Where Have All The Science Teacher Candidates Gone?

It is a scenario that has played out many times in many different ways over the last year or two. A phone call from a science supervisor in a surrounding county. An email from a principal. A discussion with a department chair while observing a student teacher. A former student sending a text message. An increasingly familiar question is often asked of us. Do you have any science education majors who will be graduating soon? Our answer has increasingly been that we do not have many science education students graduating and certainly not enough to fill all of the vacancies indicated by the number of requests we receive.

We know we are not alone and our institution is not the only one experiencing an enrollment decline in teacher education programs. Recent data shows enrollments in teacher education programs across the nation dropped from 691,000 to 451,000, a 35% reduction between 2009 and 2014 (Sutcher, Darling-Hammond, & Carver-Thomas, 2016). The number of both bachelor’s and master’s degrees awarded in education has declined while the number in all fields has increased (Will, 2018). Only 2% of aspiring teachers are science education majors (Will, 2018).

The purpose of this editorial is not to explore the reasons for the decline in teacher education programs or to share our thoughts on what can be done to recruit and retain science education majors. Rather, we know many of you are working towards the same goal and many of you have made advances in your efforts. Whether these advances have come from individual efforts, departmental efforts, or university-wide efforts we know that many of our colleagues are engaged in fruitful work. Some of that work has been funded by internal or external sources and some of that work has not.

The times are changing and for many reasons the number of students attracted to science education majors is declining across the nation. To address this decline, innovative strategies and programs are needed that are aligned to the current political, economic, technologic, and social climate. More than ever before, your colleagues may be interested in hearing the work that you have been doing to address declining enrollment.

We are writing this editorial to request that those working to attract more students to science teacher education programs consider sharing your innovative work and lessons learned along the way. Innovations in Science Teacher Education provides an outlet for compiling strategies for recruiting and retaining science education majors across disciplines. Some science disciplines have a more developed history of successfully recruiting and retaining majors, most notably physics education. The PhysTEC program, funded by NSF, has a very successful history of increasing the number of physics teachers and have reported on their successes (Sandifer & Brewe, 2015). Many of the successes of the PhysTEC program can be implemented with other science disciplines, but those outside of physics education research circles may not be familiar with this work. Innovations is a practitioner journal for science educators and an appropriate place to publish your work directed towards addressing the declining enrollment in science-specific teacher education programs at the elementary and secondary levels.

Science teacher educators cannot successfully address declining enrollment in our programs individually or within our institutions. We need to share strategies with one another to slow or reverse declining enrollment numbers. Our graduates often stay local, but often cross state lines to begin their science teaching careers in other states. Thus, the global nature of this issue can better be addressed when science teacher educators work together to help one another grow and strengthen teacher education programs. We believe the Innovations journal can serve as a central depository for sharing information on successful programs that have adapted in innovative ways to address the science teacher shortage. While we have yet to publish a special issue, there may be no topic that is worthier of a dedicated issue than manuscripts that address the issue of declining science teacher education candidates. Please consider submitting a manuscript that describes the work you have done to address this issue.

Innovative Environmental and Sustainability Science Teacher Education

Happy New Year! Reflecting on our current political “climate” over the past couple of years, we believe that it is timely to reaffirm the importance of the ASTE’s Position Statement on Environmental and Sustainability Education (https://theaste.org/aste-position-statement-on-environmental-and-sustainability-education/). The ASTE strongly supports the inclusion of environmental education in science teacher education as a way to instill environmental literacy and sustainability in our nation’s preK-16 students. Environmental and sustainability education in science teacher education is critical because informed decisions regarding the future of our planet depend upon an environmentally literate citizenry. Accordingly, the ASTE has made the following declaration:

  • ASTE urges science teacher educators to prepare teachers that have understandings, skills, and attitudes necessary to be environmentally literate.
  • Environmental education provides interdisciplinary, multicultural, and multiple viewpoints to promote awareness and understandings of a global environment.
  • Environmental education provides a balance between environmental, economic, ecological, and social perspectives to sustain future needs.
  • Environmental education provides an opportunity to foster learning through nonformal and formal learning centers such as aquariums, museums, nature centers, zoos, and government or community agencies.
  • Appropriate use of technologies should be used to enhance environmental experiences and understandings.
  • Science teacher education should emphasize content, pedagogy, and instructional planning that promotes environmental literacy, an important component of scientific literacy.
  • Science teacher educators can foster inquiry by taking students outside and encouraging them to ask questions and explore their local environment.
  • Environmental education involves becoming an active participant in local communities. In this way, science teacher educators can provide opportunities for teachers to develop personal connections through ownership and empowerment. Some examples of environmental community projects that promote sustainability include recycling, planting native plants, open space planning, and green building.

