Projects on singing, Judaism and activity-based teaching are among the projects that receive most of the university's funds for research and development.
This year, the University of Agder's (UiA) Teacher Education programme received 1,2 million NOK for research and development projects (R&D projects). A total of 15 applications were sent, and the funds have been divided over seven projects from four different faculties. All projects will start up during spring and be finalised before the end of this year.
Most of the funding is allocated to research projects on singing, Judaism and UiA's Teaching Workshop.
Professor Anne Haugland Balsnes from the Faculty of Fine Arts receives 250 000 NOK to continue with her research on singing in kindergartens, schools and as part of Teacher Education programmes. One of the objectives of the project is to apply for external funding to instigate a national research study on the effects of singing.
"In the long run, I hope that UiA will employ a Research Fellow who can study the effects of singing in schools", says Balsnes.
Already two years ago, her research on singing received support from the R&D funds of the Teacher Education Department. The main objective of that project was to create a national network for those who research singing and inventorying the use of singing in kindergartens and schools.
The objective of that project has been achieved, and today, Balsnes leads the national research network SANGBARSK. With the additional funding she received now, she will extend her research field to include teacher education programmes at universities and university colleges as well.
As part of the research project, the project group will review and compare the study programmes and curricula of all national education institutions. After this, they will make a situation report on the attitude towards singing as part of teaching sessions.
Balsnes collaborates with seven researchers in the project group, from UiA, Nord University, OsloMet and the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences.
"Research on singing is essential because singing at school contributes to a sense of self-efficacy and togetherness. Besides, songs play a key role in how we can communicate knowledge that is part of our cultural heritage. The sound of singing is the sound of our community", says Balsnes.
Associate professors Morten Beckmann and Nils Hallvard Korsvoll of the Department of Religion, Philosophy and History received 250 000 NOK to study how teachers at lower secondary schools integrate Judaism into their lesson plans when the new curriculum is valid this autumn.
Korsvoll and Beckmann will observe and research teaching sessions in three lower secondary schools in Agder. Professor Sissel Undheim from the University in Bergen will do the same at schools in the county of Vestland.
"The new curriculum will be introduced this autumn, and we would like to study the practical consequences this has for the educational programme at lower secondary schools", says Beckmann.
No competence aims are formulated in the curriculum. Moreover, the content knowledge of Judaism that should be taught is not clearly defined. That is why the researchers are curious to find out how teachers will implement this in their lesson plans. Will, for example, Judaism receive less attention, be presented together with Christianity, explained in the context of the holocaust, or taught separately as a religious faith and practice?
"Knowledge of Judaism is essential to prevent anti-Semitism. Jews, similarly to Muslims, face pressure in Europe, and schools are the main societal arenas to communicate knowledge on religion. At the same time, it is important to study the consequence of the new curriculum, and to how this affects the schools' lesson plans in practice", says Beckmann.
Beckmann and Korsvoll think this project will reinforce the Teacher Education programme on KRLE (curriculum for religion and philosophies of life and ethics) at UiA. The ambition is for this project to act as a springboard for further research by UiA's research group Dembra (Democratic plan of action against racism and anti-Semitism).
Associate professor Cathrine Tømte of the Department for Information Systems received 200 000 NOK to research UiA's own Teaching Workshop.
"Now we will research one of UiA's priority areas", says Tømte.
The Teaching Workshop opened in March last year and has a close connection to the Teacher Education programmes of UiA. The Workshop contains a variety of analogue and digital resources, such as interactive screens, programming equipment, tablets, drones, scissors, crayons and pipe cleaners.
There has only been limited research in this field until now. Tømte and her research group would like to find out how the Teaching Workshop functions today and how it can be developed further.
"We will look at to what extent the Workshop stimulates the use of activity-based teaching methods to teachers in schools as well as to lecturers and students of the Teaching Education programmes at universities and university colleges", she explains.
This is another research project that is relevant for the new national curriculum that is valid from autumn 2020. The new subject curricula accentuates the use of activity-based teaching methods.
"The Teaching Workshop was set up precisely in the context of activity-based lesson plans that require the active involvement of pupils, which I believe leads to experience-based learning methods that increase the learning outcome," says Tømte.
Here is an overview of all research and development projects which received funding.