teachers were already familiarized with specific notions of NST such as size and scale. Reasonably this ended up in comparatively low rates in which issues regarding the science content were elaborated during group discussions. As far as the NST content is concerned, teacher–expert interactions in the stage of Plan & Prepare focused mainly on clarifying and analysing NST topics for instruction (indicated by arrow 1a shown in Fig. 1), such as size-dependent properties on the nanoscale. Indicatively, during the visit of the group to the science center, researchers demonstrated the special properties of the nano-materials and applications. At this point a teacher addressed to an attendant expert:

I would like to clarify that. Is that the material's coating that contains the particles that adhere to the surface…? Are their dimensions on the nanoscale? Where is the “nano” in this case? (Translated excerpt from the first workshop)

The novelty of the notion of RRI for the participating teachers and the limited research literature regarding the teaching and learning of its aspects in science teaching was another perspective that rationalized the low rates of the science content, as shown in Fig. 5. Issues regarding the RRI were majorly discussed in the stage of Design during which issues on educationally integrating aspects of RRI were elaborated (indicated by arrow 2a shown in Fig. 1). In the second workshop, issues on student–expert interactions were elaborated as a means to engage students on gender issues, open governance and ethics in science research (indicated by arrow 2b shown in Fig. 1).

Exhibits. Exhibits possess a comparatively significant rate in the first and third stages of the TLS development. More specifically, teachers’ lack of previous knowledge on exhibit development triggered their interactions with experts in order to clarify issues on the main principles of their development, along with their role in the overall process. A point of significant interest is the upgrade in the rate of this component at the final stage, as shown in Fig. 5. During the evaluation of the TLS, teachers valued the process of exhibit development in terms of the benefits for their students. At the same workshop, during the presentation of a teacher, another teacher remarked:

I think that your students had a productive participation in measuring objects using nanorulers. It was really a well-structured activity and using articles from newspapers to integrate the issues of risk assessment in NST applications, it was excellent. It is obvious since these features are dominant in students’ exhibits (Translated excerpt from the third workshop)

The aforementioned excerpt indicates that teachers emphasized the educational value of the science exhibits, in the sense that they portray the aspects of the implemented TLS that were meaningful to students. Concurrently, teachers valued students’ active engagement in the process of developing science exhibits, since they contributed with compelling ideas which were materialized with the support of the teachers and qualified experts.

Summary. The specific strategies for NST topic instruction (meaning the teaching material) were teachers’ major concern as emerged from their interactions with colleagues in the CoL, towards the different stages of the TLS development. The comparatively high rates of their interactions with experts in the group in the first stage are mainly attributed to their interest in sourcing and familiarizing themselves with the exemplary teaching material. As the process of TLS development proceeded, the issues regarding the proper adaptation of hands-on activities and experiments along with representations of nanoscale phenomena, in which there is an absence of sensory experience, evoked their intense interactions with peer-teachers in the group. At the last stage, interactions among teachers were focused on evaluating the teaching material, considering students’ perspectives on the implemented TLS.

Teachers’ concerns regarding the clarification of NST topics were restricted in the stage of Plan & Prepare, while integrating the aspects of RRI was a major factor that evoked group discussions considering students–experts interactions in and out of the school context. This insight, in conjunction with teachers’ initial difficulties to outline the main structure of an inquiry-based TLS that incorporates out-of-school learning features, rationalizes the rates at which issues on science-specific strategies were raised in group discussions. Finally, the process of evaluating the TLS ended up with teachers emphasizing the educational value of exhibit development in science teaching.

Teachers’ interactions with members in the CoL towards the different aspects of the TLS evidently had an impact on its design process and ultimately on its developed shared structure (shown in Table 2). More specifically, teachers’ interactions with researchers in NST ended up in integrating their visits in classroom contexts, aiming to engage students in the TLS by demonstrating impressive products and applications of NST. These products (i.e. self-cleaning materials) were partly incorporated in structured activities which were oriented towards inquiry-based strategies (6E of inquiry), as they have been updated by teachers’ interactions with science education researchers. Their interactions with peer teachers fostered the development of new educational ideas regarding the elaboration of challenging topics, i.e. using newspapers for negotiating the aspects of RRI. Finally, teachers’ interactions with experts in science communication ended up in integrating exhibit development in the TLS, as a means to exchange (in terms of 6E) students’ acquired knowledge.

