Jordi Gaitan (Blanes, 1970) joined the ranks of the Tandem project, which IRB Barcelona started last year with the Mare de Déu de Montserrat school in Cornellà. This project, implemented with the collaboration of the Catalunya – La Pedrera Foundation, aims to boost academic results in school through science and biomedicine. Jordi’s job is to advise the Tandem team about how to include new teaching techniques when designing the academic curriculum.
Jordi is an engineer by profession, but it has been a long time since he worked as such. “I spent 15 years working as an engineer, mainly in the automation of pharmaceutical processes in companies such as Esteve and Almirall. But this wasn’t enough for me, so in the meantime I studied for a degree in Philosophy and Educational Science, and later did a Masters in Practical Philosophy and Social Management. By then, it was clear that I was looking for something else, so I began teaching in secondary schools, combining this with my job as an engineer. And, as everybody but me expected, I burned out and had to take a long holiday. And it was then that I rethought my professional life.”
In 2008 he became a freelance educational consultant, working with primary and secondary schools to apply more modern approaches to teaching. “When I started working with the state education system, I realised that it needed profound changes, but sadly the schools lacked the opportunity to make them. They have excellent, highly trained teachers, but they are not able to take a step back and see how they could improve their way of teaching. The state education system is plagued by administrative issues, such as frequent staff changes, salary cuts, and lack of material. It’s difficult to innovate in such conditions.”
Apart from working directly with schools, Jordi has also taken part in various educational projects, in which he has helped them to apply an “educational layer”, as he calls it, to their design and implementation. He has experience in other Tandem projects, and has also participated in ambitious ventures like the DEAR Project (Development Education and Awareness Raising), coordinated by the European Union. “I prefer working on innovative projects that take a bottom-up approach. That is why I think that Tandem is very interesting. The biggest flaw of many similar projects is that they are not thought with long-term sustainability in mind, but Tandem is very strong in this regard. It is a three-year project that takes basic science into primary schools, while simultaneously overhauling the way teachers teach”.
Together with Muriel Arimon—IRB Barcelona Public Engagement and Science Education Officer, and coordinator of the project—, Jordi will be training teachers in new methods such as Problem-Based Learning and Multiple Intelligences Tools in order to cover the cognitive diversity present in classrooms and to promote scientific thinking. “In this case, I think that the ‘how’ is more important than the ‘what’. Information is everywhere, and there is no better textbook than Google, but we have to teach children how to exercise critical thinking and how to tap into their abilities.”
IRB Barcelona scientists have taken interest in the project, participating in events like their week dedicated to science and in training sessions with the teachers. “For them, this is a now or never opportunity to get on board, because unfortunately these kinds of project are not common. The Tandem project offers an opportunity to learn that there is something beyond science in the lab, but it also poses a challenge, personally and professionally. If you think about it, you will realise that science and teaching share the methods and also many values. Commitment, effort, cohesion, cooperation, error management… these are all things they have in common. And that’s why I think this project will be a huge success.” (Albert Ros Lucas)