The Ongoing Growth of the Professional Science Teacher
◾ Just as children are viewed as progressing through developmental stages, so too are teachers seen as moving through phases in their development as professionals. Teachers’ development can be represented by the changes in the issues that are of concern. Over time, their concerns shift from personal issues toward concerns about impact upon students. ◾ Social constructivism’s power for explaining student learning is also finding its way into explanations about teacher growth and development. Professional development is understood to be less a case of individual teachers learning more about their work and increasingly recognized as heavily influenced by a teacher’s social context. ◾ Keys to quality professional development include keeping students’ learning at the core, relying upon similar principles of learning for children and adults, and recognizing that the sources of information contributing to professional development should arise from within the teachers’ experiences as well as through new insights from the outside. ◾ Professional development is much richer than simply attending graduate courses or participating in workshops. Other forms of professional development include implementing curriculum, becoming engaged in the work of scientists, participating in study groups, and closely examining samples of student work. ◾ By and large, the science professional development of elementary and middle school teachers is left for teachers to control. Fortunately, a variety of professional organizations and publications are available to support the ongoing growth of those who wish to improve their science teaching effectiveness. Standards for professional development related to science teaching provide a professional development roadmap for teachers. © 2007 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
As you near the end of this book you are likely nearing the end of your teacher preparation coursework. However, neither of these events signals an end to your teacher education. Although labels such as “lifelong learning” and “continuous growth” can be overused, becoming a professional teacher of science is not something accomplished through readings and coursework. To become and remain an effective teacher requires the accumulation of resources, a deepening of knowledge, and the refinement of practices. The purpose of this chapter is to familiarize you with the wide range of professional growth options and opportunities open to you so that you can make wise choices about improving your confidence and competence in teaching science to all students.
Professional Development as Teacher Learning
To a large extent, professional development for teachers is not well defined. Unlike other fields, medicine being but one example, there is no systematic plan for updating the education and improving the work of its practitioners. Sometimes there are modest incentives for teachers to participate in workshops and graduate courses, but the connections to students’ science learning are not always obvious. Instead, teacher professional development tends to emphasize teachers’ knowledge, with less attention paid to how the information is filtered or applied in order to improve students’ learning. Despite these limitations it is possible to translate your professional development experiences into benefits for your students. Professional growth or staff development is often regarded as something others do to teachers. If professional development is meant to be analogous to an annual checkup at the dentist or maintenance on a car, it’s not going to be something a teacher looks forward to. Meanwhile, those responsible for providing professional development are discouraged because the teachers may appear to resent a requirement to attend an after-school workshop. Any professional development session can be a struggle for everyone involved if the workshop is imposed upon the teachers and not clearly connected to improving their professional practice. NSES Professional Development Standard D: Quality preservice and inservice programs are characterized by clear, shared goals based on a vision of science learning, teaching, and teacher development congruent with the NSES. Even though the system may not regard professional development as a potentially powerful tool for reshaping individual teaching practices, we are proposing that you envision taking charge of your professional development. Our recommendation is to regard professional development as an opportunity for teacher learning. Rather than viewing professional development as if it was the intellectual equivalent of a blood test or an oil change, teachers should be viewed as learners who have particular interests, needs, ambitions, and goals. This also fosters a trickledown effect. When teachers are treated as capable learners, they are more likely to view their students the same way. If teachers are treated as deficient and flawed and professional development is viewed as a way to upgrade or fix what is wrong, then it seems likely the same attitudes will translate into unfavorable classroom practices. Teaching is a somewhat unusual profession because there are very few distinctions between those who are just starting compared to those who have been working for several years. It isn’t as if principals and parents expect the students in a new teacher’s classroom to learn less than in a seasoned teacher’s classroom. Every teacher is expected to do an equally effective job at © 2007 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
educating the students. This explains, in part, why professional development of teachers is so unstructured. A first-year teacher could be attending the same professional development session as someone who has 30 years of classroom experience. Yet both are considered to be involved in professional development. Incentives such as a per-hour reimbursement, free classroom supplies, or steps along a salary schedule may persuade some teachers to attend professional development, but for the most part there are very few efforts to match the type of professional development to individual teacher’s needs. It is accurate to suggest that your professional development is under your own control. Yes, professional development is required of every teacher, and it is not technically something you can opt out of. However, there is such a wide variety of professional development opportunities available that teachers can exercise a certain amount of choice about which opportunities to exploit. In order to effectively control your growth as a teacher, you should be aware of the professional development landscape. Knowing what is possible permits you to make more informed choices about the professional development options you should embark upon.
Stages of Concern
Several decades ago, Francis Fuller (1969) noticed an interesting pattern in the attitudes of the student teachers she was supervising. It seemed that as their time in the classroom accumulated, not only were they becoming more confident but they also displayed changes in the issues of concern to them. Early on, her student teachers were most anxious about personal issues, voicing questions such as: What is expected of me during student teaching? Will the students respect me? Over time, these concerns were resolved and the student teachers’ attention shifted toward more specific concerns about the students and their learning. This shift from concerns about “self” to “others” seems true not just for those who are entering the teaching profession; indeed, researchers have learned that teachers proceed through a series of stages whenever they are facing a new innovation.
Stages of Concern Toward an Innovation With Sample Expressions of the Concern I have an idea about modifying this so it would be better. I am interested in working with others who are doing this too. I am concerned about how this will help my students’ learning. I feel I am spending a great deal of extra time getting organized. I am wondering about how this is going to affect me. I would like to know more about this new innovation. I don’t know enough about this innovation to feel worried.
6 Refocusing IMPaCT TaSK SelF 5 Collaboration 4 Consequence 3 Management 2 Personal 1 Informational 0 Awareness
Adapted from Hord, S.M., Rutherford, W.L., Huling-Austin, L., & Hall, G.E. (1987). Taking charge of change. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
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NSES Professional Development Standard D: Quality preservice and inservice programs are characterized by options that recognize the developmental nature of teacher professional growth and individual and group interests, as well as the needs of teachers who have varying degrees of experience, professional expertise, and proficiency. What was first noticed about student teachers’ changing concerns has been refined into what is now called the Concerns Based Adoption Model or CBAM (Horsley & Loucks-Horsley, 1998). CBAM provides a framework for thinking about and planning for changes associated with adopting any innovation. The CBAM idea is used by those responsible for implementing changes such as the introduction of a new curriculum, a new way of reporting on students’ progress, or a different way of scheduling the periods in the day. In each of these instances, an individual moves through stages as his or her concerns shift from one to the next. The Stages of Concern framework is presented in Table 15.1. The three main categories echo the findings of Fuller. First are the self concerns, then task concerns, and ultimately the impact concerns. Along with these concerns are examples of statements that would be expressed by someone at each stage. With each innovation, a person will begin at the bottom-most stage and will only rise to the next level of concern once the preceding concern has subsided in intensity. In other words, even though different people will move from one stage to the next at different rates, and sometimes an individual may stop at a particular stage and not move any higher, there is always the need to develop an awareness, obtain information, and reconcile the personal and management concerns before becoming involved with the consequences and concerns. For the novice teacher, knowing about CBAM may help you to appreciate your reactions to challenges you face as a professional. If you are told to use technology within your teaching, you will move through these levels of concern. In fact, you are probably finding yourself moving through these stages as you consider the prospects of teaching science to a wide variety of students. Initially you focus upon becoming aware and knowledgeable about the challenges. After those concerns subside, you move on to the concerns about how you are going to accomplish this task. This set of concerns will develop into management concerns including figuring out how to conduct lessons that include everyone regardless of ability and background. This is a natural progression, and you might even be able to recognize your shifts as you begin to better understand the issues. You probably won’t be focused much on collaborating with others because your primary concern is determining how to do all of this on your own. Collaborating with fellow teachers will become your major concern and desire once the preceding concerns have been subdued.
For Reflection and Discussion
What parallels can you identify between your views about teaching science to all students compared to other everyday experiences you’ve had? When you are faced with something new in your non-school life, in what ways do you feel as if you move through the stages identified with the CBAM?
