Preservice Elementary Teachers Using Graphing as a Tool for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing Science

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Gould, D.L., Robles, R., & Rillero, P. (2021). Preservice elementary teachers using graphing as a tool for learning, teaching, and assessing science. Innovations in Science Teacher Education, 6(1). Retrieved from https://innovations.theaste.org/preservice-elementary-teachers-using-graphing-as-a-tool-for-learning-teaching-and-assessing-science/

by Deena L. Gould, University of New Mexico; Rolando Robles, Arizona State University; & Peter Rillero, Arizona State University

Abstract

Graphing is an important tool for seeing patterns, analyzing data, and building models of scientific phenomena. Teachers of elementary school children use graphs to display data but rarely as tools for analyzing or making sense of data (Coleman, McTigue, & Smolkin, 2011). We provide a set of lessons that guide preservice elementary school teachers to analyze their conceptions about graphing and use graphing to (a) see patterns in data, (b) discuss and analyze data, (c) model scientific phenomena, and (d) teach and assess inquiry-based science. Examples are adduced for how we guided and supported preservice elementary teachers in their conceptual understanding and deeper use of graphing.

Introduction

Graphing has been used as a tool for analyzing and interpreting the world around us for at least eleven centuries (Friendly, 2007). Graphing can render abstract concepts, such as the relationship between variables, more visually apparent and hence more concrete. Graphing played key roles in revolutionary scientific discoveries (i.e. Newton’s laws, 1699; Boyle’s law, 1662) and everyday engineering and scientific discoveries, such as where best to position armor plating on aircrafts (Wainer, 1992) and the source of a cholera epidemic (Wainer, 1992). While the skills and practice of graphing were included in the National Science Education Standards (NRC, 1996), they take a central role in the Next Generation Science Standards (NRC, 2013). Graphing is an important tool in each of the following NGSS science and engineering practices: 2. Developing and using models; 4. Analyzing and interpreting data; 5. Using mathematics and computational thinking; 6. Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering); 7. Engaging in argument from evidence; and 8. Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information.

When teachers have used graphs for instruction in elementary school, it has been mainly limited to observing graphical representations in books or interpreting basic graphical representations (Coleman, McTigue, & Smolkin, 2011). Teachers in elementary school have rarely incorporated graphing as a tool for visualizing, discussing, analyzing, or making sense of data or scientific phenomena (Coleman, et al., 2011). When students in elementary school have been asked to construct graphs, they rarely knew the reasons for doing so (Friel, Curcio, & Bright, 2001).

The reasons for the limited use of graphing in elementary school has not been well researched. However, Szjka, Mumba, and Wise (2011) reported that preservice elementary school teachers (PSTs) viewed graphing as more a function of mathematics than as an analytical tool useful for learning, teaching, or assessing inquiry-based science. There is potential for change, however. Roth, McGinn, and Bowen (1998) reported that PSTs who used graphing as a tool for understanding science activities in their preservice classes were later more likely to teach graphing as an analytical tool in their classrooms.

The Lessons

The set of experiences in this article was designed to help PSTs construct and use knowledge about graphing that could be applied in their teaching and assessment. In a 2017 study, teacher preparation courses that covered fewer topics with increased opportunity to unpack knowledge and apply that knowledge to teaching situations had a greater impact on the graduates’ later teaching practices than teacher preparation courses that covered many topics (Morris & Hiebert, 2017). Thus, in this set of experiences, we provided opportunity for PSTs to reflect on, and analyze, their conceptions about graphing in a form that allowed them to apply it to learning and teaching situations. This was an innovative approach for us. Our prior teaching had not assisted PSTs in transferring their use of graphing as an analytical tool into their own instruction.

Overall, the purpose of the set of experiences described in this article was to guide PSTs to experience, discuss, and use graphing as a tool for 1) seeing patterns in data, 2) discussing and analyzing data, 3) modeling scientific phenomena, and 4) teaching and assessing inquiry-based science. In these experiences, inquiry-based science was taken to mean using multiple modes of teaching to guide students to discover or construct understandings about science instead of having teachers directly convey the information about science (Keys & Bryan, 2001). In this set of experiences, we strived to support the PSTs in moving along a continuum of using and applying graphing as an analytical tool in the context of inquiry-based science as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1 (Click on image to enlarge)
Overview of Lessons

The context for our lessons was a one-semester elementary science methods course. This course was taken in the last semester of undergraduate study prior to student teaching. As a requirement of the course, PSTs planned and taught at least one inquiry-based science lesson in an elementary school classroom. As part of the course, PSTs also planned and delivered an inquiry-based microteaching lesson and an integrated STEM microteaching lesson to peers. PSTs were required to integrate math in one or more of these lessons.

Prior to the graphing lessons, we administered the 26 item multiple-choice Test of Graphing Skills (McKenzie & Padilla, 1986). The majority of PSTs demonstrated basic graphing skills (mean percent = 76.3, SD = 14.4; n = 77). These basic skills included selecting an appropriately scaled set of axes, selecting a set of coordinates, identifying manipulated and responding variables, selecting the best fit line, selecting a graph that correctly displays data, selecting the corresponding value for Y or X, identifying trends, interpolating and extrapolating from trends, selecting an appropriate description of a relationship shown on a graph, and identifying a generalization that interrelates the results of two graphs.

