How to integrate RRI in secondary education
Involving students and teachers in reflecting on the role of research and innovation (R&I) fosters sustainable interactions between schools, researchers, industry and civil society organisations, both in formal and informal learning.
The integration of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) principles in teaching and learning activities supports multidisciplinarity and stronger student engagement as well as student acquisition of critical thinking and collaborative learning skills. It also prepares them to make informed and evidence-based choices about society’s future. Furthermore, responsiveness and being adaptive to change, two dimensions of the RRI process, can be seen as fundamental skills for individuals if they are to be prepared for the increasing complexity of our world. In this sense, an overall perspective on challenges in education is offered in UNESCO’s book Rethinking Education: Towards a Global Common Good?
Though its relation to science and STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) may appear stronger, RRI principles may also apply to other disciplines (social sciences, historical and anthropological research, etc.). RRI principles may relate to many aspects of innovative teaching methods that foster the implementation of formative assessment processes and the acquisition of transversal skills. Lastly, RRI concepts can help students better understand existing careers paths, entrepreneurship and innovation processes, and complexities of the professional world.
Building blocks for introducing RRI concepts to students
Introductory lessons around one or more RRI principles, such as inclusion and diversity, can be lightly integrated into class activities. For example, a few minutes at the end of each class could be dedicated to identifying and reflecting on key RRI-related aspects within the lesson. Within group activities and school projects, regular sessions could focus on critical reflection on the group’s processes, values, routines and assumptions and the activity’s final results (reflection dimension), while prompting students to make necessary changes to their plans and methods (adaptive change dimension). Reflection and discussion games can be used to shape these sessions, such as the FUND project’s PlayDecide, which supports talks and reflections about social and scientific issues. This project also offers a manual for developing a customized ‘Decide kit’.
To support student motivation and empowerment, it is important to link RRI principles to students’ current activities and studies as well as to real and concrete examples of application (in and out of school, informal and non-formal contexts) and everyday situations (social life, interests, news, etc.). For ideas, check out the Xplore Health and ENGAGE projects; their lesson plans and classroom activities, which focus on science subjects, can be adapted or can inspire new resources for activities in other subjects.
Another inspiring example can be found on the SiS Catalyst Diversity & Inclusion Map, which helps users develop high-quality programmes that are attractive to children from different social backgrounds. Students can also be involved in key steps for evaluating the programmes.
Finally, the handbook for teachers “RRI in practice for schools” is a great tool to help educators design and implement RRI-oriented academic practices by offering a range of guidelines and practice templates to integrate RRI in everyday school activities.
Education is collaboration, inside and outside the school
Collaborative planning and learning in school activities, particularly with the involvement of multiple stakeholders, foster the development of inclusive and open mind-sets in young students while also improving opportunities for students to understand the world outside the school. For example, planning and organizing an exhibition or a workshop to disseminate a project’s results (whether during a school fair or an open day, and involving the whole school as well as parents, external experts and local communities) supports the acquisition of communication and reflection skills.
Check out the DESIRE toolkit for guidelines on disseminating science education project results and the IRRESISTIBLE project for guidelines promoting collaborations between schools and science museums in creating exhibitions about RRI. Both guidelines provide valuable information for organizing similar activities for multidisciplinary school projects or involving different stakeholder groups, such as other civil society organizations or local authorities.