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Another Form of Progression
Bullough, Young, and Draper (2004) used weekly emails from beginning teachers to examine their views about themselves as budding professionals. These researchers uncovered several dimensions of change that they represent as opposing orientations. For example, within “dominating concerns” the new teachers moved from being “self-absorbed” and toward “looking outward” as they became more comfortable in their roles. This is very similar to both Fuller’s work and the CBAM representation. Other dimensions are different from these models and revealing. As you consider these and imagine how you might move along the dimensions as you grow into your role as a teacher, you shouldn’t feel as if these are value judgments. The explanations offered by these researchers are the products of the data they gathered and are not meant to be a criticism of the struggles of new teachers. The dimension of “approach to problem-solving” shifts from trial and error testing to informed tinkering. We think this seems accurate because when a person is new to a situation then he or she doesn’t have many tools to draw upon. But over time, as a repertoire of techniques accumulate and a better instructional decision-making mindset develops, then there are some guidelines that can inform how problems are approached. The “relationship with children” is another dimension that we’ve noticed. New teachers tend to be group oriented and then begin to move toward seeking individual connections. At the outset, their emphasis is to deliver instruction to an entire classroom but, at least for the more conscientious teachers, their interest is redirected at each student in the class. As a result, success is not assessed based upon how well the whole class does but how the individuals succeed. There are other dimensions identified by Bullough and his colleagues: professional commitment, emotional state, and sense of responsibility. For our purposes, the details are not as crucial as the broader implications. Becoming a skilled teacher of science and someone who is responsive to every student in the classroom is not straightforward. As someone becomes more professional, their development changes along many dimensions. In addition, these changes may occur at different rates for the various dimensions and the pace of these developments are not identical for all teachers. Just as children in classrooms will mature in various ways, in terms of their intellect, their social skills, their emotional maturity, and so on, teachers likewise develop over time in ways that are not entirely predictable. What seems different between children and adult development is that grown-ups have the capacity to step back and examine their growth in ways that young children may not be capable. Put another way, these developmental models aren’t checklists for you to follow. Instead they serve as a map that you can use to understand where you are and what direction you might go.
Works Well With Others
Teaching would seem to be a highly social endeavor. Yet many people are surprised to learn how infrequently teachers actually work with each other. This is an especially troubling reality since we recognize the importance of cooperation and collaboration within students’ learning—we would expect similar benefits for teachers’ professional development through working together. However, as Judith Warren Little indicates, there are many reasons that teaching persists as a largely private endeavor. Teachers are now being pressed, invited, and cajoled into ventures in collaboration, but the organization of their daily work often gives them scant reason for doing so. Long-standing occupational and organizational traditions, too, supply few precedents; rather, they buttress teaching as a private endeavor. Finally, there are high transaction
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costs to participatory work—most prominently in time (an opportunity cost) and the risk of conflict (a cost to organizational cohesion). ~ Judith Warren Little, 1990, p. 528 Teachers tend to work as independent professional contractors and their relationships with other teachers are often friendly and sociable. Genuine conversations about learning occur almost exclusively between a teacher and his or her students and rarely among teachers. The camaraderie within a school’s faculty certainly makes for a pleasant atmosphere with all the benefits of warm interpersonal relationships. However, simply swapping stories among friends in the lunchroom is not equivalent to professional collaborations (Little, 1990). Improved forms of collaboration among teachers include instances where assistance is sought from a more experienced colleague, resources are shared, and techniques are exchanged. Within many schools there are certain teachers who are viewed as outstanding reservoirs of material goods and teaching expertise—and in many settings their professional identity is tied to this wealth. Even in generous situations, it is rare to find teachers engaging in joint work. Little (1990) defined joint work as involving interdependence, support for initiative, and a collective sense of professional support. Although this is the ideal, it is not something we see very often. NSES Professional Development Standard D: Quality preservice and inservice programs are characterized by integration and coordination of the program components so that understanding and ability can be built over time, reinforced continuously, and practiced in a variety of situations. Joint work occurs when teachers choose to let down their guard. They can admit there is more to learn and then work together to improve themselves. This is how professional development ought to happen (Harris, 2003). This runs counter to many people’s images of teaching, and the norms of a school may actively resist such undertakings. Collaboration is one of the most advanced levels of concern and is only likely to be relevant when all preceding levels of concern have been addressed. Nevertheless, true collaboration is something each of us should strive toward. To do so opens us to the possibility that we are not as wonderful as we might like to believe. But when the ultimate goal is improving the learning of all of our students, the challenges to our egos seem minor.
Varieties of Professional Development
Teacher professional development is normally thought of as either workshops (after school, during summer, or on a release day) or coursework at the local college. These are often held in opposition to each other. With workshops, the expectation is that the intellectual demands will be very low, the information will be highly practical (i.e., something a teacher could implement the very next day), and very short in duration. By comparison, graduate coursework is regarded as abstract, rarely connected to the realities of the typical classroom, and requiring a more extended investment of time. By classifying professional development in this way, we create the same problems as when we reduce anything to an either/or arrangement. Think back to very early in this book where we discussed the problem with pitting traditional teaching against “hands-on” experiences. So many subtleties and possibilities are obscured when we oversimplify. Rather than think about professional development as either brief and practical or lon-
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ger and abstract, we need to consider the knowledge we might acquire and the skills we might develop to become more effective teachers of science. Fortunately there are many mechanisms for helping to make this a reality, allowing us to move beyond choosing between workshops and college courses. One of the most complete books about providing professional development to those who teach science was written by Susan Loucks-Horsley, Nancy Love, Katherine Stiles, Susan Mundry, and Peter Hewson (2003). Although the intended readers of this book are professional development providers, the general ideas they supply can be helpful to new teachers since they provide frameworks for thinking about professional development. With this knowledge we can better appreciate what options are available. Perhaps this will allow teachers to take more control over how to continue growing as professionals. In Table 15.2 we list the values those authors embrace when it comes to providing professional development to science teachers. This list is informative because it clarifies the central purposes of professional development. This begins with something that is surprisingly obvious: professional development must focus upon the ultimate goal of improving the science learning of all students. When professional development neglects students’ learning, it is unlikely to be of much value. In some ways, teachers are simply conduits, and professional development really isn’t about them. Instead it’s about making them better suited to support the science learning of all their students. This value is vital to professional development but it seems many professional developers forget the fact that the key is student learning.` The second value of science teacher professional development is recognizing the particular knowledge required by science teachers and the importance of addressing this within professional development. Ordinarily, professional development for teachers emphasizes either pedagogy (teaching techniques) or content (scientific information). The problem with this either/or arrangement is its inadequacy. Good science teaching is much more than a matter of combining, for example, an awareness of geology principles with questioning strategies. There is another component of science teacher knowledge known by the clumsy label of pedagogical content knowledge or PCK (Shulman, 1986). This is the special and unique knowledge Loucks-Horsely et al. (2003) described. PCK is knowledge about how to teach specific ideas to children. This knowledge is more specialized and powerful than generalized teaching strategies. Professional development focusing upon teaching techniques without special attention to science content is insufficient. Certainly teachers can create a bridge between generic teaching methods, such as cooperative learning, and particular science content, such as plant growth and development. However, a professional development effort addressing both teaching and subject matter simulTable 15.2 Underlying Aspects of Effective Science Teacher Professional Development
Professional development experiences must have students and their learning at their core— by that we mean all students. Excellent science teachers have a very special and unique kind of knowledge that must be developed through their professional learning experiences. Principles that guide the reform of student learning should also guide professional learning for educators. The content of professional learning must come from both inside and outside the learner and from both research and practice. Professional development must both align with and support system-based changes that promote student learning. From Loucks-Horsley, Love, Stiles, Mundry, & Hewson, (2003), pp. xxv-xxvi
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taneously, essentially providing PCK for teachers, is going to be more useful than expecting teachers to create this knowledge on their own. Otherwise, professional development is very similar to the discovery teaching method. Professional development that ignores PCK leaves too much to chance and suggests a certain measure of irresponsibility by the individual in charge. The third value of professional development is fairly obvious, although too often neglected. Briefly, this is a belief that approaching the development of science teachers and the teaching of science to students in similar ways is powerful. If an inductive approach to teaching children is being advocated, then this approach ought to be equally powerful in working with adults. If good teaching involves a combination of small group work and large group debriefing sessions, then it shouldn’t look all that different when applied in an elementary or middle school classroom or during a science teacher professional development session. The classic complaint about being lectured to about the usefulness of cooperative learning illustrates this point. The fourth value is a logical extension of the third. We’ve described the need to connect the knowledge students already possess with the new material presented to them, and this equally applies to adult learners within professional development. The wisdom that experienced teachers carry with them is important not only to acknowledge but also to use as a foundation for new knowledge. With this, we shouldn’t neglect ideas from the outside. Within the Essential Features of Inquiry we learned that connecting personal experiences to other sources of knowledge is important. Applying this to science teacher professional development has positive effects when research about effective science teaching is combined with the knowledge teachers already hold. Another way to think about this is the dispute about whether teachers are born or made. Our view is that the reality lies somewhere in between these extremes. The implication is that even a naturally gifted teacher can benefit by learning more about what others have discovered about science teaching. The fifth value of professional development recognizes the need to connect with the larger picture. What is interesting about this idea is that professional development doesn’t have to be useful only by responding to new demands placed on the system, although this is reasonable. We would like you to also consider the possibilities associated with professional development serving as a starting point for improving the system. While professional development is often viewed as a way to patch holes (e.g., filling the gaps in teachers’ scientific knowledge), it might also influence the system. For example, a series of professional development sessions about addressing the needs of students and families new to the district could, with the right attitude, develop into an awareness of the need to revise the curriculum. In this way, knowledge gained from professional development becomes a mechanism for reconsidering timeworn assumptions about effective science teaching.
