To provide as many teachers as possible with relevant and high-quality professional development (PD) courses, in many countries national professional development centres have been set up in the past years. The European STEM Professional Development Centre Network grew out of the idea that these national centres should be connected internationally since they have similar aims and agendas, namely: investing in teacher professional development to substantially improve STEM education as it happens day-to-day in schools. Despite different national circumstances, foci and structures the national PD Centres across Europe encounter similar concerns and challenges. International collaboration therefore is essential. The network ensures knowledge exchange in order to improve local practices in STEM professional development and strengthens the voice of practice when it comes to shaping STEM education in Europe.
The 2014 conference “Educating the educators – International approaches to scaling-up professional development in maths and science education” served as a platform to initiate the collaboration of PD Centres across Europe: in the course of the conference the first meeting of European Professional Development centres involved in math and science education took place. Hosts of the conference and the first PD centre meeting were the European project mascil (mathematics and science for life!) coordinated at the University of Education Freiburg, and the DZLM (German Centre for Mathematics Teacher Education, funded by the Deutsche Telekom Foundation).
Owing to the resonance the first meeting found, the University of Education Freiburg, as part of its initiatives within the mascil project, took a lead in facilitating further meetings. To date, five meetings of the European STEM Professional Development Centre Network took place: in December 2014 in Essen (Germany), in May 2015 in Vilnius (Lithuania), in December 2015 in Sofia (Bulgaria), in June 2016 in Hradec Králové (Czech Republic) and most recently in November 2016 in Freiburg (Germany) as part of the second Educating-the-Educators conference.
The next network meeting will take place in Sweden (May 2017). This and future meetings will be hosted by a new Erasmus+ project (STEM PD Net) coordinated at the University of Freiburg’s International Centre for STEM Education (ICSE) which serves to further promote the European collaboration of PD Centres and their activities to improve STEM education.
The European STEM Professional Development Centre Network has also grown substantially since 2014 and currently comprises around 30 members from 12 European countries, including university-based centres and such administered by Ministries of Education. The University of Education Freiburg, as part of its activities coordinated at the International Centre for STEM Education (ICSE), serves as the Network Coordinator.