We built on this foundational knowledge with three focused lessons that guided the PSTs to use graphing in actual practice as a tool for 1) seeing patterns in data, 2) discussing and analyzing data, and 3) modeling scientific phenomena. These three initial lessons employed inquiry-based group work, direct instruction, and guided discussion to support PSTs to unpack their thinking and content knowledge about graphing as an analytical tool to build scientific understandings. The initial focused lessons occurred over three class sessions of one hour each during the second and third week of the course. Throughout the rest of the semester, we guided PSTs to extend and apply the knowledge from these lessons in their microteaching and field-based teaching and assessment. In this article, we show how PSTs’ conceptions about graphing evolved to become more explicit so the conceptions could be used as tools for learning, teaching, and assessing science.

The sequence of three lessons began with a guided-inquiry experience that used graphing as a tool to make visible the relationship between the amount of space a volume of a solid occupies and the amount of space a volume of a liquid occupies (Author citation, 2014). The second lesson focused on using graphing as a tool to discuss and analyze data about the mathematical relationship between mass and volume of water and vegetable oil. The third lesson used graphing as a tool to model and compare the density of seven distinct homogeneous substances.

Lesson 1: Graphing as a Tool for Seeing Patterns

The first lesson guided PSTs to develop standard graphing conventions that enabled them to visualize the relationship between the volume of a solid and the volume of a liquid. In particular, PSTs used graphing as a tool to discover and see clearly the relationship between the volume of space occupied by a milliliter (mL) of liquid and the volume of space occupied by a cubic centimeter (cm3) of solid. Our experience with this group of preservice elementary teachers indicated that a significant majority did not recognize this relationship prior to the lesson.

For the lesson, each group of three or four participants was provided a 0.5L bottle of water, 10 plastic 1 cubic centimeter blocks, a 100 mL graduated cylinder, and a metric ruler. They were asked to collect data and make a graph to show the relationship between the volume of the plastic cubes (cubic centimeters) and the volume of the water (milliliters) those cubes displaced. We used the following questions to facilitate discussion and support the PSTs to collectively design the investigation:

What are the variables? What are their units of measurement?

What could you do with the cubes to compare their volume to the volume of the water they displace?

How will you organize your data as you collect it?

Where does the manipulated variable go on the two column T chart? Is it X or Y?

How will you design the investigation so you can measure the responding variable in step-by-step coordination with the manipulated variable?

The questions and discussion led PSTs to suggest that they could drop the cubic centimeters one-at-a time into the graduated cylinder partly filled with water, record the measurements after each cube is submerged, and plot the data on a graph. We used plastic lab equipment and tap water that posed no significant safety concerns.

As PSTs investigated the relationship between the volume of a mL and the volume of a cm3 using the method of water displacement, some of the PSTs initially confused the measurement of the amount of water in the graduated cylinder with the measurement of the total volume taken up in the cylinder which included both the water and the cubes. It was helpful to ask if the amount of water in the graduated cylinder had changed so participants could conceptualize the meaning of water displacement and develop the concept that volume represents the amount of space matter occupies.

As PSTs used graphing to display and see patterns in the data, it was important to bring attention to conventions in graphing that are commonly overlooked. These include the conventions of titling the scatter plot as Y vs. X, making a scale of equal increments on each axis, positioning the responding variable on the Y-axis and the manipulated variable on the X-axis, and drawing a best-fit line (McKenzie & Padilla, 1986). A graphic organizer with the mnemonic DRY MIX served as a teaching tool and a reminder for placing data on axes (Figure 2).

Figure 2 (Click on image to enlarge)
Teaching Mnemonic and a Student’s Graph of mL vs. cm3

The PSTs noticed and stated that graphing made the one-to-one positive relationship between the volume of a mL and the volume of a cm3 clearly visible. They recorded their perceptions in writing and participated in oral discussion. During the discussion, we prompted PSTs to discuss aspects of the graphs that supported their understanding. It was helpful when we guided attention to the variety of ways that PSTs visualized and described the relationship as represented in Table 1. A word wall (Figure 3) also served as a valuable resource.

Figure 3 (Click on image to enlarge)
Word Wall That Added Oral and Written Explanations

Table 1 (Click on image to enlarge)
Representative Student Responses During Lesson 1

After the end of lesson 1, we prompted the PSTs to describe the role that graphing played in their exploration and understanding. One PST stated, “Graphing paints a picture. You can see things and use graphing to justify explanations.” Another stated, “Graphs are visuals. They show how things look and how things work by making a picture of the data.” One declared, “I liked that we got to see the concepts that we knew!” Another summarized the use of graphing as a tool, “Graphs communicate visually.”                                              

Lesson 2: Graphing as a Tool for Discussing and Analyzing Data

              During the second lesson, PSTs used graphing as a tool to analyze data and discuss the relationship between mass and volume of two liquids: vegetable oil and water. Half of the PSTs in each class explored the relationship between the mass and volume of water. Half of the PSTs in each class explored the relationship between the mass and volume of oil. Prior to beginning the hands-on investigation, we demonstrated the procedure for using the electronic scales, discussed reading the liquid meniscus in the graduated cylinder, and reviewed standard graphing practices covered in the previous session. To challenge PSTs to properly scale a graph with equal increments, we directed students to collect data for 10 mL, 15 mL, 25 mL, 40 mL, and 50 mL of their liquid. To help PSTs with their discussions and analyses, we prompted them to calculate the slope of the line and discuss what the slope of the line represented (Figure 4).