Matching Strategies With Professional Needs
At this point it might seem unlikely that these five values could find themselves into a professional development session held after school, on the weekend, or during the summer. We would have to agree: this is too narrow of a view of professional development. With an expanded array of science teacher professional development options, we can recognize how these values might be realized. Loucks-Horsley et al. (2003) identified 15 professional development strategies, but we are going to present just a handful as a way to broaden your notions of what is possible.
When we envision professional development as a means for improving teaching practices what makes more sense than learning by doing? Even though it might seem exciting to create new curriculum, in order to do this well a considerable amount of time must be invested in the
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process—and as you know, time is a very precious resource for teachers. Professional development involving the implementation of curriculum created by others not only makes effective use of a teacher’s time but also provides a rich opportunity for enhancing his or her professional practices. NSES Professional Development Standard D: Professional development for teachers of science requires building understanding and ability for lifelong learning. Professional development activities must provide opportunities to learn and use the skills of research to generate new knowledge about science and the teaching and learning of science. Being required to implement a new science curriculum should not be equated with professional development. When curriculum materials are used for the betterment of students’ science learning and when teachers have the support to extend themselves with new strategies, equipment, and activities, then genuine professional growth is possible. Ideally, the curriculum implementation will provide teachers with an opportunity to view their teaching and their students’ learning from a fresh vantage point. At the very least, curriculum implementation is a professional development approach that can expand an individual’s teaching repertoire. In many instances, the process has spillover effects into areas not necessarily tied to the curriculum. Ultimately, when curriculum implementation strengthens a teacher’s ability to advance the science learning of all of his or her students, then we must recognize the potential power of this professional development strategy.
Immersion in the World of Scientists
A second professional development strategy is another version of the “learning by doing” approach except this time the “doing” is of genuine science, not implementing curriculum. In this case, teachers actively work for an extended period of time with scientists. Preferably, teachers would serve as more than technicians within a laboratory setting and would be legitimately involved in scientific inquiry. Imagine the stories you could relate to your students after spending two weeks during the summer working side-by-side, in a lab or in a natural setting, with scientists who are using the same inquiry skills as you want your students to develop (Moss, Abrams, & Kull, 1998). A surprisingly large number of scientists are open to having teachers work with them. Sometimes there are formal projects for which a scientist received a grant with an outreach component. The National Science Foundation increasingly requires science researchers to connect with schools, teachers, and children. This doesn’t seem like a very novel idea to educators but many scientists are intrigued by outreach as a way to extend their usefulness. When funded by a grant, scientists often are able to provide teachers with a small stipend as well as materials for use in elementary and middle school classrooms. At the other extreme (that is, one in which the teacher pays for the opportunity) is a program called Earthwatch in which people sign on to a scientific expedition to help scientists collect, analyze, and interpret data. NSES Professional Development Standard D: Quality preservice and inservice programs are characterized by collaboration among the people involved in programs, including teachers, teacher educators, teacher unions, scientists, administrators, policy makers, members of professional and scientific organizations, parents, and
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business people, with clear respect for the perspectives and expertise of each. One drawback to this form of professional development is the tendency to leave it to the teachers to determine how to make connections between the science and the classroom. Scientists are usually willing to engage in conversations about the teaching implications, in large part because they are so curious about what is going on in schools. Despite this difficulty, a wellinformed teacher who can recognize the inquiry, nature of science, etc., within their work as proto-scientists will obtain a valuable resource to draw upon when teaching science to elementary and middle school students.
A study group is the most informal of professional development strategies because of the very loose structure. A study group consists of like-minded teachers who want to work together to improve their teaching (Carroll, 2002). Some study groups rely upon books or articles as the starting points for their conversations. The readings provide information that the teachers can use to discuss what is happening in their schools. Sometimes study groups focus on artifacts from their classrooms: copies of students’ work, videotapes of science lessons, or official reports from standardized testing. At its heart, the catalyst for the formation of study groups is the desire to become better science teachers. Referring back to the Concerns Based Adoption Model, this form of professional development may not be appropriate for everyone. Those individuals who have moved through the stages leading up to collaboration will find study groups a suitable profession development strategy. Some districts may attempt to initiate study groups, but successful ones can operate independent of formal oversight. The leadership of the group is distributed among the participants and there is usually very little in the way of monetary compensation. This eliminates those who might participate only because they will be paid. Only those who really want this form of professional development will participate. NSES Professional Development Standard D: Professional development for teachers of science requires building understanding and ability for lifelong learning. Professional development activities must provide frequent opportunities for individual and collegial examination and reflection on classroom and institutional practice. Study groups could be the equivalent of a book group on educational issues. Perhaps there’s a new book about teaching that you’d like to read and discuss with your colleagues. Or maybe you feel as if you need to devote time to reading an occasional research article but you don’t want to do it alone. Perhaps there’s a classic education text such as John Dewey’s Democracy and Education you never read during your college coursework and you want to explore it in the context of your own teaching along with a few other teachers. With the right combination of people who share a desire to learn more and can set aside time once a month to devote to deep conversation, study groups are legitimate and powerful ways to develop as a professional.
Examining Student Work
In the rush to grade and return students’ work, few practicing teachers have the time to carefully consider what it is that their students are producing. Because this is closest to the goal of professional development (i.e., improving students’ learning), meeting with other teachers to
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Flower Petal Stigma
Pistil Sepal Stamen
FIgure 15.1. Students were to choose the name of the part indicated by the arrow. The expected answer was “stigma,” which happens to be the top part of the pistil; “pistil” was considered a wrong answer.
discuss the significance of student work samples can be very powerful. These work samples can be formal assignments such as homework, activity record sheets, or results from an end-of-unit test. A great deal can also be learned from less formal work samples such as student drawings, excerpts from their science journals, or other materials they create related to science. According to Loucks-Horsley et al. (2003) there are two keys to this professional development strategy. One is providing enough time for the participants to reflect upon and discuss the work samples. Looking and really seeing what is included within students’ work can be very revealing, especially when they have provided something complex such as their understandings of the water cycle. Also, comparing different pieces of work takes time. You can notice features you might have missed if you were only using the work to determine a grade for an assignment. Neat work, upon careful inspection, may reveal some conceptual gaps. Likewise, work that may be smudged and messy could, when regarded more carefully, show genuine thoughtfulness by a child. But reaching this point requires the investment of time by a teacher. The second component of this professional development strategy is having the support of an outside expert: a local scientist, an assessment specialist, a bilingual expert, or a science educator. There are times when it is difficult to interpret the intentions of a child from what he or she has written. Therefore, having an experienced set of eyes can often be beneficial. For example, on an annual assessment in fifth grade science, a group of teachers was frustrated because their students were always making mistakes in labeling the parts of a flower (see Figure 15.1). An outside person with a science background noticed that even though the teachers were giving students the right name of the pistil, the test question was pointing to a specific part on the pistil. Understandably, the teachers were disgruntled. The test item seemed to be a trivia question, PLUS they had been teaching students the wrong information for a few years. By studying the work samples, they were able to uncover the cause of the problem.
Professional Development: Who’s in Charge?
You might be wondering who is in charge of the professional development of science teachers within a school district. Given all we’ve encountered within this text it seems these issues would be sufficiently important for a school district to invest a great deal of resources. Unfortu-
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nately, this is rarely the case. It seems only in larger school districts is there a person identified as the science coordinator. The responsibilities for everything related to science education in the district fall onto this individual’s desk: aligning curriculum with standards, analyzing test results, selecting instructional materials, hiring staff, and providing professional development. The pressures are immense and the resources are in short supply. It is an idealistic yet unrealistic expectation that your growth as a science teacher will be carefully monitored, charted, and structured based upon your individual needs. Whether this is appropriate or not isn’t really the issue. The simple fact is that teachers must take control over their professional development. Often this means taking advantage of opportunities that present themselves such as inservice workshops and graduate coursework. In order for you to take advantage of what’s available, you first need to be aware of what exists. In the next section we are going to provide suggestions about how to access the grapevine that can lead to valuable professional development events.