Disseminating the TLS

Phase B of this study intended to investigate the dissemination of a given TLS on NST topics, with a focus on the process of adaptation that teachers engaged with, in order to implement the TLS in their classrooms. Therefore, we examined the type of transformations that teachers conducted to the TLS's elements as well as the personal resources they mobilized in doing so. According to the research design, the 5 mentor–teachers who developed the TLS in Phase A attempted to scale-up its implementation by training and providing multilevel support to 15 colleagues. During the training, both teachers and mentors proceeded to several suggestions for modifications based on their knowledge, experience, beliefs, etc. to render the TLS more suitable for each context of implementation. As a result of those suggestions, uniquely re-designed TLSs were formulated.
Modifications regarding elements of the TLS. In order for teachers to be able to efficiently implement the TLS in their classrooms, they considered adapting certain elements of the TLS to their students’ needs and their teaching style as necessary. Table 6 shows the total number of modifications conducted by the 15 teachers of all five CoLs cumulatively, categorized by the type of modification and by the role of the person who introduced them.
Table 6 Frequency of modifications of specific elements of the TLS proposed by mentors and teachers
Elements of the TLS Frequency of modifications
Mentors Teachers Total
Content 6 4 10
Activities 22 9 31
Objects 2 16 18
Total 30 29 59

According to the frequency of adaptations, we can initially note that both teachers and mentors contributed equally in the process of adapting the TLS in each context. However, the focus of their modifications differed significantly. While mentors’ contribution in adapting the TLS was mainly focused on its activities – by introducing new or alternative activities for approaching a concept – teachers’ adaptations revolved around the objects (worksheets, materials and representations) they would use to enact the activities of the TLS. This divergence is due to the fact that mentors, making use of their experience from the prior implementation of the TLS, proposed refinements for the activities they enacted during the previous school-year. On the other side, teachers, having a deep knowledge of their students and of the contextual restrictions, conducted more practical transformations regarding the materialization of these activities.

Focusing on the qualitative characteristics of the aforementioned categories, we can note that the ones related to the content of the TLS were quite short in number. These transformations had to do either with new content dimensions – such as spectrum analysis, the use of nanoparticles as biosensors and nanomedicine – or with contents that teachers considered as prerequisites for their students – such as the powers of ten.

As far as modifications in activities are concerned, teachers proceeded to additions, omissions or substitutions of activities and experiments. Specifically, teachers made use of a variety of additional activities in order for the students to approach the central concepts of the TLS. For example, to address the surface area-to-volume ratio, according to their students’ understanding, they employed experiments on surface tension, capillary phenomena, activities on spreading up a pack of A4 paper sheets and calculating the total surface area, etc. However, we have to point out that whilst teachers employed a multitude of different activities to approach nano-related concepts, both mentors and teachers were quite restrained in trying new ways of processing the RRI.

Additionally, teachers chose to enhance students’ interactions with scientists and out-of-school learning settings by organizing visits (beyond the recommended ones) to research centers and related museums and by inviting NST experts into their classrooms.

Finally, regarding adaptations of the TLS's objects, these were related to the presentation of more videos focusing on the impressive properties of nanomaterials (as superhydrophobic materials, ferrofluids, etc.), the experimentation with nanoproducts that are currently in the market and with modifications in the worksheets to correspond to the existing time and material resources (e.g. use of different materials in the hydrophobicity activity, adaptation of worksheets for 45 minutes class period, etc.).

Personal resources teachers mobilized when adapting the TLS. In order to conduct the abovementioned modifications, teachers and mentors used their personal resources, such as their professional knowledge, experience and beliefs. Table 7 shows the total number of conducted modifications categorized by the type of teachers’ and mentors’ personal resources that were mobilized in order to enact them. According to Table 7, we can initially note that teachers’ adaptation decisions mostly derived from their profound knowledge of their students and of the given context of their class, while mentors’ contributions were mainly based on their experience from the prior implementation of the TLS in Phase A.
Table 7 Frequency of enacted modifications per type of teachers’ personal resources
Personal resources Frequency of modifications
Mentors Teachers Total
Subject matter knowledge 8 8
Knowledge of students 16 16
Knowledge of context 1 8 9
Prior experience 18 18
Goals/beliefs 3 5 8
Total 30 29 59

Mentors’ prior experience was proved crucial to the implementation of the TLS in Phase B, as a significant part of the modifications adopted by the teachers regarding the TLS's activities was proposed by the mentors. Teachers trusted their mentors, as the latter described in detail the proposed adaptations and their effectiveness in students’ learning over the previous school year.