In light of the ASTE’s declarations, the Innovations journal is continuously in need of fresh new perspectives on innovative environmental and sustainability science teacher education and professional development. The Innovations journal provides a place for science teacher educators to share detailed descriptions of how their environmental and sustainability science teacher education programs or professional development programming is conducted. Innovative environmental and sustainability science teacher activities are also essential for science teacher educators and classroom teachers, as both attempt to improve science teaching and learning. Thus, we encourage science teacher educators, scientists, science coordinators and supervisors, and informal science educators who prepare and provide professional development for teachers of science at all grade levels to share their innovative ideas with our international science education community through the Innovations journal.


Innovations is the official peer-reviewed online practitioner journal of the ASTE that serves as a forum for disseminating effective instructional practices that are innovative and inspirational. So, take some time right now to reflect back on the innovative aspects of your environmental and sustainability programs for science teachers. Do you have an innovative idea to share with your colleagues? Consider sharing your ideas and lessons learned with colleagues by submitting a manuscript describing your outstanding work with preservice and inservice science teachers!

Also, be sure to check out our website to learn more about publishing in Innovations in Science Teacher Education by using the following link: https://innovations.theaste.org. Please be sure to review the instructions for authors section prior to submitting to ensure that your manuscript adheres to format guidelines and addresses each criterion. We look forward to receiving your manuscripts and want to thank everyone who is, and will be, participating in the submission and review of manuscripts. We hope that you have an amazing 2019!

If you have any questions regarding the Innovations journal, please contact Rommel Miranda (Rmiranda@towson.edu) or Ron Hermann (Rhermann@towson.edu).

 

What’s in a Name? – Science Teachers or Teachers of Science

For all the progress made towards inclusion, perhaps we, science educators, have been exclusionary from the start. The title of this journal, and its parent organization, both contain the phrase science teacher. Many of the other organizations and journals we read also contain the phrase science teacher. But, not everyone who teaches science may identify themselves as a science teacher. Some who teach science may be far from thinking of themselves as science teachers because science may be one of many subjects they teach. Others may not be formal teachers in the sense that they may not teach science to a group of students in a classroom setting. Still others involved in the work of teacher preparation who are involved with the content of science in some way, but may also have other content responsibilities beyond science.

Indeed, in our own scholarly work, we often write about teaching science at the elementary level. We often noted the awkwardness of referring to elementary teachers as science teachers. Yes, they teach science. And, yes, many are really good at teaching science. But, even those elementary teachers who are most enthusiastic about teaching science may not identify as a science teacher in favor of viewing themselves as an elementary teacher or a teacher of children.

As we focus on science teachers in our publications, conference presentations, and classrooms, are we excluding teachers who do not view themselves as science teachers? At our university for example, undergraduates enrolled in the middle school teacher education program specialize in two of four possible areas: language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies. So, a student who is specializing in science and social studies may view themselves as both a science teacher and a social studies teacher. Or maybe they view themselves as a middle school teacher. Our colleagues who work as science specialists and supervisors in local school districts may no longer teach science as their focus has turned to supporting those who do. Are we alienating them when we direct our focus towards science teachers?

We are not suggesting that we must hastily change the names of organizations and journals, but we can give some thought to how we discuss who and what we teach and research. Teachers of science seems to include a wider range of people compared to science teachers. Even if one teaches science during one of eight class sections one is still a teacher of science, though they may not view themselves as a science teacher if the other sections are social studies. Can we include these educators in our teaching, research and service more effectively if we focus on teachers of science? Will these teachers feel more connected to science if we refer to them as teachers of science? We can’t say for certain, but we would very much like to hear your thoughts. You can contact us directly or engage this community of science teacher educators in the discussion on our Facebook page.

Innovative Inclusive Science Teacher Education

Much of what science teachers are expected to know and be able to do is quite extensive. Highly-qualified science teachers are expected to have knowledge of science, inquiry, scientific practices, science pedagogy, curriculum, instruction, assessment, student learning, and student cognition. Equally, much is expected from science teacher educators who prepare preservice and inservice science teachers to possess the knowledge, skills, experiences, attitudes, and habits of mind essential to be a successful science teacher.

Currently, inclusion is a topic that is receiving more and more attention in science education research and science teacher education. As such, science teachers are now expected to know much about inclusion. However, inclusion is often an elusive term for both preservice and inservice teachers. And although science teachers commonly limit inclusion to the perspective of special education, inclusion encompasses a much broader view, which includes second language learning, diversity, underrepresented student populations, culturally relevant pedagogy, and intercultural pedagogy.