Professional Organizations and Publications
We wish there was a single resource we could point you toward that would provide loads of practical and substantive information, updated on a regular basis, describing how to effectively teach science to all types of students. However, teaching science in ways effective for diverse learners is not the central and sole concern of any one professional organization. Basically what you will need to do is just what we have been doing over the past several years: make your own connections between student diversity agendas and science education. This requires you to obtain information from sources such as professional magazines and conferences and then find ways to blend ideas and information in ways of your own devising. Imagine that you obtain insights about teaching a special segment of the school population and hold that knowledge in your left hand. Meanwhile, visualize holding in your right hand a science topic you are expected to teach to your students. Your task is to combine the contents held within your hands so it becomes seamlessly integrated and provides a quality learning experience for your students. The result can be quite a handful but this is our only option for now. Otherwise, we would let this opportunity slip through our fingers.
Science Education Resources
At the national level, the most prominent professional organization for those who teach science is the National Science Teachers Association or NSTA. This organization produces several glossy magazines helpful to those who teach science at any grade level. The magazines provide ideas about teaching strategies as well as reviews of books, software, and so on. In addition, NSTA produces a variety of books focused upon very specific science teaching topics. NSTA also holds a national conference each spring as well as regional conferences in three geographically dispersed locations each fall. Many states have active NSTA affiliates. While obviously not as large as the national organization, the state affiliates hold annual meetings allowing teachers within a state to gather for professional development purposes. Often a newsletter or Web site is produced for the members. By being smaller and closer to home, the state affiliates provide an important service that the gigantic national organization cannot. You are able to come into regular and ongoing contact with fellow teachers who are facing the same challenges you will experience. Perhaps an ideal combination would be to join the state affiliate for the personal contacts and the national organization to receive the magazine appropriate to your grade level as well as a substantial discount on books. © 2007 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
For Reflection and Discussion
How might becoming a member of NSTA as a student benefit you when you begin seeking your first teaching position? And how might the membership provide ongoing professional development during your first year? Even if you never attend a conference, there are professional development benefits to joining NSTA. The most obvious resource is the monthly magazine. Science & Children is written for those who teach science to students in grades K–6 while Science Scope is directed toward those who teach science at the middle school level. Some public libraries and most college libraries subscribe to these journals. An annual subscription is automatic with a membership. Make a visit to your university library to look at some of the other science education magazines that are available: Science Activities, School Science and Mathematics, along with younger audience versions of science magazines (e.g., National Geographic Kids). Many of these, even though geared toward children, can provide resource ideas for the beginning elementary or middle school science teacher. Organizations such as NSTA must cover a great deal of territory for their constituents. Science teachers are in need of a wide variety of information and the challenges of teaching diverse populations is just one of dozens of topics. Consequently, specific approaches for accommodating students with a variety of physical and cognitive abilities, let alone ethnic, culture, or language differences, are difficult to find within NSTA’s resources. But for general science teacher education information, there is nothing better than NSTA.
Resources for Science Content
There will undoubtedly be moments in your science teaching where you reach the limits of your scientific knowledge and you will feel the need to fix this deficiency. Where would you start? One place you might start would be a textbook. However, there are other options you might consider. For example, even though magazines such as Smithsonian or National Geographic cover a wide variety of topics, when they include an article on a science topic they can be very informative. For these magazines, you might search back issues to find information related to a particular science topic. Another readily available magazine is Science News, a weekly publication summarizing recent scientific discoveries. The articles are brief, usually less than five hundred words, and can provide you with the latest information about science. Many libraries subscribe to Science News. The Internet might seem like a good resource for science content but locating a particular piece of information may be time-consuming. We would suggest you begin with a site such as Yahooligans because the information is clearly indexed and the explanations are simple and accurate. The science portion of Yahooligans is constantly updated and often contains links to topics related to current events. One amazing resource to be accessed from this site is BrainPOP, a collection of short animations on specific science topics. For teachers and schools who wish to have complete access to the BrainPOP online video library, a subscription is now required. You can preview a few clips on an occasional basis at no charge. The graphics are very clean, the ideas are very concise, and the explanations are very simple.
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Physical Ability Education Resources
It will probably come as no surprise that the professional organizations focusing upon diversity are, well, exceedingly diverse. Put another way, compared to NSTA, there is no equivalent group that could serve as your single source of professional development information about diversity. Consequently, you will need to take charge of your own learning when it comes to diversity issues. Fortunately, there are many organizations and resources available—you just need to clarify the aspect of diversity that is most significant to you and relevant to your student population and then you will be well on your way. In terms of abilities, the range of student needs is immense. A student designated as having a cognitive disability may be in need of basic life skills training or may have problems deciphering text. In contrast, a physical disability may create mobility issues and require making accommodations for a wheelchair—which has little to do with the individual’s ability to learn science. While this may seem obvious, you might not find much specific to science teaching when you begin to consult diverse ability resources. Perhaps this is because it is improper to think of physical or cognitive ability as a general trait. When we can focus upon specific challenges such as visual impairments or attention deficits, then knowing how to blend effective science teaching with students of a variety of abilities becomes less fuzzy. Unfortunately the research in science education about teaching students with varied abilities is not especially informative. Too often the participants in a study are described as “learning disabled” without specifying the nature or extent of the disability. Further, the research on physical abilities (visual, auditory, mobility, etc.) is even harder to find. What information we can locate is encouraging. A recent report by the National Science Foundation indicates individuals with physical disabilities are proportionately well represented in scientific degree programs (NSF, 2004). This is significant because it reinforces the reasonableness of expecting students with a variety of physical abilities to be capable in science when teachers give proper attention and appropriate responses to their needs. In order to locate resources about diverse students, a Web search focused upon particular disabilities may prove fruitful. Combining “science learning” with “deaf” or “blind” or “wheelchair” within a search engine will provides links to research articles, policy reports, and commercial products. We have yet to find a regularly published magazine focusing upon physical abilities and science but there are many professional organizations dealing with disabilities that occasionally describe science within their publications. A word of caution: the authors of those articles may not always have a complete view of science and may not see science as more than a very traditional subject. This will require you to use what you understand about science as a culture, inquiry-based teaching, and the nature of science as a filter for these writings.
Social Justice and Science Education Resources
The goal of teaching science to all students has within it a commitment to equity. This translates into a desire to provide every student with access to and opportunities for learning science—without allowing prejudgments based upon their race, ethnicity, language, or any other external features to interfere. While inclusion is usually applied to special needs populations, our perspective and responsibilities expand when we think about a policy of non-exclusion. In other words, science teaching for all implies not only taking steps to ensure no child is excluded from receiving a high quality science education, but even goes so far as to suggest a teacher’s obligation to actively advocate for such.
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NSES Program Standard A: All students in the K–12 science program must have equitable access to opportunities to achieve the NSES. There are two major national organizations that hold tight to a belief in educational equity. Rethinking Schools and Teaching for Change each have Web sites addressing the issues of social justice. Social justice describes a dedication to overcoming inequities in education and often blurs the boundaries between teaching and activism. While newer teachers may not be prepared to fully commit to an ambitious agenda, these two organizations distribute resources helpful to teachers who work with diverse student populations, including reviews of children’s literature and connections to science teaching approaches and examples. There is no single source of information available to those who wish to continue to grow as professionals teaching science to all students. If you visit the National Association for Multicultural Education Web site there is very little you will find devoted to science teaching and learning. Likewise, a visit to the American Association for the Advancement of Science will lead to almost nothing about classroom-level social justice. We find this just as frustrating as you do. However this doesn’t prevent us from pushing ourselves to learn more and improve our practices so that we can become better at helping all of our students to learn more science. We also won’t apologize for these organizations and their inability to make the links between science and diversity. We do accept that we have a moral responsibility (McGinnis, 2002), to the students and to the community, to build our own understandings despite the limits of these organizations. Fortunately there are some guidelines we can follow to help chart our professional growth. In the next section we are going to draw from a few sources that can provide professional development roadmaps. Some sources provide a list of targeted competencies for teachers, while other sources supply detailed descriptions of a professional development trajectory. Together, this information can help identify those areas of your professional self upon which you will continue to work.