Figure 4 (Click on image to enlarge)
PST’s Graph of Mass Vs. Volume

For the final activity of lesson 2, students who explored and graphed the relationship between mass and volume of water partnered with students who explored and graphed the relationship between mass and volume of oil. We directed them to analyze data together by comparing graphs, describing relationships, and discussing possible reasons for the similarities and differences they observed. In other words, they were prompted to use the ratio of the relationship between mass and volume as depicted by the scatter graphs to discuss and explain similarities and differences between oil and water. The visual representation on the graph displayed the proportional relationship between the two quantities and helped lead the PSTs to attend to both quantities simultaneously.

As PSTs discussed the data and the relationships among the data, they were able to describe the meaning of the slope of the best-fit-line without using the word “density,” which helped them unpack their thinking and develop multiple ways to discuss, represent, and explain this concept. During the discussion, we modeled the use of a word wall as a resource in their discussions. After the students conducted the investigation, they noted that a word wall could serve as a tool to help their students bridge from everyday language to scientific language during discussions and data analyses. To help students unpack their conceptions about graphing, we brought attention to the diversity of ways that students analyzed and described the data (Table 2).

Table 2 (Click on image to enlarge)
Representative Student Responses During Lesson 2

After the end of lesson 2, we asked the PSTs to describe the role that graphing played in their data analyses and discussions. PSTs elaborated about the value of using graphing to visualize data. One stated, “Graphing makes it easier to see and read the data.” Another stated, “Graphing helps stimulate ideas and words. It helps you come up with ideas and explanations. It shows patterns so you can see and talk about them.” Another stated, “Graphing can help students explain when they don’t know because graphing can help you see and explain relationships.” Another PST stated, “Graphs can help you make a claim and justify the claim with evidence and reasoning that everyone can see.”

Lesson 3: Graphing as a Tool for Modeling Scientific Phenomena

            Graphing is also a valuable tool in modeling approaches to science instruction as analyses and discussions of data are central to the approach (Jackson, Duckerick, & Hestenes, 2008; Lehrer & Schauble, 2004; NRC, 2012). This third lesson was similar to the second lesson, however, each group of PSTs selected different substances to explore. Sets of one-cubic centimeter cubes of wood, aluminum, copper iron, brass, lead, zinc, and plastic were available. PSTs were directed to use graphing as a tool to model the mathematical relationship between the mass and volume of the selected substances. The previous two lessons provided experience for participants to be able to design this investigation in small groups with little instructor guidance. We prompted PSTs to calculate the slope of the line, discuss what the slope of the line represented, and use this information in their models (Table 3).

To help PSTs synthesize a mathematical model of density, we prompted them to rotate around the room, share data with classmates, and add lines representing several different substances from the data they gathered from classmates (Figure 5). They compared graphs, compared relationships, and discussed reasons for the similarities and differences they observed. As they shared data, they were able to develop a model that represented the relationship between mass and volume that was valid across a variety of substances.

Figure 5 (Click on image to enlarge)
PST’s Graph of Mass Vs. Volume

In the final activity of lesson 3, we presented each group with a mystery substance (a 2 x .5 inch cylinder of brass, aluminum, or steel) and asked them to use their model to make and justify a claim about the identity of the mystery substance. In small groups, PSTs generated strategies about how to compare the mystery substance with the known substances. They measured and calculated the densities of the mystery substances and compared them to the densities of the known substances (Table 3).

Table 3 (Click on image to enlarge)
Representative PST Responses During Lesson 3

After the end of lesson 3, we asked the PSTs to describe the role graphing and modeling played in their learning. One PST stated, “The graphic model helped us describe the abstract idea of density. It helped us use math to answer a question and it showed us how to use data and to represent data. It allowed us to work interdependently.” Another described the experience, “The graphs helped us talk about the strategies we came up with for the mystery substance. I found a lot of new ideas that way.” Another PST stated, “We were able to use data to make a model and to construct a reasonable explanation with the model. Graphing can communicate information. It (graphing) has many different purposes.” Another stated, “This shows that students can use math skills in reading, analyzing, and creating data and graphs for models. Modeling is useful to science because it helps make real world connections to actual events. It is important to make models for abstract concepts to demonstrate how the world works. I think that sharing was beneficial because it provides enough data to show a true trend.” One PST summarized the experience, “This graphing and modeling connects math and science to the real world and real problem solving rather than just question answering.”

Pedagogical Applications: Graphing as a Tool for Teaching and Assessing Inquiry-Based Science

Over the course of the three scaffolded lessons, PSTs took on more responsibility for planning the investigation, collecting the data, and using graphing as a tool for 1) seeing patterns in data, 2) discussing and analyzing data, and 3) modeling scientific phenomena. We helped facilitate this transition by prompting PSTs to do more, analyze their conceptions, and share their perspectives with each other. By gradually assuming greater ownership of the investigations, PSTs developed foundational knowledge, confidence, and initiative to use graphing as a tool for their own teaching over the rest of the semester.

Over the course of the semester, the PSTs analyzed, discussed, refined, and developed their use of graphing as a tool for learning, teaching, and assessing. Initially, some PSTs struggled to transfer their graphing knowledge and skills into actual practice, especially in ill-defined situations with unclear data. For example, a group of PSTs defaulted to using the collected data points instead of a scale of equal units when planning a lesson to guide elementary school students to graph and analyze the changes in stages of life cycle (larva, pupa, adult) of a population of mealworm beetles over time. In this example, the PSTs chose time as the variable for the X-axis. However, they initially used only the dates of data collection for values on the X-axis. The intervals between these values did not represent equal intervals of time. When the PSTs were prompted to identify the number of days between each value on the X-axis, they realized that some of the intervals represented 7 days while other intervals represented 10 days. They articulated that they had not used equal intervals. They also articulated that they could teach their students to create a scale of equal intervals by prompting the students to “skip counting” instead of just recording the dates of date collection. Therefore, it was important for the course instructors to continue to monitor and guide the PSTs as they applied their graphing skills in the development of lesson plans. Over time, the PSTs lesson plans began to show that they used graphing as a tool to engage their own students in seeing patterns, analyzing and discussing data, and modeling scientific phenomena (Table 4).