“Diversity and inclusion, while commonly conflated, are not the same. Inclusion speaks to whether individuals have equal access to opportunities and empowerment” (Bumpus, 2015). Similarly, Pratt (1997) expresses that inclusion is a belief that all students, regardless of labels, should be members of the general education community, and that students with and without disabilities should have access to the full range of curriculum options. Additionally, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute states that inclusive excellence emphasizes improving the students’ environment and to help schools find ways to significantly increase their capacity for inclusion so that students from all backgrounds — especially those from groups underrepresented in science — can excel. The Yale Center for Teaching and Learning provides the following statement on the topic:

“An inclusive classroom climate refers to an environment where all students feel supported intellectually and academically, and are extended a sense of belonging in the classroom. Inclusive classroom environments are sustained when instructors and students work together for thoughtfulness, respect, and academic excellence. Inclusive teaching strategies further strive to serve the needs of all students, regardless of background or identity. It builds upon an instructor’s basic instinct to ensure that all students can participate fully in the learning process, while expanding perspectives through stimulating discussion and new approaches to traditional and contemporary issues.”

Moreover, the ASTE Position Statement on the Inclusion of Underserved Populations in Science Education urges all educators to highlight integration and inclusion for all students, and further provides seven noteworthy goals for science educators:

  1. to insure that instructional adaptations are made to allow for students with physical disabilities to participate fully in laboratory and outdoor learning opportunities.
  2. to access new technology for students with physical disabilities enabling them to participate in all facets of the instructional program by becoming informed about emerging technologies and acquiring these tools for student use during instruction.
  3. to serve as advocates for underserved students to insure they are not advised to take classes which minimize the need for adaptations, special modification, or instructional accommodations within the instructional setting.
  4. to provide opportunities for all students to socialize informally in and out of the classroom.
  5. to create a caring, supporting atmosphere that tolerates and welcomes a wide range of student diversity.
  6. to foster cooperative learning activities rather than competitive or individual tasks.
  7. to provide opportunities for peer interaction, multi-age grouping, and group cohesiveness.

Thus in view of inclusion, science teacher educators will need to know how to develop various ways to engage preservice and inservice teachers with various dimensions of diversity, as well as best inclusive teaching strategies and practices in science education classrooms. Science teacher educators will also need to provide preservice and inservice teachers with guidance for the development of inclusive science curricula.

Accordingly, the Innovations journal is continuously in need of fresh new perspectives on innovative inclusive science teacher education and inclusive professional development. The Innovations journal provides a place for science teacher educators to share detailed descriptions of how their inclusive science teacher education programs or inclusive professional development programming is conducted. Innovative inclusive science teacher activities are also essential for science teacher educators and classroom teachers, as both attempt to improve science teaching and learning. Thus, we encourage science teacher educators, scientists, science coordinators and supervisors, and informal science educators who prepare and provide professional development for teachers of science at all grade levels to share their innovative ideas with our international science education community through the Innovations journal.

Innovations is the official peer-reviewed online practitioner journal of the ASTE that serves as a forum for disseminating effective instructional practices that are innovative and inspirational. Be sure to check out our website to learn more about publishing in Innovations in Science Teacher Education by using the following link: https://innovations.theaste.org. Please be sure to review the instructions for authors section prior to submitting to ensure that your manuscript adheres to format guidelines and addresses each criterion. We look forward to receiving your manuscripts and want to thank everyone who is, and will be, participating in the submission and review of manuscripts.

If you have any questions regarding the Innovations journal, please contact Rommel Miranda (Rmiranda@towson.edu) or Ron Hermann (Rhermann@towson.edu).

Writing for Practitioner Journals as Reflective Practice

Over the years, we have found that regardless of the number of times we have taught a lesson, when it comes to sharing that lesson with others in practitioner journals, we realize how many minute and nuanced details there are that we must make a concerted effort to share with readers. The act of writing out the lesson from start to finish is challenging for many reasons, but one reason is the level of detail needed to adequately convey what takes place in the classroom. The interactions between the instructor and students, between students, and the rationale behind each aspect of the lesson must be conveyed with a high level of attention to detail. Whereas, a discussion with a colleague is most likely to include clarifying questions, the act of writing is much more of a one-way transfer of information. As such, the act of writing a lesson for others most often challenges the author to more deeply consider the instructional decisions and theoretical framework that guide the instruction in the first place. We simply must try to anticipate all the questions a reader may have, and provide clarity and depth of explanation to avoid uncertainty among readers in the first place. The act of writing for practitioner journals results in a deeper reflection of one’s practice than what may occur from simply reflecting to improve upon instruction for subsequent semesters. Moreover, the comments and questions that arise from the peer-review process result in further reflection on one’s practice of teaching. Such reflective thinking is not specific to writing for practitioner journals, but one could argue that it is indeed difficult for one to write a practitioner article without engaging in reflective thinking.