Qualities of Effective Science Teaching
As we think about participating in professional development we should target that collection of knowledge and skills that will increase our effectiveness in the classroom. First, we should make an effort to identify the qualities of effective science teaching. Following this, we should direct our attention to the particular issues of teaching so all students can achieve. An area to which we should pay special heed are the challenges English language learners face with becoming scientifically literate. A very simple question such as “What happens in a classroom where effective science teaching is taking place?” is not easy to answer. The challenges of teaching science in ways supportive of all students’ science learning are difficult to reduce to a straightforward list. But Russ Tytler (2003) has generated such a list from his work with other researchers as well as classroom teachers. This list is so powerful that we’ve included it here in its entirety. The first two items in his list describe science learning as an activity in which students participate—not as a subject unloaded onto them. Within these two we can detect ideas appearing throughout this book. We find it interesting that he doesn’t mention process skills or inquiry or the learning cycle in this list—and yet it should be evident to you how these familiar ideas intersect with the qualities he is describing.
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The next pair of qualities in Tytler’s list aligns with our “science for all” theme. It appears that issues of student diversity and educational equity are embedded within items three and four. Connecting with students’ experiences and ambitions is consistent with all we’ve discussed up until this point. Within item five we find support for our suggestion for using assessment to not just determine students’ grades, but to allow us to influence our decision making as teachers. Similarly, the remaining three items describe orientations to science teaching we have presented to you: making nature of science an important theme, ensuring that what is learned in the classroom is related to what happens in the students’ outside world, and relying upon computer technology for its potential to assist students’ science learning. Qualities of effective Science Teaching and learning 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. Students are encouraged to actively engage with ideas and evidence. Students are challenged to develop meaningful understandings. Science is linked with students’ lives and interests. Students’ individual learning needs and preferences are catered to. Assessment is embedded within the science learning strategy. The nature of science is represented in its different aspects. The classroom is linked with the broader community. Learning technologies are exploited for their learning potentialities. (Tytler, 2003, p. 285) All in all, this list covers much of the same territory we’ve been discussing from early on in this book. Guidelines such as this one can serve as reminders for us about what is most important within science teaching, and this can help to re-orient us whenever we become too overwhelmed by all we feel we must face as teachers of science. Guidelines focusing upon students who are learning English can provide similar support to us.
Preparing teachers is a process that’s undergone dramatic changes over the past century. At one time, districts prepared their own teachers using programs called normal schools. Then, over time, these responsibilities were shifted to colleges and universities. Currently, many teacher education programs are “alternative” in that they operate outside established campus boundaries. Despite all of this, there is still considerable uncertainty about how to help people begin in the right direction as they prepare to become teachers. So, in response to the question, “How practical is it to expect people to learn how to become teachers by attending college?” we should consider two diametrically opposed perspectives. Preservice Teacher Education Is Like Learning to Swim on the Bank Nancy Davis Science Teacher Educator at Florida State University and Former High School Chemistry Teacher The way I see it undergraduate teacher education has little practical value to prospective teachers unless they take it upon themselves to get out into the current cultures of schools or other teaching and learning situations. Prospective teacher preparation is such a chal-
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lenge because most students do not have experience of understanding of what schools and students are like. Sure, they remember their own recent experiences in school, but they were most likely a part of an elite group of students (those who graduate, continue their education, take higher level science, and are successful at each). For the most part they had little contact with students like the ones they will encounter as teachers. Nor have they had experiences working within a public school system that is increasingly bound by standards and testing. Because of this, I liken most undergraduate teacher education programs to teaching people to swim on the bank. We can explain to them all the theories related to learning (or, in swimming, the theories of density and buoyancy), we can have them watch films of exemplary teachers (clips of great swimmers), we can even have them practice through micro teaching and peer teaching experiences (practicing the strokes on the bank). We can provide them opportunities to learn the standards and to discuss the qualities needed to teach (swim). However, teaching, like swimming, makes little sense until the individual is in a classroom (in the water). It is only then that a prospective teacher can learn to use his or her personality and preferences (body and strokes) to create learning opportunities (float and swim). Internships allow for practice in a safe context with a more experienced teacher there to rescue them if they mess up (swimming in a shallow pool with a lifeguard watching). Internships come closer to actually preparing the novice to teach (swim) than any previous educational activities—but is the novice prepared to swim in open water and sometimes in a raging current (as beginning teachers are often assigned the most difficult classes to teach)? Preservice Teacher Education as a Key Aspect of New Teacher Professional Development Leigh Smith Science Teacher Educator at Brigham Young University and Former 6th Grade Teacher As I work and learn with those who intend to be classroom teachers, I am frequently reminded that teaching and learning to teach is complex. It is a process that is influenced by a myriad of experiences, conditions, and circumstances. However, I am increasingly convinced that preservice teacher education is one of many learning experiences that have the potential to positively shape the development of thoughtful and effective teachers. In fact, I see preservice teacher education as a key aspect of new teacher professional development for several reasons. First, I understand that all teacher candidates enter their teacher preparation programs with differing experiences, beliefs, and inclinations toward teaching and learning science. Naturally, these personal perspectives shape the way novice teachers think about curriculum and instruction. However, as teacher candidates are encouraged to explore and critique their own science-related experiences—not only those that have occurred within formal teaching/learning contexts, but also those that have taken place in less structured experiences within the contexts of their daily lives—they are likely to begin to reconsider the way they think about science instruction. Too, teacher education programs often provide learning experiences that model alternative ways of teaching or introduce challenges that prospective teachers are likely to face in the classroom. These incidences also have the potential
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to test preconceived notions of appropriate instructional practices, offering new ways of considering what it means to teach and to learn science. University courses (content-centered, foundations, and methods) and field experiences (the practicum, student teaching, and internships) also offer novice teachers formally mentored teaching and learning experiences. Such learning experiences guide and support early attempts to understand and practice the craft of teaching in an environment that is relatively sheltered. Although refinement of their craft comes as individuals have the chance to gain actual classroom experience, teacher candidates have the opportunity to observe and interact with more experienced and more knowledgeable others during their teacher preparation programs. Even more importantly, new ideas and new practices can be tried in a supportive environment, where candidates gradually assume responsibility for the teaching and learning of others. Finally, there are methods and strategies for teaching science that work. I believe that it would be irresponsible to send prospective teachers into the classroom without some knowledge and understanding of these methodologies. It would be equally foolish to expect novice teachers to be able to implement these instructional practices without some supervised practice. Certainly, like learning to swim, where individuals are able to swim better and more quickly if they are given some instruction and guidance about what works and what doesn’t, learning to teach science requires prerequisite knowledge and understanding about both content and pedagogy. Still, completion of a teacher preparation program and teacher certification signals only the beginning of teacher education, not its ending. Preservice teacher preparation programs should prepare prospective teachers to become what Dewey (1904) referred to as “students of teaching,” or those who are prepared to learn from teaching over the course of a lifetime through reflection and on the basis of deep knowledge of the foundations of education. My hope is that teacher education can foster this kind of thinking about teaching.
Principles for Teaching LEP Students
At George Washington University a group of educators developed a list of guiding principles for teaching students with limited English proficiency (LEP). The Center for Excellence and Equity in Education are quite clear about the need to provide much more than just basic skills to students who are in the process of developing fluency in English. From this list we are reminded of the need to teach science at a developmentally appropriate level to all students. The alternative claim we sometimes hear about students supposedly needing to learn English before being taught academic material is completely undone by these guiding principles. Principles of effective Practice for limited english Proficient (leP) Students LEP students are held to the same high expectations of learning established for all students. LEP students develop full receptive and productive proficiencies in English in the domains of listening, speaking, reading, and writing, consistent with expectations for all students. LEP students are taught challenging content to enable them to meet performance standards in all content areas, including reading and language arts, mathematics, social studies, science, and the fine arts. LEP students receive instruction that builds on their previous education and cognitive abilities and that reflects their language proficiency levels.
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LEP students are evaluated with appropriate and valid assessments that are aligned to state and local standards and that take into account the language acquisition stages and cultural background of the students. The academic success of LEP students is a responsibility shared by all educators, the family, and the community. National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition, 1986 You might notice similarities between this list and the one developed by Tytler. In both, teaching should build upon students’ prior knowledge, the material to be learned needs to be challenging for the students, the assessments are to be used in appropriate ways to improve teaching and learning, and the responsibilities for learning are distributed among the school and the families. Once again we recognize parallels between the principles these educators advocate and the ideas we’ve been presenting to you in this text. However, neither list, independent of their clarity and conciseness, actually describes how such ambitions would be put into action. While it may be comforting to not be commanded to teach in a particular way, it feels as if the ambitions are too broad and the ways in which these goals are to be realized seem too vague. The authors of these two lists have been quite descriptive but insufficiently instructive. In other words, if we buy in to these principles then what steps might a teacher take to accomplish them? In the following section we draw from three resources which provide a clearer sense about how we can grow as professionals.