As it would be expected in a case of such a cutting-edge scientific topic and is illustrated in Table 7, teachers did not have sufficient subject matter knowledge related to NST to resort to, in order to carry out modifications. Even mentors’ modifications regarding subject matter knowledge were limited and related mostly to elements that are peripherally connected to NST, such as spectrometry.

Teachers, having in mind their students’ knowledge and interests, tried through their modifications to reduce or to increase the cognitive demands of the TLS and to capture students’ attention by enriching the TLS with visual representations. Another important resource was teachers’ knowledge of the specific implementation context and its restrictions, as they had to proceed to adaptations of the TLS to fit the given class period or in other cases to find alternatives in order to limit down students’ out-of-school transports without diminishing their interaction with nanoscientists.

Finally, teachers’ and mentors’ goals and beliefs regarding inquiry-based learning and the value of authentic learning settings influenced the form of the enacted TLS, as teachers chose to increase students’ engagement with hands-on activities and experiments and their interaction with researchers, in order to experience the essence or RRI.

Summary. During the dissemination of the TLS, many of its component elements were subjected to modifications as was filtered through mentors’ and teachers’ professional lenses. These modifications were a result of a continuous negotiation between mentors and training teachers. The majority of the transformations pertained to the TLS's activities, followed by those referring to the TLS materials and representations, while the number of content-related modifications was the most limited one.

Even though teachers’ and mentors’ contributions to the adaptation of the TLS were equal, mentors seemed to have the first say for the modifications of the TLS's activities while teachers for the TLS's objects. As activities’ modifications in general are more substantial than those referring to the employed objects, we can attribute this divergence to the different levels of confidence and experience between mentors and teachers regarding the TLS implementation.

The scope of the modifications can be summarized in the addition of activities to approach the central concepts of NST, the enhancement of students’ interaction with out-of-school learning settings and the provision of additional representations of nanomaterials.

Regarding the factors taken into consideration when conducting these adaptations, the most influential were mentors’ experience of the prior implementation of the TLS and teachers’ knowledge of their students’ interests and understanding. Teachers, being fully cognizant of the specific context of the implementation, had as a primary goal to adapt the TLS to their students’ needs and secondarily to their personal teaching beliefs. On the other hand, mentors’ driving principle was their prior experience which was proved a critical feature of the dissemination design. As a result of the aforementioned dynamic procedure, the TLS was re-designed to meet the local needs and constraints.


One perspective to consider the findings of this study is the CoL as a context in which teachers develop a TLS by educationally reconstructing cutting-edge science topics following methodologically research-based approaches, i.e. MER. More specifically, in the first stage of Phase A, teachers’ interactions with NST and science education researchers supported them in the process of clarifying the science content and the exemplary teaching material and analysing its educational value considering students’ perspectives (arrows 1a and 1b shown in Fig. 1). In the second stage, teachers informed their pedagogical approaches during their interactions with peers in the CoL and contributed in group discussions with new ideas regarding the TLS's development (arrows 2a & 2b in Fig. 1). Indicatively, they promoted student–expert interactions in and out of the school context and they utilized newspaper articles for the elaboration of RRI along with classroom activities, aiming to support their students’ understanding. Evidently, the shared structure of the TLS (shown in Table 2) indicates that these interactions had an impact on the TLS's development process and documents that teachers broadened their educational repertoire, confirming the findings in previous studies (Bell and Gilbert, 1996). In the final stage, the properly adjusted and implemented TLS in each grade (arrows 3a and 3b shown in Fig. 1) was evaluated and finalized during teachers’ interactions on the acquired experiences regarding students’ reactions.