Reflective thinking can occur when instructors develop their own thinking about their own practice with the aim of changing it according to students’ needs which may help instructors articulate their own teaching philosophies (Galea, 2012). Reflective practice is a dialogue of thinking and doing through which one becomes more skilled (Schon, 1987). Through the act of writing for a practitioner journal, science teacher educators engage in a reflective practice as a process that helps instructors think about what happened, why it happened, and what else could have been done to reach their goals (Cruchshank & Applegate, 1981). When science teacher educators work together to submit manuscripts that describe their approach to instruct preservice or inservice science teachers, or to compare and contrast their individual teaching methods, they participate in reflective practice as a systematic and comprehensive data-gathering process which is enriched by dialogue and collaborative effort (Osterman & Kottkamp, 2004). One of the attributes of a reflective practitioner is that they are committed to continuous improvement in practice (Larrivee, 2009). Thus, the articles that appear in practitioner journals such as Innovations in Science Teacher Education have been refined over time as instructors teach and reflect on their teaching. Those ideas are subsequently expressed in written form with great thought and attention to detail which is further explicated through the review of peers upon submission for publication. The resulting practitioner article is enhanced through this reflective process before the article is published and shared with others.

The act of teaching entails reflection upon one’s practice. In some cases, reflection is done in isolation as the instructor reflects upon their own instruction in a formative manner. In other cases, an instructor may reflect upon their students’ comments provided within a course evaluation, though these comments rarely focus on individual lessons. In other cases, the comments of peers, in a formative or summative evaluation of one’s teaching may result in reflection. Having reflected on our teaching as a result of all of these activities, we feel strongly that, while each of these activities is worthwhile and provides invaluable insight into teaching, the act of writing a lesson for a practitioner journal provides a level of detailed reflection that goes beyond most other types of reflective practice. Beyond the reflection that takes place as an individual author contemplates instruction, or the interactions between coauthors as they contemplate the way their instruction is similar or different from one another, the external reviewers provide insightful feedback that it irreplaceable. External reviewers are, well, external to the work described in the article and are in a unique position to provide insight as an outsider who is unfamiliar with the lesson. By their very nature, external reviewers are not likely to be familiar with the innovative practice as described by authors and serve as a sounding board to convey suggestions to authors to mitigate questions that may arise among readers if the article is not revised. This caliber of feedback serves to extend and enhance the reflection required by authors in a unique way that is difficult to duplicate outside of the publication process.

Writing for practitioner journals is beneficial for both authors and readers. To some extent, we believe that the activities described in practitioner journals offer the best instructional ideas our field can offer. So, we owe it to ourselves and to our colleagues to share ideas which we have reflected upon in great detail. While the process of writing enhances our own instruction, the process of sharing can enhance and transform the instruction of others.

Innovative Science Teacher Professional Development

As science teacher educators at a comprehensive university that is recognized as the state’s premier teaching institution of higher education for educators in grades K-12, we are frequently asked by local school districts to provide innovative professional development programming for inservice science teachers. The inservice science teachers who we collaborate with and provide professional development for range from teachers who are exceptional in science teaching, teachers who enter the profession with provisional licenses, teachers who have little or no background in science, teachers who teach science out-of-field, teachers who have little or no scientific research experiences, teachers who are discontented with their teaching practices, teachers who teach in high poverty schools, and teachers who want to know more about the NGSS. For us, innovative professional development has always clearly been needed to provide support for inservice science teachers, especially in our current dynamic educational environment.

However, faculty members at colleges and universities are not the only individuals who engage in this important aspect of our profession. The ASTE’s position statement on Professional Knowledge Standards for Science Teacher Educators (https://theaste.org/about/aste-position-statement-on-professional-knowledge-standards-for-science-teacher-educators/) acknowledges that there are many personnel from schools and personnel from agencies who also provide for the professional development of science teachers. The ASTE also recognizes that science teacher educators should possess expertise in the development of professional development programs that are informed by the research literature, and that science teacher professional development should be guided by the theoretical and practical knowledge of individual and organizational change processes.

