Science has been reported as one of the easiest areas to promote inclusion of students with special needs. Nevertheless there is overwhelming evidence that blind or visually impaired students are frequently unsuccessful in Science related subjects. In 2010 the Outreach Science Unit from IPATIMUP started a long-term project focused on strategies to tackle this problem of Science communication, based on the use of hands-on and enquiry-based approaches.

We started a characterization of Science Education scenario for visually impaired students in Portuguese reference schools. In Portugal these Reference Schools integrate blind students in regular classes with visually able students and congregate human and material resources that can offer a better educational environment. From our preliminary observations we realize that the institutional model of the reference schools is unsuccessfully consolidated due to frequent organizational changes and lack of qualified human resources. Furthermore science curriculum is focused on the memorization of concepts and the students lack hands-on experience and enquiry-based learning. In order to evaluate the relevance of an enquiry-based model to effectively communicate science to blind students, we draw a collaborative study with the Science education research group from Reading University which aim to perform: A comparative study of science learning models for visually impaired students in Portuguese and UK schools, namely identifying: a) problems faced by the teachers, b) difficulties and limitations experienced by the students, c) examples of good practice. Based upon the data collected in this study we aim to develop a science communication program adapted for students with visual impairment. This study will bring new insights about the impact of the model (enquiry based vs non-enquiry based) in the effectiveness of Science communication for visually impaired students.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

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Science communication for blind students

Luis Carvalho   IPATIMUP–Instituto de Imunologia e Patologia da Universidade do Porto, Portugal

Filipe Santos-Silva   IPATIMUP–Instituto de Imunologia e Patologia da Universidade do Porto, Portugal

Science has been reported as one of the easiest areas to promote inclusion of students with special needs. Nevertheless there is overwhelming evidence that blind or visually impaired students are frequently unsuccessful in Science related subjects. In 2010 the Outreach Science Unit from IPATIMUP started a long-term project focused on strategies to tackle this problem of Science communication, based on the use of hands-on and enquiry-based approaches.

We started a characterization of Science Education scenario for visually impaired students in Portuguese reference schools. In Portugal these Reference Schools integrate blind students in regular classes with visually able students and congregate human and material resources that can offer a better educational environment. From our preliminary observations we realize that the institutional model of the reference schools is unsuccessfully consolidated due to frequent organizational changes and lack of qualified human resources. Furthermore science curriculum is focused on the memorization of concepts and the students lack hands-on experience and enquiry-based learning. In order to evaluate the relevance of an enquiry-based model to effectively communicate science to blind students, we draw a collaborative study with the Science education research group from Reading University which aim to perform: A comparative study of science learning models for visually impaired students in Portuguese and UK schools, namely identifying: a) problems faced by the teachers, b) difficulties and limitations experienced by the students, c) examples of good practice. Based upon the data collected in this study we aim to develop a science communication program adapted for students with visual impairment. This study will bring new insights about the impact of the model (enquiry based vs non-enquiry based) in the effectiveness of Science communication for visually impaired students.

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