Furthermore, the aforementioned findings provide empirical evidence on the features of teachers’ interactions with colleagues in the CoL, which are powered by their individual needs and end up in a TLS that brings in balance educationally challenging aspects following the principles of MER. The distributed expertise of the members stimulated teachers’ multiple interactions with colleagues, in order to confront the emerged challenges. More specifically, in Phase A, teachers drew upon the expertise of the researchers in order to clarify the science content for instruction and updated their educational approaches on the different aspects of the TLS, i.e. RRI, out-of-school learning environments, exhibits, and considering students’ perspectives. They were engaged in reflective dialogues and instructional conversations with peer-teachers aiming to utilize colleagues’ resources on the practical challenges in developing the TLS. Given these insights, the principles of collective learning and shared individual practice were the prevailing features of the CoL in this study. At this end, our findings reinforce the findings of previous studies regarding the benefits for teachers towards participating in collaborative settings (Putnam and Borko, 2000; Stoll et al., 2006; Voogt et al., 2011).

Given that teachers’ capacity to generate ideas is an aspect of their instructional competencies (Richey et al., 2001), interestingly, the aforementioned processes seem to be also beneficial regarding their competencies in collaboratively designing curriculum materials. More specifically, in Phase A, teachers’ interactions with colleagues were focused on issues regarding primarily the teaching material (component Strategies for specific science topics in Fig. 5). They reflected on their individual orientations in clarifying the exemplary teaching material (in the stage of Plan & Prepare), and they shared the rationale on its educational construction in the TLS considering students’ perspectives, i.e. by providing collegial feedback (in the stage of Design) and its evaluation considering students’ reactions (in the stage of Implement & Reflect). According to the contemporary research literature (Huizinga et al., 2015; Voogt et al., 2016), such activities are promising in offering opportunities for the development of teachers’ competencies in designing curriculum materials, namely their curriculum design expertise.

Regarding the larger-scale implementation of the TLS on NST topics, our study contributed with empirical data to the corroboration of the position that the large-scale dissemination of TLSs is inextricably linked with the enactors’ active, interpretive role (e.g.Barab and Luehmann, 2003; Squire et al., 2003; Remillard, 2005). In fact, relative studies indicate that curriculum materials are rarely enacted exactly as planned by their designers, as during the transfer process from one learning setting to another, they get re-constituted and re-structured (Zappia et al., 2017; Spyrtou et al., 2018). This was the case in our study as well, as during the dissemination process, the core elements of the TLS were de-contextualized and recomposed according to each particular classroom context.

The conducted adaptations revealed that teachers mostly took initiative for modifications that were limited to practical and affective aspects of teaching, mobilizing the knowledge of their students’ capabilities and interests, in order to provide them with meaningful learning experiences. Therefore, teachers’ adaptations may also improve the educational innovation (Pintó et al., 2005). For this reason, teachers should be accordingly assisted in enacting new educational approaches, either by the provision of ongoing support within collaborative settings or by the proper revision of TLSs.

Towards this direction, our findings indicate that teachers’ support within the context of CoLs under the guidance of teachers–members of the TLS's designing team ensured that the enacted TLS remained faithful to the designers’ original intentions, despite the various adaptations. Besides, bringing designers and teachers together has already been proposed as a useful mechanism for addressing the complexity that is inherent in developing curriculum materials and enacting them in classrooms (Pintó et al., 2014).

Finally, as far as the TLS itself is concerned, taking into consideration the axes of specification and development, described by Cohen and Ball (1999) as criteria of the usability of curriculum materials, we can claim that even if the TLS on NST topics was both highly specified and developed, the included alternatives that it provided to the teachers rendered it flexibly adaptive to many contexts without requiring significant changes. In other words, the degrees of specification and development were carefully balanced in order to encourage teachers’ sense of ownership over the enacted TLS.

In conclusion, we can argue that the successful dissemination of the TLS – in terms of concurrent fidelity of implementation and teachers’ sense of ownership – was a result of the process of its development and teachers’ ongoing support by its designers. Specifically, on the one hand, the fact that the TLS was developed and piloted in different grades by in-service teachers was crucial for the embedment of the aforementioned suggestions which rendered the TLS flexible for implementation in different contexts. On the other hand, the fact that its designers also acted as multipliers of the TLS ensured that despite the innovative content of the TLS, teachers preserved the gist of the educational innovation despite the individual differentiations.

Therefore, the active participation of in-service teachers in the process of both developing and disseminating a TLS is considered beneficial and as such it must be evaluated by science education research.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts to declare.


This study has been supported by the IRRESISTIBLE (, European project, in the context of the European Union's Seventh Framework Program for research, technological development and demonstration under Grant Agreement No. 612367.


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