Standards as Guides for Professional Growth
Three different sources describing professional growth for science teachers all do so through the use of rubrics. First, we present the NSTA’s standards for science teachers which distinguishes three levels of competency: Preservice, Induction, and Professional. These three levels chart how a teacher could progress over several years into becoming a professional. Another set of standards known as Praxis III uses a rubric format to represent levels of performance, but this time with four levels: Unsatisfactory, Basic, Proficient, and Distinguished. Although not specific to science teaching, this does provide another framework for describing professional advancement. The final framework we will draw upon is the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.
NSTA Standards for Educating Teachers
The push for standards within the current accountability climate extends beyond identifying target knowledge and skills for students. Various organizations have created lists of standards to apply to teachers, and we begin with the standards created by and for the National Science Teachers Association. The official document “Standards for the Education of Teachers of Science” contains ten categories. We’ve selected two to illustrate the breadth of professional growth expected for highly qualified teachers of science. For those who are prepared to take control of their professional development, the NSTA standards for science teachers supply the raw material you need for creating a plan for yourself. The entire document can be accessed from the NSTA Web site [www.nsta.org]. One NSTA standard addresses the learning environment. Briefly, this describes how a teacher can (and should) establish and maintain a classroom climate that supports the intellectual, emotional, and physical dimensions of learning, including particular attention toward safety issues. Table 15.3 lists four elements of the learning environment along the left side and the increasing
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Table 15.3 The element Physical spaces within which learning of science occurs
Environment for Learning: NSTA Science Teacher Standards Preservice Induction Professional Identifies and promotes Creates a classroom Provides many the elements of an that reflects a opportunities for exciting and commitment to students to engage in stimulating science science inquiry and inquiry in a variety of learning environment; learning, and gives ways, through plans and develops students the learning centers, opportunities for opportunity to learn exhibits, printed students to learn from on their own. materials, displays, resources, events, and posters, aquariums, displays in the terrariums, etc. environment. Psychological and Understands and sets Exercises safe Systematically ensures social up procedures for safe practices in classroom safety in all areas and environment of handling, labeling, and and storage areas, takes whatever steps the student storage of chemicals, and demonstrates are necessary to engaged in electrical equipment, that safety is a priority ensure that the school learning science and knows actions to in science and other science program is conducted safely. take to prevent or activities; can take report an emergency. appropriate action in an emergency. Safety in all areas Understands liability Takes action to prevent Stays informed of related to science and negligence, hazards and potential hazards and instruction especially as applied communicates needs legal concerns and to science teaching and potential communicates with and can take action to problems to other teachers to administrators. prevent potential maintain a school problems. environment free of potential problems. Treatment and Knows the standards Adheres to the (Same standard ethical use of and recommendations standards of the as previous level) living organisms of the science science education education community community for ethical for the safe and care and use of ethical use and care of animals; uses animals for science preserved or live instruction. animals appropriately in keeping with the age of students and the need for such materials.
levels of performance as one moves from left to right. At this stage in your teaching career it would be reasonable to expect you to be working within the Preservice column. These are standards which you should have been developing during your coursework and field experiences. It would be appropriate to anticipate possessing the knowledge in the Preservice column by the conclusion of your student teaching. This framework for the learning environment identifies the knowledge and skills to develop during your first few years in the classroom. These are described within the Induction column—the shift between columns parallels the transition that you will make toward becoming an increasingly professional teacher. For instance, the differences between the Preservice and
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Induction levels are a matter of moving from knowing to acting. At the Preservice level, it is sufficient to know about safety procedures, liability issues, and ethical standards for using animals. In contrast, the Induction level describes a teacher who acts appropriately given this knowledge. Movement into the Professional level is a more long-term challenge, and it might be several years before someone is operating at this level. Being able to perform as described would create a classroom favorable to science learning and physical safety. The other NSTA Science Teacher Standard we will examine (see Table 15.4) addresses the social contexts of science teaching and learning. Three elements were identified within this standard: the community as a resource, relating science learning to community concerns, and involving the community in science education efforts. As with the preceding standard, the NSTA describes levels of performance ranging from Preservice to Professional. Once again, the knowledge a novice should possess serves as background information. As an individual matures within the profession, his or her knowledge is translated into actions. The interrelationships between the school and the community involve the two-way transmission of information and resources with shared involvement in the science education of elementary and middle school students. You shouldn’t feel discouraged by the demands identified at the Professional level. As a beginning teacher you are expected to function at the Preservice level, while keeping an eye on the next highest level. Becoming an excellent science teacher to all students is not an easy process. This framework maps the steps along the way. In terms of creating a community support network, the first element within this standard, you should be developing a list of people and institutions who could serve as potential resources for your science teaching efforts. The idea is for you to regard local community members as experts and not always expect that the best resources must be drawn from outside the school’s immediate community. During your first few years of teaching, you are to actualize your plans for integrating community experts into your science teaching. The Induction level indicates the expectation for individuals and organizations drawn from the community to become a part of science teaching. When you reach the Professional level you will not only have a list of a few people or institutions you use to supplement your science teaching but an active network of resources from which you can regularly expect and receive assistance with enhancing your students’ science learning experiences. In our opinion, the second element within the social context for science is somewhat confusing. While we understand that “data” doesn’t necessarily refer to numbers, we know that reducing the complexities of a community to quantitative observations might seem cold and clinical. But when we mentally swap “information” for “data” in the second element, a much more caring disposition toward families and the community shines through. At the Preservice level it is sufficient to develop plans for obtaining information about the community to connect to science lessons. This could include references to parks, playgrounds, churches, businesses, and other distinctive features of the neighborhood in which the school is situated. Upon entering the Induction level, these plans are actually implemented, and at the Professional level, the teachers’ knowledge about the students, the neighborhood, and the associated funds of knowledge are regularly, thoughtfully, and naturally folded into the planning and implementation of science lessons and units. The third and final element of this standard relies upon creating communication networks between the school and the families it serves. Again, the Preservice level expectation involves generating plans for such efforts, while the Induction level pushes the teacher to implement the plans. For those teachers able to reach the Professional level, the relationship with families is mutually supportive as the families become supportive of the science program—they become genuine partners in sustaining the teacher’s science instruction efforts.
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Table 15.4 element
Social Context for Science: NSTA Science Teacher Standards Preservice Induction Professional
Identifies people and Involves members and Develops a network of institutions in the institutions of the community members community who are community with and institutions to call willing to assist in appropriate expertise upon to help in teaching certain or relevance in science instruction. topics, and plans for science instruction. their involvement in teaching. Relationship of Uses data about a Collects data about the Regularly uses science teaching community, its culture community, its information about the and learning to and its resources to resources, and the community, its the needs and plan science lessons students and resources, and the values of the that are appropriate experiments with students to plan community for, and relevant to, ways to use those relevant and students from that data to plan science appropriate science community. lessons that are most instruction. appropriate for those students. Involvement of Plans activities that Selects or designs Designs and employs a people and involve families in the activities to involve range of activities to institutions from science teaching/ family members in the cultivate a relationship the community in learning process and teaching and learning with families in the teaching of communicates of science, and support of science instruction. science effectively with communicates families of students. systematically and effectively with parents or guardians.