Table 4 (Click on image to enlarge)
Representative Excerpt From PST’s Lesson Plan

Over the course of the semester, we asked PSTs to share their experiences and their perspectives about teaching science in elementary school. Unsolicited, the PSTs described graphing as a tool for both teaching and assessing:

“For my evaluation I had the students pool their collected data and create a graph that explained what they had just completed with the number of coils and the strength of the magnet. I just love the fact that the students were the star scientists in this type of modeling.”

“In my class, we graph data and see how to apply math in our daily lives. Numbers are just numbers until we give them meaning. Graphing can give meaning to measurements and how it interacts with another variable such as time. I did a lesson about speed and time. I had the students make sense with real world applications and graphing. The students explored meanings rather than just taking science at face value. I think the making sense gives students a reason to want to learn more.”

“For assessment, a lot of that is done in their notebooks, I check for specific processes on certain days (charts, data, graphs, etc.) or I check for answers to certain questions. I can see what they know and answer any questions that students have. I comment on their thoughts and scientific knowledge that is brought out in the notebook. Using the notebooks and seeing the charts, data, and graphs really helps me gauge what concepts the students are grasping and which ones they are struggling with.”

Conclusion

Children in elementary school need access to analytical tools, such as graphing, that help them make sense of the world around them (NRC, 2012). In this article, we provide science teacher educators with a set of lessons to prepare preservice elementary teachers to use and teach graphing as a tool to (a) see patterns in data, (b) discuss and analyze data, (c) model scientific phenomena, and (d) teach and assess inquiry-based science.

We built this set of activities on the belief that PSTs need a strong knowledge foundation about the use of graphing as a tool to be able to apply it to their teaching and assessing (Bowen & Roth, 2005; Morris & Hiebert, 2017; Roth et. al, 1998). Therefore, we provided PSTs opportunities to analyze their conceptions about graphing and to also discuss, refine, and improve their use of graphing in different contexts.  To document progress and provide feedback, we reviewed PSTs’ written work samples and oral responses across the three lessons and across the field experiences and microteaching. We documented individual progress and provided feedback about the use of graphing to (a) see patterns in data, (b) discuss and analyze data, (c) model scientific phenomena, and (d) teach and assess inquiry-based science. Criteria for achieving these outcomes were incorporated into our course rubrics. Over time, we noticed that PSTs conceptions about graphing that were initially based on partial understandings, evolved and became more explicit. Compared to previous years, the use of graphing enabled these PSTs to be more descriptive, more precise, and more analytical when they made scientific observations, engaged in discussions, and problem solved.

While developing graphing abilities was a goal of the set of experiences, equally important was fostering the development of preservice teachers in viewing graphing, and its associated mathematical reasoning, as a tool for scientific inquiry rather than solely as something done in math. Compared to previous years, we noticed that these PSTs were more explicit in their lesson plans about how they used graphing as a tool to engage and assess student reasoning and scientific sense-making. The majority of PSTs showed in at least one of their three lesson plans that they were able to use graphing to support elementary school students in scientific sense-making and discovering or constructing understandings about science. These results are reflective of the novel and innovative approach we outlined in this article that guided PSTs to reflect and analyze their conceptions about graphing in a form that enabled them to apply those conceptions to new learning and teaching situations.

Finally, it is important to note that a limitation of this set of lessons is that each of the relationships that PSTs graphed represented a positive linear correlation. In future implementations, we think it is important to provide opportunities for PSTs to work with data that represent other types of relationships such as nonlinear, curved, exponential, etc. PSTs also need opportunities to work with, and explore, data for which no fully determined mathematical relationships emerge (this opportunity is available in Meyer, 2016). However, this set of lessons provided a starting point; linear relationships are a good place to start considering that linear relationships form the basis of many relationships in science.

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Supporting Schoolyard Pedagogy in Elementary Methods Courses

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Feille, K. & Hathcock, S. (2021). Supporting schoolyard pedagogy in elementary methods courses. Innovations in Science Teacher Education, 6(1). Retrieved from https://innovations.theaste.org/supporting-schoolyard-pedagogy-in-elementary-methods-courses/

by Kelly Feille, University of Oklahoma; & Stephanie Hathcock, Oklahoma State University

Abstract

Schoolyard pedagogy illustrates the theories, methods, and practices of teaching that extend beyond the four walls of a classroom and capitalize on the teaching tools available in the surrounding schoolyard. In this article, we describe the schoolyard pedagogy framework, which includes intense pedagogical experiences, opportunities and frequent access, and continuous support. We then provide an overview of how we are intentionally working toward developing schoolyard pedagogy in elementary preservice teachers at two universities. This includes providing collaborative experiences in the university schoolyard and nearby schools, individual experiences in nature, opportunities to see the possibilities in local schoolyards, and lesson planning that utilizes the schoolyard. We also discuss potential barriers and catalysts for schoolyard pedagogy during the induction years, future needs, and potential for continuous support.

