Success and challenges for future policy recommendations and upscaling: the SLEs 3rd Reflection Workshop

On Monday 17th of June, the SLEs project organised its third (online) reflection workshop.

The event was an opportunity to draw lessons from the pilot implementation phase of the project. It brought together the national coordinators and initiators that have been involved in the piloting of a STE(A)M Learning Ecology to discuss experiences, challenges encountered during implementation, and good practices to consider for the upcoming mature phase. During the workshop discussions, attendees also focused on policy aspects and recommendations for a successful implementation, sustainability and replication of learning ecologies at a larger scale.


Presentation of the 13 SLEs Pilots

The workshop was split in two parts. In the first section, attendees provided a short presentation of the thirteen SLE Pilots that took place in Cyprus, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden. Each country had diverse activities with different themes ranging from AI and digital tools, civic education and sustainable behaviours, study of earthquake phenomena, or environmental conservation. Presentations focused on:

  • the context in which they took place
  • the main objectives
  • the community of involved stakeholders
  • the encountered challenges
  • and the learning outcomes produced during the activities


Reflection on strengths and benefits of the pilot learning ecologies

During the second part of the event, the project partners European Schoolnet (EUN) and the Agency for the Promotion of European Research (APRE) guided participants into an in-depth reflection and evaluation on various aspects of the piloting phase.

First, participants discussed strengths and main benefits of the pilot learning ecologies. Key benefits of the pilot SLEs also included better interactions between teachers and students and among students, increased student engagement, and professional development for teachers through working with researchers and external experts. Students with specific learning needs also benefitted greatly from the SLEs methodology, this innovative approach included more easily both students with disabilities and language barriers.  Partnerships with companies and schools abroad, and the creation of an international network built by the SLEs project, enriched and supported the ecologies – despite making decision-making a bit more complex. These successes were also due to their alignment with stakeholders’ goals and the enthusiasm of their initiators, which ensured broad participation and support.

Challenges faced

While debating over the challenges encountered during piloting, participants pinpointed the need for more time to allocate to every single learning ecology – to explore the full potential of some activities like field trips or the reflection phase. Another element raised was the necessity for better preparation of schools to use technological tools. Legal recognition of teachers’ and experts’ work, the lack of extra compensated working hours for these initiatives, and bureaucratic hurdles have also represented a barrier. Coordination was complicated by the involvement of multiple stakeholders (the more, the harder). Also, participants mentioned financial constraints and initial difficulties in collaborating with industry partners which might have hindered the ecologies’ full potential. Finally, certain pilot learning ecologies faced issues in attracting and engaging with female students (difficulty often solved by finding topics and real-life problems close to both genders).

Discussion on policy recommendations and upscaling

Based on the discussions had, participants provided some initial recommendations to be implemented at an institutional level. For instance, in order to ensure effective up-scaling, STE(A)M and open schooling approaches should become an integral part of the regular school curriculum. Moreover, national and local authorities should guarantee targeted training for teachers on SLEs before implementation, and provide governmental support for STE(A)M/open schooling initiatives in school planning. Also, teachers need a clear understanding of the steps and methodology of their SLEs, and draw well-defined and realistic expectations of their content – based on available resources.

The workshop also allowed room for discussing the implemented strategies of the pilot ecologies to address gender stereotypes and achieve good gender balance in STEM education, as one of the objectives of the project. Many pilot SLEs initiators involved role models in their initiatives. Other strategies included targeting very young students in their ecologies to prevent gender stereotypes.

A last discussion related to how pilot SLEs engaged industry and academia stakeholders and how this can be replicated in the upcoming phase took place. Participants underlined the need to emphasise the mutual benefits (for industry and academia) that SLEs bring about. At the same time, governmental departments and related Ministries of Education should also recognise the benefit of learning ecologies in their national contexts. Overall, to ensure sustainability and scalability, more should be done to strengthen the collaboration with industry and governmental actors in the SLEs. All these discussed conclusions and findings would feed into the 2nd policy brief, and will be considered while proceeding with the project mature phase planning.

The discussion finally shifted to next steps needed to carry out the upscaling phase of the project. In 2024-2025 a total of 100 learning ecologies will be implemented across all Europe by project partners. Participants agreed on some important elements to consider:

  • Most of the pilot ecologies’ success can be attributed to the involvement of a diverse group of at least 3-4 stakeholders. This should be replicated in the mature implementation phase in order to ensure heterogeneity and diverse competencies in the ecologies
  • When choosing schools for future implementation, it is important to include a mix of schools with experience in open schooling initiatives and institutes without it. These schools should receive support tailored to their experience levels. It is also crucial to involve schools from less central areas to ensure a diverse representation and equal opportunities for all students
  • The methodology designed for the SLEs project should provide guidelines for stakeholder cooperation, allow flexibility, and consider a longer timeline with suggested activities and sequence to follow for learning ecologies
  • Creating a peer-to-peer learning by establishing a network of experienced schools and stakeholders starting from good practices and case studies developed in the pilot phase could be useful.












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