Accordingly, the Innovations journal is continuously in need of fresh new perspectives on innovative science teacher professional development. The English Oxford Living Dictionaries defines professional development as the development of competence or expertise in one’s profession; and the process of acquiring the skills needed to improve performance in a job (professional development, n.d.). However, what this definition does not provide is a description of how innovative professional development is facilitated. Although science teacher professional development programs are more often reported in terms of their efficacy in research journals, the Innovations journal provides a place for science teacher educators to share detailed description of how their professional development programming is conducted. Innovative science teacher professional development activities are essential for science teacher educators and classroom teachers, as both attempt to improve science teaching and learning. Thus, we encourage science teacher educators, scientists, science coordinators and supervisors, and informal science educators who prepare and provide professional development for teachers of science at all grade levels to share their innovative ideas with our international science education community through the Innovations journal.

Innovations is the official peer-reviewed online practitioner journal of the ASTE that serves as a forum for disseminating effective instructional practices that are innovative and inspirational. So, take some time right now to reflect back on the innovative aspects of your professional development programs for science teachers. Do you have an innovative idea to share with your colleagues? Consider sharing your ideas and lessons learned with colleagues by submitting a manuscript describing your outstanding work with preservice and inservice science teachers!

Also, be sure to check out our website to learn more about publishing in Innovations in Science Teacher Education by using the following link: https://innovations.theaste.org. Please be sure to review the instructions for authors section prior to submitting to ensure that your manuscript adheres to format guidelines and addresses each criterion. We look forward to receiving your manuscripts and want to thank everyone who is, and will be, participating in the submission and review of manuscripts. We hope that you have an amazing 2018!

If you have any questions regarding the Innovations journal, please contact Rommel Miranda (Rmiranda@towson.edu) or Ron Hermann (Rhermann@towson.edu).

References:

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/professional_development

The Toolbox and the Master Craftsmen*

At about the same time that we began our doctoral programs, Ron’s cousin-in-law, Matt, began an apprenticeship to become a blacksmith that was nearly equivalent in duration to our program. For sure, there were a lot of similarities between the two programs and some differences as well. We worked closely with our major professor and began the long and arduous process of going from consumers of knowledge to producers of knowledge. It took us several years under the watchful eye of our mentor to learn how to effectively conduct research and to communicate that research to our peers via scholarly journals and conference presentations. Likewise, Matt worked alongside a master blacksmith named Alphonsus and traveled to work with several other blacksmiths to learn additional details of the trade. After completing the lengthy apprenticeship, Matt started his own company where he creates refined artistry in architectural metalwork such as, railings, furniture, and gates in addition to sculptures found at topiaries, businesses and community parks. Matt is a master craftsman and he has a full toolbox, at least figuratively, as most of his tools are large pieces of equipment. Over the years he has come to learn about many different types of tools, but more importantly, how to effectively use those tools. While many people will be able to understand the purpose of those tools, and maybe even the mechanics behind how they operate them at some level, it takes a master craftsman like Matt, with years of training and experience to use those tools to turn a raw piece of metal into an intricate, sophisticated piece of art.

Educators often talk about preparing teachers to have many tools in their toolbox, and it is important to do so. Over the course of a preservice science teacher education program students likely learn about many tools applicable to the classroom. Some tools teachers learn to use may include the 5E learning cycle, the Claim-Evidence-Reasoning framework, scoring rubrics, interactive assessment technologies, and templates for backward lesson planning (Wiggens & McTighe, 1998). Some tools are common across education disciplines, and some are specific to science education. Some tools are more conceptual and others are more tangible. Some tools are for instructional purposes, others for evaluative purposes, and still others for classroom management purposes. But, make no mistake, teachers are exposed to a lot of tools that can be placed in their toolbox. Science teacher educators are, in part, responsible for introducing teachers to classroom tools.

Science teacher educators also work diligently to help students not only learn about the tools, but how to effectively implement the tools in the science classroom. Those working with inservice teachers do much the same in professional development environments, informal settings, or in graduate programs. As practitioners, science teacher educators often have the opportunity to use the tools we share with science teachers. In many cases, science teacher educators have learned about tools from preservice and inservice teachers. Some tools are more easily mastered than others and some require extensive time commitments to master.

We strive to help teachers not only know about the tools, but how to use those tools. One major difference between our doctoral program and Matt’s apprenticeship regarding training is the general lack of one-on-one instruction and interactions preservice and inservice teachers receive. Often, we rely on mentor teachers to provide that one-on-one training that we receive. Moreover, the length of the one-on-one training for preservice teachers is often limited to one or two semesters instead of multiple years. So, it is even more critical that the time we spend with preservice and inservice teachers truly prepares them to use the tools of the teaching trade. We must help them become master craftsmen of the tools we present to them.

