José Jorge Teixeira

Escola Secundária Dr. Júlio Martins, Chaves, Portugal

José Jorge  Teixeira

José Jorge Teixeira left a successful career as a Professor of Physics at the University of Trás-os-Montes to pursue his passion for teaching experimental science to young people. His colleagues couldn’t understand his decision, but he was determined.

He took on a role teaching Physics and Chemistry in Chaves, a town in one of the most deprived regions of Portugal. The school had very few practical science teaching resources, so Teixeira set about finding cost effective ways to give experimental experiences to his students. He was keen they also have fun while learning. And so he founded the Experimental Science Teaching Club (CEEC) for high school students aged 14 - 18.

Teixeira challenges his students to discover solutions to the pressing challenges facing the world, and those they experience closer to home. In 2017, the local area experienced extreme drought and fires. Teixeira’s students used CEEC to develop solutions, including a plant irrigation system that extracts water from the humidity in the air. By taking on such topics, the students make connections between science and its contribute to improving global well-being and sustainability.

He encourages a “learn, think, action” approach among his students. The CEEC makes visits off-site, for example during the local fires, they visited the fire service and police to better understand the problems. Teixeira also regularly invites experts from universities to speak to the students and help inspire their interest in the latest scientific thinking. He travels to leading experimental science institutions around the world, including CERN, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and Joint European Torus and brings back new insights and ideas to share with his students.

The CEEC has yielded remarkable improvements in the students who participate. In the first year of the CEEC, students achieved an average of 14.1, well above the national average of 10.18. These have improved year on year. Students from CEEC have won a number of national awards, including most recently, second place in the Atlas of Knowledge - Physics 2018 prize. In partnership with universities and local government, they have presented their work at international education conferences. Risk-taking behaviour, such as drinking and drug-taking is reduced by 100% among the participating students.

In addition, a high proportion of students have gone on to have successful careers in the sciences, including as doctors and engineers. Many speak articulately about the influence of their experiences in CEEC on their decision to pursue a STEM career.

Through his work at the Teachers' Training Center of Alto Tâmega and Barroso, Teixeira is able to share his learning and methods with teachers from across the region. He has also won awards himself, including the Municipal Medal of Merit for Education, 2018.

The success of the CEEC has been recognised locally and nationally, and it is now being replicated across the country. Four more clusters of schools have established their own CEEC, and are collaborating to share learning. Teixeira is also taking CEEC into special schools for the first time.