Social and community support network within which occur science teaching and learning
Another Framework: Praxis III
In the preceding section we introduced the idea of using professional standards as tools for guiding your professional development. We drew upon select standards proposed by the National Science Teachers Association. As strongly as we feel the NSTA standards can be, it is not clear these are becoming routinely implemented in elementary and middle school classrooms across the nation. What seems more likely is that Praxis III guidelines will be used to guide and evaluate teachers during their initial years as full-time teachers. You may have encountered Praxis I and Praxis II, but if not, here’s a quick summary. Praxis I is a test of general knowledge (similar to the SAT or ACT) that many teacher education programs use as an admission requirement. Praxis II is increasingly selected by states as a test for deciding who should receive a teaching credential. Praxis II is more than a single test; it consists of subject matter tests as well as pedagogy tests. Praxis I is entirely multiple choice while Praxis II contains some essay items. Those who might complain that a standardized test cannot really measure someone’s ability to teach and would claim the only accurate and valid measure would be observing someone in a classroom might be surprised to learn of Praxis III’s existence. There is no written test associated with Praxis III—it is based upon detailed examination of an individual’s planning, implementation, and reflecting upon a lesson in an actual classroom. Even though Praxis III is not specific to teaching science, we remain impressed by its thoroughness. Similar to the NSTA Science Teaching Standards, Praxis III uses a rubric format
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describing a range of performance levels across many features of teaching. Praxis III groups teaching into four domains: Planning and Preparation, The Classroom Environment, Instruction, and Professional Responsibilities (Danielson, 1996). Within each domain there are several components which are subsequently subdivided into two or more elements. By way of illustration, there are six components within the Planning and Preparation domain: Demonstrating Knowledge of Content and Pedagogy Demonstrating Knowledge of Students Selecting Instructional Goals Demonstrating Knowledge of Resources Designing Coherent Instruction Assessing Student Learning Within each of the components are two to five elements. Under the second component from the above list are four elements addressing knowledge of characteristics of the age group, students’ varied approaches to learning, students’ skills and knowledge, and students’ interests and cultural heritage. To reinforce the extensiveness of the Praxis III framework there is also a description of a range of performance for each element. In Table 15.5 we show an example from the Instruction Domain which the Praxis developers call “Using questioning and Discussion Techniques.” This skill is subdivided into three elements. To be accurate, the Praxis III framework includes a fourth level of performance called “unsatisfactory” which falls below Basic—since this level describes behaviors a teacher should not do, we didn’t feel they belonged here. We trust that you have noted the similarities between this Praxis III framework and the NSTA teaching standards we’ve already examined. For one thing, even though the headings for the columns are different, the intent is very similar. As we move across an element from left to right we have access to the thoughts and actions of an increasingly sophisticated teacher. The process of moving rightwards across these columns suggests changes occurring over several years within the classroom. One remarkable aspect of the Praxis
Table 15.5 Sample Praxis III Framework: Using Questioning and Discussion Techniques Proficient Distinguished element basic Quality of Teacher’s questions are a Most of teacher’s Teacher’s questions are Questions combination of low and questions are of high of uniformly high quality, high quality. Only some quality. Adequate time with adequate time for invite response. is available for students students to respond. to respond. Students formulate many questions. Discussion Teacher makes some Classroom interaction Students assume Techniques attempt to engage represents true considerable students in a true discussion, with teacher responsibility for the discussion with uneven stepping, when success of the results. appropriate, to the side. discussion, initiating topics and making unsolicited contributions. Student Teacher attempts to Teacher successfully Students themselves Participation engage all students in engages all students in ensure that all voices the discussion, but with the discussion. are heard in the only limited success. discussion.
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III framework is the developers’ success at dividing the complexities of teaching into manageable pieces we can use to examine and refine teaching practice. Returning to a themes presented earlier in this chapter, we view the Praxis III framework from a somewhat hopeful perspective. Admittedly, as with almost any form of assessment, there is the potential for misuse of Praxis III by policymakers and administrative decisionmakers. But when we recognize that (1) learning to teach requires continual refinement and (2) individuals must assume responsibility for the direction of their professional development, we find utility in Praxis III. Instead of simply being told we need to improve our use of questions and discussions within our teaching, Praxis III provides us with a framework for guiding our improvements. While you are enrolled within your teacher preparation program, the Praxis III framework describes your transition from Basic to Proficient along a wide range of teaching behaviors. The Distinguished level identifies an exemplary level of teaching performance which can only be accomplished through multiple years of practice and a concerted emphasis upon self-improvement. In Table 15.6 we provide sample elements from two Praxis III domains. We can imagine how aspiring teachers might respond to these, especially when gazing upon the Distinguished level of performance. One response might be a sense of being overwhelmed as an individual wonders how anyone might reach this level. Another response might be resentment where an individual feels it is unrealistic and outrageous to expect any mortal to become so skilled. But the third response, and the one we advocate, is an appreciation of a plan for guiding efforts for self-improvement as a teacher. You might see yourself—past, present and future—in this framework. For most of us, the first experiences in the classroom in a teaching capacity are overwhelming. Over time, as our personal style develops and we establish a routine for procedures, we move beyond coping and surviving. Within the context of teaching, the move from Basic to Proficient is related to the importance of content (the first row in the framework above). Here, “proficiency” describes a certain level of confidence, poise, and conviction not usually apparent
Table 15.6 Praxis III. Planning, Preparation, and the Professional Responsibilities Domains Proficient Distinguished element basic Establishing a Teacher communicates Teacher conveys Students Culture of importance of the work genuine enthusiasm for demonstrate Learning: but with little conviction the subject, and through their active Importance of and only minimal students demonstrate participation, the Content apparent buy-in by the consistent commitment curiosity, and students. to its value. attention to detail that they value the content’s importance. Growing and Teacher participates in Teacher seeks out Teacher seeks out Developing professional activities opportunities for opportunities for Professionally: to a limited extent when professional professional Enhancing they are convenient. development to development and Professional enhance content makes a systematic Knowledge knowledge and attempt to conduct pedagogical skill. action research in the classroom.
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during the initial phases of learning to teach. Similarly, as teachers advance in terms of professional development (second row), development becomes less of something to participate in and is replaced by those responsibilities they take control of through their own initiatives. If not by the end of student teaching, then within the first few years as a full-time teacher, we would expect someone to be functioning at the Proficient level. In case someone worries about peaking too early in his or her career, the Distinguished level describes a considerably higher standard. While this is clearly an ambitious level to achieve, it provides clarity where there might otherwise be vague suggestions.
For Reflection and Discussion
If you were interested in reaching the Distinguished level as a classroom teacher, what information sources and other types of support would you require in order to attain that level?
A Third Framework: NBPTS
The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) is the most extensive, demanding, and prestigious teaching credential available, moving admirably beyond the NSTA and the Praxis III frameworks (see Figure 15.2). As with Praxis III, the NBPTS is an evaluation design and not simply a list of guidelines such as NSTA has created. Unlike Praxis III the pursuit of NBPTS is something individuals can volunteer to chase. Just as with the NSTA standards, NBPTS focuses upon specific subject areas, even going so far as to specify particular age ranges. Specific to science are NBPTS criteria falling into early childhood (ages 3–8), early adolescence (ages 11–15), and adolescence and young adult (ages 14–19+). Also, NBPTS emphasizes actual teaching practice and not only performance on a standardized test. Rather than requiring firsthand visits to a classroom during a lesson (which is what Praxis III requires), the NBPTS evaluates a teacher based upon videotapes of his or her classroom. The NBPTS (2004) is based upon five core propositions: Teachers are committed to students and their learning. Teachers know the subjects they teach and how to teach those subjects to students. Teachers are responsible for managing and monitoring student learning. Teachers think systematically about their practice and learn from experience Teachers are members of learning communities.
FIgure 15.2 Teachers earning NBPTS certificates nationwide.
1993- 1994- 1995- 1996- 1997- 1998- 1999- 2000- 2001- 2002- 20031994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
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From an almost deceptively simple list this organization has developed an extensive program for fostering the professional development of teachers. We are providing some of this information here simply to make you aware of the NBPTS and to suggest you consider it as another resource for charting your continued professional development. The Early Adolescence Science Certificate is an example of what is required to obtain National Board Certification. The first portion is a professional portfolio and consists of: designing science instruction, probing student understanding, inquiry through investigation, and contributions to student learning. These roughly correspond to the Praxis III frameworks. However, the documentation in each of these areas requires several months; the second and third entries require a videotape of your classroom. In addition, extensive written narratives by the teacher are included with the portfolio entries. Furthermore, the second phase of NBPTS requires the candidate to take a written test demonstrating mastery of science content and pedagogy. It is little wonder that those who hold National Board Certification are sometimes seen as a rare and elite group within the teaching profession. Because a National Board Certificate carries so much weight, many states build salary bonuses into teacher contracts.
