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Photo: Privat
Sandra Mårtensson. Photo: Privat View original picture , opens in new tab/window

Praised for this year's best degree project

Published: 10 September 2020

The former teacher student Sandra Mårtensson is praised by the National Center for Science and Technology Didactics (NATDID). Her study on what constitutes a life was named the winner in the category of this year's degree project.

− It feels like a great honor. Just being nominated by my supervisor, Anna Vikström, felt great and to then become one of the winners is absolutely fantastic, says Sandra Mårtensson who completed her studies in the basic teacher program at Luleå University of Technology in the spring of 2020.

The idea was born during lesson

The idea for the degree project with the name Is it alive? How teaching can be designed to give younger students the opportunity to develop their understanding of the concept of life came during a lesson with students in year three at the school in Lycksele where she worked during her studies.

− One of the students had brought a carnivorous plant and an aloe vera plant to school to show off. There was great interest in the carnivorous plant, while the aloe vera plant did not create as much commitment at all. The questions were many - how can it open and close its "mouths"? Can it be bitten? What does it eat? Is it dangerous? The discussion quickly came to a comparison between the two plants. The students talked about the plants' food. If the carnivorous plant could eat flies, then what did the aloe vera plant live on? One of the students said that only the carnivorous plant was alive, says Sandra and continues.

− I then stopped the students' discussion and asked if it was only the carnivore that was alive, not the aloe vera plant? The students agreed that only the carnivorous plant was alive. Then the idea arose to work with this area - what a life is.

Developed his knowledge

To investigate this, Sandra Mårtensson planned, conducted and analyzed a lesson series with a class of students in year 3.

− My teaching was based on the theory of variation and the socio-cultural perspective. This study shows that teaching based on the theory of variation can offer good opportunities for students to develop their knowledge in the nature-oriented subjects in a specific way and thereby achieve the intended learning objectives.

During the work on the study, Sandra was forced to examine her own professional practice at the same time as her pedagogical skills developed.

− The work with this study gave me the opportunity to critically examine myself and the teaching I conduct. I have definitely increased my awareness of myself as a teacher and how I, in collaboration with my students, can conduct successful teaching, which will benefit both me and my future students in the coming professional career. My thesis has given me the opportunity for a professional language where the scientific perspective is woven into the everyday. It also means that I as a teacher focus on what the lessons are intended to lead to.

Combined jobs and studies

Sandra Mårtensson studied the basic teacher program with a focus on preschool class and primary school year 1-3 during the years 2016-2020. Thanks to the distance form, she was able to combine studies and work at an elementary school in her hometown Lycksele.

− For me it was perfect! Since I live in Lycksele with family, it did not feel relevant to move to another place for studies. In this way, my family was not affected by my career change. I have also studied once before at university, so I had the study habit, which I think is an advantage in distance education, says Sandra who remembers back to her study time and her classmates with warmth.

− When you look back on something, it is usually the positive things that first pop up and in this case it is first and foremost the support that the study group gave. Already the first week we were divided into groups and our teachers emphasized the importance of supporting each other in the group. My first thought with these studies, since the education is at a distance, was that I would run solo and fix this on my own. But the group I ended up in has largely followed during all four years, a couple of new members were added during my studies and some found other groupings. Having these individuals on hand, in both headwinds and headwinds, has been worth its weight in gold!

Do you have any tips for future students?

− Find studymates in the class, they are important to have as support during the study period. Make a plan and follow it. For me, it was also important to think about how I could in practice have use for what was worked on during the courses, not just do assignments to get a grade. It gave me increased motivation.