Leaders in Science Education

First Israeli in the International Organization for Science Education Research: Prof. Tali Tal from Technion

Prof. Tali Tal of the Faculty of Education in Science and Technology has been elected President Elect of NARST, the National Association for Research in Science Teaching. It is the world’s most influential organization in this field and is made up of about 2,500 researchers from around the world.

Prof. Tali Tal of the Faculty of Education in Science and Technology

Prof. Tali Tal of the Faculty of Education in Science and Technology

Prof. Tal holds a B.Sc in biology and an M.Sc in plant ecology. “For many years I worked for the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel,” she says. “During my military service I guided groups of students. After completing my Master’s I became acutely aware that our methods of guidance and instruction at SPNI were not aligned to our student audience. Until then, I had wanted and expected students to learn ecology and other field subjects during an educational field trip in nature, to understand characteristics of the vegetation in the Upper Galilee, and to internalize the differences between a forest and shrub habitats. Thanks to my studies, I learned that rather than “delivering knowledge” and having students remember names of trees and flowers, it is necessary to develop their thinking, and enrich their experience outside the classroom and make it so enjoyable that they will want to repeat it.”

Since then, that is, during and after her PhD, Prof. Tal has focused on environmental and science education outside the classroom. “I discovered that it was in museums, zoos, botanical gardens, and the school’s nearby environment that students experienced meaningful learning – often more meaningful than from regular classroom teaching.  Out-of-school learning environments enable interdisciplinary learning in everyday contexts.

In recent years, Tal is focusing on field-based inquiry learning that enhances sophisticated thinking in multiple disciplines. A group of teachers Tal instructed in collaboration with the archeologist Dr. Mordechai Aviam, participated in an archeological investigation in which a magnificent Byzantine mosaic floor with an inscription and perfect peacock was found. This interdisciplinary work was funded by two ISF grants.

Prof. Tal has exported her approach to teacher professional development through outdoor inquiry to Michigan State University, where she works with researchers from the CREATE for STEM institute and the W.K Kellogg Biological Station.

Recently, Tal is part of a group of researchers from the University of Haifa and the Technion who were granted by ISF and the Ministry of Education, an “Excellence Center” for developing meaningful learning through citizen science. “Taking Citizen Science to School” collaborate with scientists, educators and various organizations to support learning through student engagement in real scientific endeavors.

Prof. Tal is the first Israeli to be elected to the board of directors of NARST, about three years ago, and her term as president elect will begin in March 2018.