Dewey (1938) wrote: “The most important desire that can be formed is that of desire to go on learning” (p. 48), which is an idea that applies as much to teachers as to science learners. For Dewey, this desire to learn would be satisfied as an individual continuously became immersed in powerful experiences, and we recognize that experiences working with a variety of students within the context of helping them to learn science is very potent. We would also add that positive experiences might not be the only way to improve one’s effectiveness as a teacher. An activity that fails to generate enthusiasm, a discussion which falls short of your expectations, or a unit that excites only a subset of the students are all painful. But in going through such travails we can appreciate what we need to do to avoid such disasters in the future. Therefore, we can grow as science teaching professionals even when things aren’t perfect. As you imagine yourself growing as a professional, you might reasonably expect that your effectiveness will improve as you acquire new strategies. Early in your career you will have a limited array of techniques you can draw upon. Over time, by creating your own style and through conversations with other teachers, your skimpy supply of ideas will increase. Veteran teachers will, quite literally, have file cabinets that are overflowing with activity sheets, assessments tools, and other resources they tried and saved over the years. A new teacher can only hope that he or she will someday have an equally helpful accumulation of such materials. However, there is more to becoming a professional teacher than finding ways to store all the wondrous ideas that you find and/or create. Recently it has been suggested that to develop as a teacher represents potential progress in two dimensions. One dimension is as we’ve already been describing: the accumulation of materials as well as progressively richer supply of teaching strategies. The other dimension represents a teacher’s “embodied understandings” about their teaching (Dall’Alba & Sandberg, 2006). Consequently, to grow as a professional requires a trajectory that is more complex than one might otherwise imagine. The diagram below is meant to represent these two dimensions of professional growth. The horizontal axis shows the accumulation of information while the vertical axis depicts the increase in the richness of understandings. The two arrows show contrasting professional trajectories. The one which begins at the diamond represents the teacher who continually squirrels away more materials and techniques. Such teachers can be seen at professional conferences carrying tote bags that are full of posters, gadgets, and booklets. Since such hoarding may not represent any increase in understandings, the trajectory of this teacher stereotype is a horizontal line. © 2007 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
In contrast, a teacher can develop professionally by initially increasing his or her meager supply of teaching skills. But, as the arrowed line starting with the circle represents, the collecting process is accompanied by an increase in the understandings of teaching and learning. Over time, this teaching professional spends less energy on finding new stuff and instead invests attention in becoming wiser. When represented in this fashion, the maturation of a teacher can take different trajectories. If it is flat, this signifies little improvement in understandings of the larger issues in favor of building up one’s stock of materials. In contrast, and here our bias is probably clear, the change along both dimensions can be regarded as transformative. The increase in skill is accompanied by a deeper understanding of the purposes for which these skills can be put to use. Increased teaching skills are important but the professional teacher seeks avenues for growing along other dimensions as well. It has been suggested to us that the professional development of teachers is similar to the Twelve Labors of Hercules (as Romans spelled his name) or Herakles (according to the Greeks). In this epic tale, Hercules was assigned a dozen monumental tasks by one of the gods. These “labors” required a combination of great strength, cunning, and even the occasional assistance of his companion. First, he had to kill a mighty lion but, upon finding his arsenal of weapons to be of no use, he ended up strangling the beast with his bare hands. Later, he captured a golden antlered deer without killing it, cleaned the world’s largest barn of its manure in a single day, and rode a massive bull that ended up running across the sea’s surface. The phrase “Herculean task” signifies more than brute strength. In facing his monsters, Hercules depended upon a combination of weapons as well as ingenuity. The challenges stood before him and he had to puzzle through a solution. His final reward was to be released from his obligations—and yet he had many more battles to face throughout his lifetime. By now you may realize the connections between Hercules’ labors and the challenges you will face as a teacher. We propose that you envision professional development as a source of courage to face your labors. The professional development opportunities that you seek out will enhance your knowledge, skill, and commitments. Combined with your stamina, determination, and compassion, you can become a Hercules in terms of teaching science to all students.
◾ Learning to teach has been described as movement through stages of concern where a person first focuses upon implications affecting them personally but then gradually expands their concerns to the task and finally to the impact of their efforts. ◾ As with the use of cooperative learning with students, teacher professional development is now being seen as something that best occurs within a social network and not through disconnected and isolated experiences. ◾ Becoming a better teachers can occur when groups of like-minded individuals band together. However, the teaching profession has traditionally resisted genuine collaborations among teachers and the ideal of joint work is one we find only occasionally. For those who are willing to take the initiative, a path of professional development is largely within the individual’s control. ◾ The conscientious professional will continually seek ways to improve his or her knowledge and practice. Fortunately there is a wide variety of professional development extending beyond workshops or graduate coursework. The very best professional development will enhance a teacher’s pedagogical content knowledge which can in turn support the central purpose of professional development: improving the science learning of all students.
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◾ Various professional organizations have proposed guidelines and frameworks providing greater specificity to professional growth. The NSTA Standards for Teaching, the Praxis III frameworks, and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards have created ambitious materials which chart possible routes to science teaching excellence.
Concerns Based Adoption Model (CBAM): provides a framework for thinking about and planning for changes associated with adopting any innovation. Joint work: collaboration between teachers characterized by interdependence, support for initiative, and a collective sense of professional support. Limited English proficiency (LEP) students: those students that are in the process of developing fluency in English but who are in need of much more than just basic, foundation skills. Outreach: activities undertaken by scientists in which connections are made with local teachers, students, and schools. Pedagogical content knowledge (PCK): knowledge about how to teach specific ideas to children, typically this is more specialized and more powerful than knowledge of generalized teaching strategies. Student work sample: a systematic analysis, often done in groups of teachers, of some aspect of student work to determine what students are learning and the implications for instruction.
A Favorite Science Lesson
For students in grades 5 and 6 the FOSS Mixtures and Solutions unit provides direct experiences with many ideas that are central to a more abstract understanding of chemistry. The “Separating a Dry Mixture” activity gives students a challenge that they are able to conquer only through the thoughtful application of skills and ideas developed in preceding lessons. The teacher provides students with a mixture of gravel, powder, and salt with the task of separating the materials so each is in its own container. Underlying this task is the goal of reinforcing students’ recognition of properties as well as using this information to design a workable procedure. Adding water to the mixture allows the salt to go into solution. The slurry is passed through filter paper and the water evaporates to allow the recovery of the salt. Meanwhile, a fine screen is used to separate the insoluble powder from the gravel pieces. These techniques and associated understandings continue to be strengthened throughout the subsequent challenges provided in this unit.
Barrett, M. (2004). Bushwhacking for bones. Science Scope, 27(5), 38–39. As an example of a unique professional development opportunity, this teacher describes her participation in an Earthwatch expedition. For one week, she backpacked through the rough backcountry of Isle Royale National Park collecting moose skeletons as part of an ongoing predator/prey study. Malone, L., Long, K., & De Lucchi, L. (2004). All things in moderation. Science and Children, 41(5), 30–34. The developers of the FOSS curriculum program describe an innovative professional development program involving teachers looking at student work. This effort represents a version of the study group model but does so with an emphasis upon analyzing students’ learning by examining work samples.
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Bullough, R.V., Young, J. & Draper, R.J. (2004). One-year teaching internships and the dimensions of beginning teacher development. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 10, 365–394. Carroll, D.M. (2002). Making sense of collaborative learning in a mentor teacher study group: Examining the joint construction and collective warranting of ideas. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans, LA, April 1–5. ERIC Document No. 477734. Dall’Alba, G. & Sandberg, J. (2006). Unveiling professional development: A critical review of stage models. Review of Educational Research, 76, 383–412. Danielson, C. (1996). Enhancing professional practice: A framework for teaching. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Dewey, J. (1904). The relation of theory to practice in education. In The Third National Society of the Study of Education Yearbook. ed. C.A. McMurray. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and education. New York: Collier Books. Fuller, F.F. (1969). Concerns of teachers: A developmental conceptualization. Teachers College Record, 6, 207–216. Harris, A. (2003). Behind the classroom door: The challenge of organizational and pedagogical change. Journal of Educational Change, 4, 369–382. Hord, S.M., Rutherford, W.L., Huling-Austin, L., & Hall, G.E. (1987). Taking charge of change. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Horsley, D.L. & Loucks-Horsley, S. (1998). CBAM brings order to the tornado of change. Journal of Staff Development, 17–20. Little, J.W. (1990). The persistence of privacy: Autonomy and initiative in teachers’ professional relations. Teachers College Record, 91, 509–536. Loucks-Horsley, S., Love, N., Stiles, K.E., Mundry, S., & Hewson, P.W. (2003). Designing professional development for teachers of science and mathematics. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press. McGinnis, J.R. (2002). Preparing prospective teachers to teach students with developmental delays in science: A moral perspective. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the National Association for Research in Science teaching, New Orleans, April 6–10. Moss, D.M., Abrams, E.D., & Kull, J.A. (1998). Can we be scientists too? Secondary students’ perceptions of scientific research from a project-based classroom. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 7(2), 149–161. National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. (2004). Early adolescence science scoring guide. Arlington, VA: Author. National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition & Language Instruction Educational Programs (1986). In the classroom: A toolkit for effective instruction of English learners. Washington, DC: Center for Equity and Excellence in Education. National Science Foundation. (2004) Women, minorities, and persons with disabilities in science and engineering. Arlington, VA: Author. [NSF Document No. 04-317]. Shulman, L. S. (1986). Those who understand: Knowledge growth in teaching. Educational Researcher, 15(2), 4–14 Tytler, R. (2003). A window for a purpose: Developing a framework for describing effective science teaching and learning. Research in Science Education, 33, 273–298. Wagner, T. (2005). The buddy system. Teacher Magazine, 16(4), 34–36.
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