Practitioner journals like Innovations, are an ideal place to share classroom tools. However, an explanation of the tool and how it is used is not enough. Practitioners need to know more about the experiences that can be provided to help science teachers learn about the tool and how to master the use of the tool. But, what does mastery look like? Returning to our master craftsman, Matt, the outcome of his mastery of many tools is evident in the metalwork he fabricates. One can simply look at the meticulous detail, solid construction, flawless welds, and artistic design to know that the craftsman has mastered the tools of the trade. The elements of effective teaching are less easily agreed upon, but many can identify effective instruction when they see it. Arguably, one element of effective teaching is the appropriate utilization of a broad array of tools to engage students and move their thinking forward. Innovations is a place to describe how this can best be done with the tools at hand. In addition to learning about new or innovative tools, Innovations readers are interested in reading about how science teacher educators help other people come to master the tools of teaching. One of the most common issues with manuscripts submitted to Innovations is that reviewers request additional details regarding what the author(s) do in their classrooms and other suggestions for implementation. Describing the tool used is not enough. Innovations readers are also interested in how to prepare teachers to effectively use the tool and look to authors for detailed descriptions, advice, and suggestions for how to do so.

Science teacher educators do need to remain judicious with respect to the manner in which tools are introduced to preservice and inservice teachers. The time required for Matt to learn the tools of the blacksmith trade took longer than most preservice science teacher preparation programs. Thus, science teacher educators are left with additional questions and seek the guidance of other practitioners to develop their courses and programs of study. How many different tools can preservice science teachers effectively learn how to use during a teacher education program? Which tools are most worth introducing to preservice teachers and which are more appropriate for inservice teachers? What are the best practices for science teacher educators to help facilitate the use of these tools by novice teachers? Are there tools that inservice teachers are using, but are less familiar to science teacher educators?

Innovations serves as a forum to share tools, describe how to train others to use those tools, and consider which tools are most worth introducing to science teachers and at which stages of their teaching experiences. Just as we look forward to receiving manuscripts that address these issues, we know that Innovations reviewers and readers do too! Please join us in this discussion by submitting proposals and sharing your thoughts on articles published in Innovations on the journal Facebook page.

*Authors’ Note: Here the term craftsman is used rather than the gender-neutral term craftsperson, or including both craftsman and craftswoman, primarily for readability as the subject of the topic is male and alternating between terms can be cumbersome and diminish readability. The Meriam-Webster dictionary implies the term craftsman is gender-neutral by providing as definitions: (1) a worker who practices a trade or handicraft, and (2) one who creates or performs with skill or dexterity especially in the manual arts and we use it in the spirit of those definitions. We hope our inclusion of the term craftsman does not offend readers. Photos courtesy of Harris Metalwork Studio.

Editorial: Innovative Praxis


Praxis can be an elusive concept for both preservice and inservice teachers alike. When we ask our preservice teacher candidates about praxis, they often respond to us by saying that it is a series of tests that they need to pass in order to get into our teacher education program, and to obtain state licensure to teach. When we ask our inservice teachers about praxis, many express having learned about abstract theories that are far removed from their teaching practice. However, praxis is much more than simply passing a series of tests and the perception that there is a tension between theory and practice should definitely not be the norm. Praxis is at the very heart of what we do as science educators and should encompass every aspect of our professional practice. As such, we often try to develop and facilitate innovative approaches to bridge the theory-practice gap for both our preservice and inservice science teachers.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines praxis as the practical application of a theory (praxis, n.d.). This notion of praxis and its use in education has been linked and discussed in the writings of Paulo Freire. Freire (1970) defined praxis as “reflection and action directed at the structures to be transformed” (p.36). However, Carr and Kemmis (1986) further described praxis as not simply action based on reflection, but as risky because “it requires that a person make a wise and prudent practical judgment about how to act” (p.190). Quinlan (2012) further viewed praxis as the process of taking action in practice, while acting within a theoretical framework of thought. He explained that theoretical models we learn, and the skills we acquire as educators, are inextricably entwined. As a result, they influence each other, and in effect, become a part of your identity as an educator.

Since science education research is constantly changing, practitioners are continuously in need of fresh new perspectives. For this reason, the Innovations journal seeks manuscripts that are based on a firm foundation of scholarly work in science education and provide concrete ideas and strategies that enhance and inform science educators’ practices in their own setting, context and with their unique student population. Such manuscripts can include detailed descriptions of innovative praxis (research into practice) strategies, wherein authors identify a specific body or piece of research and show how they are implementing it into their practice as a science teacher educator. Thus, we encourage science teacher educators, scientists, science coordinators and supervisors, and informal science educators who prepare and provide professional development for teachers of science at all grade levels to share their outstanding innovative praxis ideas and strategies with our international science education community through the Innovations journal.