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Critical Response Protocol: Supporting Preservice Science Teachers in Facilitating Inclusive Whole-Class Discussions

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Ellingson, C.L., Wieselmann, J.R., & Leammukda, F.D. (2021). Critical response protocol: Supporting preservice science teachers in facilitating inclusive whole-class discussions. Innovations in Science Teacher Education, 6(1). Retrieved from https://innovations.theaste.org/critical-response-protocol-supporting-preservice-science-teachers-in-facilitating-inclusive-whole-class-discussions/

by Charlene L. Ellingson, Minnesota State University, Mankato; Dr. Jeanna Wieselmann, Caruth Institute for Engineering Education; & Dr. Felicia Dawn Leammukda, Minnesota State University, St. Cloud

Abstract

Despite a large body of research on effective discussion in science classrooms, teachers continue to struggle to engage all students in such discussions. Whole-class discussions are particularly challenging to facilitate effectively and, therefore, often have a teacher-centered participation pattern. This article describes the Critical Response Protocol (CRP), a tool that disrupts teacher-centered discussion patterns in favor of a more student-centered structure that honors students’ science ideas. CRP originated in the arts community as a method for giving and receiving feedback to deepen critical dialog between artists and their audiences. In science classrooms, CRP can be used to elicit student ideas about scientific phenomena and invite wide participation while reducing the focus on “correct” responses. In this article, we describe our use of CRP with preservice science teachers. We first modeled the CRP process as it would be used with high school students in science classrooms, then discussed pedagogical considerations for implementing CRP within the preservice teachers’ classrooms. We conclude this article with a discussion of our insights about the opportunities and challenges of using CRP in science teacher education to support preservice teachers in leading effective whole-class discussion and attending to inclusive participation structures.

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Addressing Social Justice in the Science Methods Classroom through Critical Literacy: Engaging Preservice Teachers in Uncomfortable Discussions

Citation
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Bautista, N.U., & Batchelor, K.E. (2020). Addressing social justice in the science methods classroom through critical literacy: Engaging preservice teachers in uncomfortable discussions. Innovations in Science Teacher Education, 5(4). Retrieved from https://innovations.theaste.org/addressing-social-justice-in-the-science-methods-classroom-through-critical-literacy-engaging-preservice-teachers-in-uncomfortable-discussions/

by Nazan U. Bautista, Miami University; & Katherine E. Batchelor, Miami University

Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to exemplify how teacher candidates can be engaged in discussions around social justice and equity in science methods courses while also learning about and practicing essential science teaching strategies and skills. Our aim is that science teacher educators who do not feel confident enough to explicitly address these important issues in methods courses are encouraged to think creatively about how they can modify or alter their current practices in a way to prepare science teachers for the changing demographics of science classrooms. We present an engineering design activity that is coupled with critical literacy skills, called ‘Build a Child.” Upon identifying the problem, we introduce the context of the preservice teachers’ science methods course and reason for this work, followed by defining critical literacy and how it pairs well in science education. We then share the “Build a Child” engineering project and how we asked preservice teachers to critique and reflect on their creations, thus bringing in a critical literacy framework to the curriculum. Next, we share three findings based on our data analysis, and we end with the importance of science methods courses implementing social justice education and suggestions on how to reexamine our science curriculum to make it more culturally relevant and equitable for all students.

Introduction

In 2016, a white, female, science teacher in an 8th grade classroom in Baltimore, Maryland grabbed a black male student by the hood of his jacket and told him he was a “punk a** n***** who is going to get shot” as she hauled him out of the classroom. She then turned to the rest of the students, most of whom were students of color, and called them “idiots” and “stupid” (Green, 2016). In March 2018, a white, female teacher in Crystal River, FL was fired after her white nationalist and racist podcast unearthed (Stevens, 2018). In December 2018, another white, female, science teacher in South Fresno, California was caught on camera forcibly cutting a student’s hair in front of his peers as she sang the U.S. national anthem loudly (Hutcherson, 2018). In March 2019, a white, male, science teacher was suspended after allegedly using the “n-word” during a science class in Pens Groove, New Jersey (Brown, 2019).

A quick Internet search will show that the aforementioned incidents are hardly unique. As science teacher educators we have seen more than a dozen of news stories like these in the media over the last decade. We could not believe that a teacher would behave in such a deplorable way and possibly blame them for not acquiring the required dispositions to teach, especially in a context that is racially, ethnically and linguistically diverse. What we ignore, however, is the role we, as science teacher educators, play in these teachers’ inability to understand and interact with students who are culturally different from them. It is about time we revisit our complicitness with teacher candidates’ stereotypes of people from other cultures and races different than their own.

Over the last three decades, science educators’ agendas have heavily focused on changing classroom science teaching practices from traditional lecture and cookbook labs format to constructivist and inquiry-oriented teaching and learning approaches. We have focused on developing teachers’ (both prospective and inservice) and students’ scientific argumentation skills and improving their understanding of scientific ways of knowing. While emphasizing these issues are important, teacher educators rarely, if at all, center instruction on social justice and equity, and thus, fall short in preparing teachers for the changing demographics and needs of their classrooms.

