International Centre for STEM Education (ICSE) at the University of Education Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany

Project intellectual output: O2 – How can we measure the impact of a PD activity?

The University of Education in Freiburg (PHFR) is a specialised, public higher education (HE) institution with a mission in both research and teaching, focusing on the field of teacher education and the educational sciences. PHFR offers degrees at all cycle levels for primary and secondary school teachers and future professionals in the broad field of education.

PHFR’s research covers the full span of educational, pedagogic and subject-didactic fields. The University places special emphasis on research that is relevant to improving HE teaching and has earned particular reputation for its research on, and dissemination of, innovative practices and pedagogies in maths and science education.

Several large-scale international and interdisciplinary research, development and dissemination projects have been carried out over the past decade at the maths and science education departments of the PHFR. As a result of this work, the University can currently resort to an international network of stakeholders in maths and science education of over 1000 contacts relevant to the project’s scope. Linking research and teaching, practice-orientation and policy-connections are thus among the PHFR’s distinguishing strengths – in particular in the field of maths and science education.

In 2017 Prof. Katja Maass and her team established the International Centre for STEM Education (ICSE) at PHFR. The ultimate aim of ICSE is to help improve STEM education across Europe, that is, to give students insights into authentic features of STEM subjects and their connection to real-life contexts, to raise achievement levels in STEM and to make science literacy accessible to all students no matter what their gender, their cultural background or their socioeconomic background, and to promote the interest of young people in STEM careers.
Our focus in STEM education research and its transfer into day-to-day practices is therefore on issues such as:
• The research on innovative teaching approaches such as inquiry-based learning, connections to real-life contexts, interdisciplinarity or to the diversity in classrooms
• The development, implementation and evaluation of feasible and impactful professional development concepts
• Research on concepts to scale up teacher professional development, also taking into account systemic barriers
• Development, in situ-evaluation and refinement of high-quality classroom materials and professional development materials, anchored in the field of design research

ICSE team at PHFR is coordinating the STEM PD Net project. The interdisciplinary team comprises maths and science education researchers, experts in business, pedagogy, social sciences and STEM education, with vast experience in pre-service education and in providing PD for mathematics and science teachers. The ICSE also serves as the Network Coordinator for the European practice network of STEM Professional Development Centres across Europe which backs the STEM PD Net project.

Furthermore, the team has broad experience in coordinating several large-scale European projects focusing on research, materials development and the broad dissemination of innovative teaching and learning approaches in maths and science education. Also, the team has extensive experience in organising influential policy events, building successful international dissemination strategies, managing quality in international projects, as well as embedding project-funded activities into broader relevant contexts to ensure long-term impact and sustainability.

Elena Schäfer



Katja Maaß
Prof. Dr.
Project Coordinator
ICSE at University of Education Freiburg, Germany

Katja, the coordinator of STEM PD Net, is a researcher, educator and leader of international projects in mathematics and science education. She holds a master’s degree in mathematics and biology, acquired her PhD in mathematics education in 2004 and was awarded professorship in the same year.

Her main professional interests are real life applications of mathematics, inquiry-based and interdisciplinary STEM teaching. Her research has been published widely in the most prestigious journals in the field. Next to teaching and research, her work is characterised by a strong practical and melioristic concern towards advancing science teaching.

Katja has successfully coordinated numerous large-scale European projects to foster innovation in STEM education, including award-winning projects like PRIMAS, mascil or COMPASS. Her work is distinguished by both a local and international orientation and she relies on excellent networks to research, policy and practice. As the founding director of ICSE she aims to take European collaboration in STEM education to a next level so as to maximise quality, equality and innovation in day-to-day STEM teaching.

Elena Schäfer
Project Manager, IO2 leader
ICSE at University of Education Freiburg, Germany

Elena Schäfer has her Bachelor’s degree in educational planning and instructional design and a Master’s in educational studies with the focus on adult education and professional development. Her professional experience includes workin in public relations and adult education, e.g. developing educational materials and training programs and their evaluation.

Elena worked in ICSE´s large-scale projects PRIMAS and mascil for example as assistant manager. She brought in her experiences in implementing marketing concepts and dissemination plans to promote our projects’ aims and activities and, for example, has been the main organiser of our international conferences (such as Educating the Educators I and II).

Elena is the responsible project manager for two of ICSE’s current Erasmus+ projects – STEM PD Net and IncluSMe – and she is co-responsible for the European STEM Professional Development Centre Network which has been founded 2014 at the University of Education and which backs the STEM PD Net project.

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