Please be sure to check out our website to learn more about publishing in Innovations in Science Teacher Education by using the following link: https://innovations.theaste.org. Also, please be sure to review the instructions for authors section prior to submitting to ensure that your manuscript adheres to format guidelines and addresses each criterion. We look forward to receiving your manuscripts and want to thank everyone who is, and will be, participating in the submission and review of manuscripts!

If you have any questions regarding the Innovations journal, please contact Rommel Miranda (Rmiranda@towson.edu) or Ron Hermann (Rhermann@towson.edu).

 

Editorial: Peer Review and the Practitioner Journal

The peer review process is often viewed as a hallmark of many academic disciplines. However, the history of peer review may be shorter than once thought with the idea that referees should be responsible for the quality of literature not emerging until the 20th century (Baldwin, 2017; Smith, 2006). Despite the wide-spread use of peer review in the current era of academic publishing, the peer review process remains the subject of frequent conversation and is by no means widely considered to be devoid of flaws (Baldwin, 2017). One reason for the ongoing conversation about peer review is the possibility of reviewers altering the work of authors, or so-called “Design by Committee” (Ziman, 1980). Manuscripts are often accepted under the condition that authors satisfactorily address the concerns raised by anonymous reviewers. Thus, the revisions are highly susceptible to coercion to conform to the preferences of the reviewers (Bradley, 1982). Inevitably, the name of the author(s) is present on the published article regardless of the significant changes resulting from reviewer comments. Although the article may have undergone major revisions at the request of reviewers, the author(s) are responsible for what is, and is not, included in the published article and reviewers remain anonymous despite the often large role they play in bringing a manuscript to publication. Indeed, the work of peer reviewers often does not count toward tenure and promotion in meaningful ways which may result in little incentive to write careful, detailed reports (Baldwin, 2017). While much has been written on this topic, much of that literature relates to peer review as it applies to research funding and publication of research reports. Practitioner journals also rely on peer review, although in somewhat unique ways.

While the peer review process may differ for conferences, publications, and grants, across publication types, the process may vary as well. Practitioner journals are the place where practitioners can share what they do with other practitioners. Innovations in Science Teacher Education is a place for science educators to share a description of their work preparing preservice science teachers and providing professional development for inservice science teachers. Both research and practitioner manuscripts are likely initially screened by editors to determine if the manuscript is suitable for the specified mission of the journal and adheres to stylistic guidelines. Manuscripts that address the mission of the journal and adhere to submission guidelines are sent out for double blinded peer review.

In considering the extent to which peer review works, Smith (2006) posited that it depends on what the peer review is for that determines whether it works. While there are some similarities between the review process for research and practitioner manuscripts, the hallmark of practitioner articles is that they provide information on the practice of preparing others to perform a specified task. In regard to Innovations, the peer review process works if the information in the articles is of interest to readers such that they can replicate all, or parts of, the described science teacher preparation activities or programs in their unique context. Thus, the reviewer of practitioner articles has two main criteria in addition to several minor additional criteria. The first major criteria is to evaluate the extent to which the manuscript is of broad interest to other practitioners. Simply put, for Innovations a central question is the extent to which the manuscript offers a unique or novel approach to preparing science teachers. The second criteria is the extent to which the manuscript contains specific details that will enable practitioners to replicate the work of the author(s). Once the manuscript is deemed to be innovative and of broad interest to science educators, the work of the reviewer centers on helping the author(s) more clearly communicate their practice to others. Reviewers evaluate the manuscript without having been present during the reported activities and are well situated to contemplate what information is required to ensure journal readers receive all the information needed to envision replicating the work in their own unique contexts.

The work that is reported in manuscripts is described as it was conducted by the author(s). Reviewers may have ideas for how to change that work, but the fact remains that the authors are reporting what they did, not what they hope to do in the future. Thus, reviewers should not ask authors to change what they did unless the work is deemed to not be innovative, and, therefore, not publishable in the current form. Reviewers may then provide insight into ways to modify instruction to make it more innovative or effective and authors would need to implement that work in their setting prior to rewriting the manuscript.

While authors are not required to revise each instance of reviewer feedback, doing so in order to provide readers with more detailed information is at the heart of the peer review process for practitioner journals. Those comments and suggestions that go beyond the scope of improving readability may not be addressed by authors who instead may choose to explain to editors why the comment or suggestion is not addressed. It should come as little surprise that authors who revise and resubmit manuscripts ultimately develop manuscripts that provide more insightful details and ultimately are accepted for publication. This is an iterative process, though, and any manuscript may be subject to multiple rounds of peer review. Knowing that the purpose of this process is to improve the manuscript and provide a published article that is more meaningful to readers should provide a powerful incentive for authors and reviewers to strive to work together to develop an article that authors and reviewers can be proud of and readers can utilize in their own practice.