Teacher candidates’ perceptions of preparing to become a science teacher are not any different from ours. They come to our courses with the expectation that we will address the science content knowledge they need to know and teach the strategies and techniques necessary to “deliver” the content (Ball & McDiarmid, 1990; Feiman-Nemser, 2012). Rarely teacher candidates find concepts, such as understanding the needs of their culturally diverse students, practicing culturally relevant teaching practices, or learning to properly integrate reading and writing in science instruction to help their students develop their language literacy skills as important and relevant as learning to teach science (Silverman, 2010). The news stories we shared above provide evidence that science teacher preparation is and should be indeed more than just preparation of teachers for the content expertise.

Scholars (e.g., Gay, 2010; Ladson-Billings, 1995, 2014; Nieto, 2005; Sleeter, 2005) recommend increased emphasis on culturally relevant teaching pedagogy in teacher preparation courses. Preservice teachers are in need of preparation that places culturally relevant teaching at the forefront in order to prepare future teachers with issues that may arise regarding race, culture, and gender, for example, in their classrooms, and culturally relevant pedagogy provides ways of centering the cultures, languages, and experiences that diverse learners bring to classrooms (Villegas & Lucas, 2002). However, too often science teacher educators themselves are not knowledgeable about how to cater to the unique needs of culturally diverse students of science or what culturally relevant teaching approaches should look like in science classrooms. Considering the lack of science teacher educator knowledge and experience with culturally relevant teaching, our goal is to exemplify how teacher candidates can be engaged in discussions around social justice and equity in science methods courses while also learning about and practicing essential science teaching strategies and skills. Our hope with this article is that science educators like Nazan, who do not feel confident enough to explicitly address these important issues in methods courses are encouraged to think creatively about how they can modify or alter their practices in a way to prepare science teachers for the changing demographics of classrooms.

We want to clarify, however, that we do not claim that this single activity that spans over a couple of days makes big changes in the worldviews preservice teachers have developed over their lifetime. However, it is through engaging and thought-provoking activities such as the one we explain below that both science teacher educators and preservice teachers will engage in conversations that they may find difficult and uncomfortable. For real change to happen, more of these conversations and engagements must happen in the entire curriculum of a program.

We begin by introducing the context of the preservice teachers’ science methods course and reason for this work, followed by defining critical literacy and how it pairs well in science education. We then share an engineering design project and how we engaged preservice teachers in critical conversations by critiquing and reflecting on their creations. Next, we share conversations preservice teachers had among themselves and with us, and the themes that emerged from these audio-taped conversations. We end with the importance of science methods courses implementing social justice education and suggestions on how to reexamine our science curriculum to make it more culturally relevant and equitable for all students.

Context

In 2016, the Department of Teacher Education at this Midwestern university adopted a mission statement which highlighted our commitment to preparing teachers for confronting social injustices in all educational settings. This commitment required a shift in what was in the center of our curricula. As we revised our course curricula by centering it on learners and focusing on culturally relevant pedagogical approaches, it became obvious that Nazan’s lack of expertise and experiences in these approaches were obstacles in effective implementation.

Nazan is an international scholar who was born and raised in a non-English speaking and Muslim country. She was one of the eight female students out of 60 who studied and earned a bachelor’s degree in Physics prior to pursuing a graduate degree in the U.S. Her personal and academic experiences and worldviews have been shaped by her perceived minority identities (ethnic, religious, and gender).  While she could empathize with injustices that other minority groups (e.g., LGBTQ+ and people of color, or POC) faced with and became allied to related causes such as Black Lives Matter, she failed to recognize her dominant white identity and its impact on the communities in which she was engaged. Through the process of critical introspection in faculty meetings, learning communities, and audited courses with social justice foci, she started to acknowledge her white identity and the need to address issues of social justice in her science methods courses.

Sharing scholarship at the faculty meetings and ideas during hallway conversations enabled us to identify the exemplary work already been done by colleagues. Katherine, for example, had her English Language Arts education majors select print and nonprint linked texts, centering on a social justice theme (e.g., Black Lives Matter) and then critique their texts through a critical literacy lens to address their implicit biases (Batchelor, DeWater, & Thompson, 2019). What attracted Nazan to this work was that Katherine was able to meaningfully weave the new mission with the content of her course (ELA), which her students were expected to teach.

The question for Nazan was, How could the same be done in a science methods course? This is how the idea of integrating engineering design and critical literacy came to coexist for us. Early Childhood Education majors in Nazan’s science methods course had just learned engineering design principles as addressed in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS, NGSS Lead States, 2013). The critical literacy infused engineering design activity, called “Build a Child” mentioned below, would create a context for the preservice teachers to apply principles of engineering design they previously learned while enabling us to engage them in uncomfortable discussions and identify any implicit bias preservice teachers might have about their future students. In a study conducted with a comparable sample of preservice teachers, Bautista, Misco, and Quaye (2018) found that preservice teachers often “have submerged epistemologies (e.g., implicit biases) about the world that may or may not show themselves in teacher preparation classes and the schools in which they may teach” (p. 166). Batchelor (2019) research also revealed that preservice teachers’ sociocultural experiences and intersectionality awareness influenced their thinking about bias. Therefore, engaging preservice teachers in an explicit discussion about their child creations using a critical literacy lens would encourage this engineering design activity to become a platform for culturally relevant teaching.