Editorial: Completely Blinding an Online Innovations Manuscript Submission

As inaugural editors of the Innovations in Science Teacher Education journal, the most frequent occurring issue we see regarding online manuscript submissions is incomplete manuscript blinding. Consequently, this slows down the peer-review process since the manuscript must be returned to the primary author for revision before it can be sent to reviewers. Additionally, we commonly receive documents with tracked changes. Track changes can be helpful in the review process by providing authors with direct comments, suggestions, and edits. Likewise, authors can track the revisions made in response to reviewer feedback. However, the track changes feature often reveals the identity of both authors and reviewers, which must also be omitted. Thus, to help inform potential authors and reviewers, we provide the following guidelines to ensure that a manuscript is completely blinded and ready for anonymous review:

Grant-funded Programs

The manuscript should not include references to grant-funding sources. Additionally, the manuscript should not include the title (or acronym) of a grant-funded program or the grant number.

Institutional Names

The manuscript should not include the institutional name of the author(s).

Title Page, Running Headers, Footnotes, Figures and Tables

The manuscript should not include any title page, running headers, footnotes, figures, or tables that contain author identifying information.

Acknowledgements

The manuscript should not include any acknowledgements. Acknowledgements can be added to the manuscript after it is formally accepted for publication in the journal.

Self-Citations

If you refer to your work, or the work of your co-authors within the text of the manuscript, please replace all author identifying information with: (Author citation, Year). For entry of your work in a references list, all bibliographic information (e.g. title, journal name, proceedings, volume, pages, location, publishers, etc.) must be omitted and replaced with only the words “Author Citation” followed by the date of the publication. Please note that the author citation in the references list should be in alphabetical order under author, and not where the first author’s last name would appear alphabetically. Here are some examples:

Citation in Text: (Author citation, 2016)

Citation in References List: Author citation. 2016.

Revisions with Tracked Changes

If you are submitting a manuscript revision with tracked changes online, please be sure to completely blind your edits and comments. The following link from Microsoft provides step-by-step directions for blinding your Word document using the track changes feature: https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Change-the-author-name-for-review-comments-cdd4b8ac-fbca-438d-a5b5-a99fb1c750e3

Removing Hidden Data and Personal Information by Inspecting Documents

Because hidden information can reveal author or reviewer identifying information, please be sure to completely remove all hidden data and personal information in your Word documents before you submit your manuscript online by using the following steps:

Word 2007

Click the Microsoft Office Button. Point to Prepare, and then click “Inspect Document.” Make sure that “Document Properties and Personal Information” is checked. Click the “Inspect” button. Click the “Remove All” button. Close. Save the document.

Word 2010

File/Info/Check for Issues/Inspect Document. Click the “Inspect Document” button. To the right of “Document Properties and Personal Information” click the “Remove All” button. Close. Save the document.

Word 2013/2016

File/Info/Inspect Document. Click the “Inspect Document” button. Make sure that “Document Properties and Personal Information” is checked. Click the “Inspect” button. Click the “Remove All” button to the right of “Document Properties and Personal Information.” Close. Save the document.

Additionally, the following support document from Microsoft helps to ensure author and reviewer anonymity when submitting a new or revised online manuscript by describing how the “Document Inspector” feature in Word can help you find and remove hidden data and personal information in your document: https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Remove-hidden-data-and-personal-information-by-inspecting-documents-356b7b5d-77af-44fe-a07f-9aa4d085966f#__toc312143397

To ensure the anonymity of authors and reviewers, manuscripts and reviews of manuscripts should be fully blinded. By doing so, both parties can engage in an open and honest dialogue aimed at producing an engaging and informative article for Innovations readers. Double blind reviews are a powerful way to reduce bias in publications and protect the integrity of the literature (Vaux, 2011). Gender, familiarity and country of origin have been shown to affect reviewer behavior (Link, 1998; Wenneras & Wold, 1997). For these reasons the greater scientific community largely favors double blinded review (Mainguy, Motamedi & Mietchen, 2005; Regehr & Bordage, 2006; Stenrud & Brooks, 2005). Double blind reviews have also been shown to increase the representation of first-authored papers by females (Budden, Tregenza, Aarssen, Koricheva, Leimu, & Lortie, 2008). Though blinding a manuscript and the reviews of that manuscript require additional time and create logistical issues for editors, we believe the benefits far outweigh the costs. Please help us to facilitate the efficient review of manuscripts by fully and completely blinding manuscripts and reviews.