Critical Literacy Paired with Science in Preservice Teacher Education

There is a disparity between children’s diversity and the standardizations and curricula associated with them (Genishi & Dyson, 2009). With 80% of teachers identifying as white, middle class, monolingual females, it’s not hard to see why (Nieto, 2000; Villegas & Lucas, 2002).  Children need to see themselves in the curriculum, but without the pedagogical backbone of culturally relevant teaching, this can become a roadblock to curricular choices for some teachers, especially future teachers. One way to combat this void is through the practice of critical literacy. Critical literacy provides pathways for teachers who are seeking to engage in culturally relevant teaching practices since it is rooted in democracy, injustice, and considered a lens of literacy as well as a practice engaged to encourage students to use language to question their everyday world experiences. In particular, it centers on the relationship dynamic between language and power, positing that text and education are never neutral. It is a sociopolitical system that either privileges or oppresses, especially regarding race, class, and gender. Critical literacy meshes social, cultural, and political worlds with how texts (in the broadest sense) work, in what context, and discusses who benefits and is marginalized within the boundaries of these text uses (Lewison, Leland, & Harste, 2014), which is one of the tenets of culturally relevant teaching: developing a critical consciousness (Gay, 2010; Ladson-Billings, 1995), meaning, students are able to critique cultural norms and values society has deemed worthy.

There is no set “how-to” on how to enact critical literacy in the classroom. This is because each experience is contingent upon the students’ and teachers’ power relations and the needs and inquiries of each child. However, the most commonly used practices that support critical literacy in the classroom include: reading supplementary texts; reading multiple texts; reading from a resistant perspective; producing counter-texts; having students conduct research about topics of personal interest; and challenging students to take social action (Behrman, 2006).

Critical literacy practices and inquiry-based science pair well since both encourage instructional strategies that build on students’ curiosities of the world around them and enhance literacy skills. Additionally, scientific literacy requires the ability to critique the quality of evidence when reading various media, including the Internet, magazines, and television. Moreover, providing opportunities for students to question and ponder what students find meaningful is important to promote an inquiry-based classroom, whether it be in science or language arts.

Both critical literacy and science education encourage students to meaningfully and actively participate with others in a global society. For example, DeBoer (2005) suggests, “Science education should develop citizens who are able to critically follow reports and discussions about science that appear in the media and who can take part in conversations about science and science related issues that are part of their daily experience” (p. 234). Therefore, the many benefits of including critical literacy practices in science education should be examined with preservice teachers as well as practicing teachers.

Preparing Preservice Teachers for the Critical Conversations

In the days leading to the engineering design and the critical conversations, preservice teachers read articles by Montgomery (2001), Moll et al. (1992) and Yosso (2005) focusing on creating culturally responsive and inclusive classrooms and students’ funds of knowledge. They conducted a diversity self-assessment adopted from Bromley (1998).  They shared their self-assessment responses in small groups and discussed the ideas that emerged from these small groups as a whole class. Perhaps the most important aspects of these discussions was that most preservice teachers initially shared their own stories of being stereotyped. For instance, identifying herself as feminine, Bekah expressed that people often assumed she could not use power tools, such as a drill press, or do physical hard work (e.g., putting up a drywall). Yufang, the only international student in the methods class, explained how she felt silenced and invisible in most of her college courses by peers and professors as she could not speak English fast enough during her freshman and sophomore years. Nazan, then guided preservice teachers to consider their future students experiencing similar or other biases (e.g., racial, religious, etc.) and what actions they might take to reach out to these students. Using Moll’s (1992) funds of knowledge and Yosso’s (2005) cultural wealth model, preservice teachers compiled ideas to make their future students feel included in their classrooms and were encouraged to add new ideas to the class list for the rest of the semester. These classroom discussions set the stage for the “Build a Child” engineering design activity, which they started in the following class meeting.

“Build a Child” Engineering Design Challenge

We called the activity, composed of three phases, “Build a Child” because of both its literal and symbolic meanings. While constructing a product using cardboards and Makedo tools as part of the engineering design process in the first phase, we asked preservice teachers to imagine who they were building and who the child was as a whole with his/her/their background, race, ethnicity, struggles, communities he/she/they lived, etc. (second phase). Through these reflective and critical discussions, preservice teachers would become more aware of the stories their future students would bring to their classrooms and the ways in which they needed to build strong relationships with these students (third phase).

Phase 1: Engineering Design

Preservice teachers first practiced engineering design principles as they built a child using cardboards and MakedoTM construction toolkit[1]. Engineering design is the method that engineers use to identify and solve problems.  What distinguishes engineering design from other types of problem solving is the nature of both the problem and the solution. The problems are open-ended in nature, which means there is no single correct solution. Engineers must produce solutions within the limitations of their context and choose solutions that include the most desired features. The solution is tested, revised, and re-tested until it is finalized, and different groups of engineers can end up with different valid solutions. See Figure 1 for the tasks and rules we provided to the preservice teachers to complete this task successfully.

Figure 1 (Click on image to enlarge)
Rules and Criteria Provided for the “Build a Child” Engineering Design Activity and Used to Evaluate Preservice Teachers’ Creations

Once the designs were ready, Nazan, as the instructor, tested each of them to verify whether the designs followed the rules provided in figure 1. Based on the results, preservice teachers either moved on to the next section or revised their design based on the feedback provided until their design was re-tested and approved.

Phase 2: Essays

In the next phase of the lesson, the cardboard children came alive. Preservice teachers individually wrote a background story about their children, detailed enough for the class to get to know each child well. We provided some questions to guide them as they wrote the stories (see figure 2). Since the class time was not long enough to finish these essays, they finalized them and submit them to the instructor prior to the next meeting, which would start with everyone presenting their stories.

Figure 2 (Click on image to enlarge)
Guiding Questions for the “Build a Child” Essays

Phase 3: Critical Conversations

The next phase, critical conversations, began when we asked preservice teachers to imagine that the children they built and narrated would be the children in their future classrooms. We provided the questions in figure 3 to engage them in the critical conservations. We reassured our students before discussion began that acknowledging our own privileges is never easy, and talking about them is even harder, especially when it comes to unpacking implicit biases we all hold. Tensions will arise, but it is through these tensions that we outgrow our thinking. Both Nazan and Katherine shared personal experiences with implicit biases they carried in order to build trust and share that even though they are “seasoned teachers,” they too were challenged with personal biases they carried. By revealing these moments and prefacing the conversation on tension producing reflection, preservice teachers were more willing to share beliefs about their children in small group settings.

Figure 3 (Click on image to enlarge)
Critical Conversation Questions Used to Guide Explicit Discussions

During these small group discussions, both authors sat in on conversations and listened. When conversations were in lull, they would pose questions to extend and nudge students to provide more thinking behind their decisions to create a child with a particular race or gender, for example, and ask them to delve deeper into their own experiences as a student and what they witnessed in school, and more importantly, build empathy toward their created child’s story.

Critical literacy and culturally relevant teaching empower students and teachers to be risk-takers, for voices to be shared and heard. Therefore, when small group discussions concluded, both authors gathered the class back as a whole and asked them to share the highlights of their conversations; question and critique who is in power in making curricular decisions, and generate ideas as to how they would address some of these issues as they make curricular decisions in the future.

Effectiveness of Preservice Teachers’ Critical Conversations

Following the tenets of culturally relevant teaching (Gay, 2010; Ladson-Billings, 2014; Nieto, 2005), modeling it with and for our students, we engaged in instructional conversations based on meaningful topics, such as systemic issues in education, making the conversation more student-based than teacher-based, and we used open-ended questions to elaborate meaningful discussion. Nieto (2005) discussed ways to support future and practicing teachers by assisting them to “reflect deeply on their beliefs and attitudes” (pp. 217-218), which will hopefully over time, provide opportunities to engage in sustainable culturally relevant pedagogy. We are fully aware that changing students’ beliefs or what Gay (2010) called “ ideological anchors” can be challenging at best, even recognizing that some of our preservice teachers will walk away with some of the same preconceived notions as when they started our courses. However, both authors assert that this doesn’t mean we stop trying. We work through the initial resistance, confusion, and assumptions with which students enter our courses, and offer opportunities to unpack them in a space that supports deconstructing implicit biases.

As stated in the introduction, our university division committed to teaching for social justice, thus providing numerous opportunities for guest speakers, professional development, and collaboration supporting this endeavor both for faculty and students. Because of this commitment, educators better prepare future teachers to talk about issues of race, privilege, and marginalization, for example, because they themselves are also practicing it in their courses. Preservice teachers in the program now experience the overarching theme of social justice woven into each of their courses through dialogic practice, readings, and modeling culturally relevant pedagogical tenets. It is because of this overarching thread that Katherine’s students were prepared and even eager to engage in complicated conversations centering on their created children.

For the purpose of this article, we gathered the “Build a Child” essays written by the 12 preservice teachers and the audiotaped small-group and whole-class conversations. These data sources allowed us to check how effective we were in bringing submerged beliefs to the surface for open dialogue and how well the instruction worked in engaging preservice teachers in meaningful conversations about social justice and equity issues.  Based on our analysis, the following three themes emerged from the thematic review of the data sources: 1) emerging awareness of various forms of diversity; 2) blindness to identity; and 3) stereotypes about gender and gender binary.

Emerging Awareness of Various Forms of Diversity

Overall, preservice teachers’ designs included children from different racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups, children with physical and learning disabilities, and children who were in different points of the gender spectrum. However, gender far outweighed the other forms of diversity represented. For example, six of the 12 designs were girls and five were boys. Katie initially described her design as a boy, but later in the essay identified him as non-binary gender queer and changed her gender identifier from “him” to “them.”

Regarding racial identity, one of the child designs was Black, one was multi-racial (Latina and White), and one was an immigrant (born in China), while the rest were White. Not surprisingly, the Black, female child was built by a Black, female preservice teacher, Brianna, and the Chinese child (boy) was built by a Chinese preservice teacher, Yufang. Children designed by Debi and Yufang were bilingual.

Looking at living situations, the cardboard children had very supportive families and communities, with the exception of one child who “came from an abusive family.” All children were identified as living in middle class neighborhoods, while one lived in an upper, middle class town with a low unemployment rate.  Two were in lower, middle class communities with both parents working or a single parent working multiple jobs. Only one preservice teacher, Brianna, mentioned that their cardboard child attended a “diverse school.” Three of the children lived with only one parent along with their siblings and grandparents, and only one preservice teacher mentioned divorce as part of their child’s family situation.

As for physical and mental disabilities, one child was identified as a “struggling student,” “having ADD” and another child had an amputated leg. Maddie’s child had an illness called “cardboard-itis,” which affected his ability to memorize, and Luna’s child had severe allergies, which prevented him from attending school. One child struggled with social and emotional needs and was labeled as “Gifted.”

We asked students to assume that the 12 children they created were in their classroom and to reflect on how the created classroom demographics looked similar or different from our current class group. Regarding gender identity (9 female, 1 male, and 2 non-binary gender queer in the classroom versus 6 female, 5 male, and 1 non-binary gender queer with the cardboard child creations), the cardboard children leaned more toward a “traditional” elementary science classroom and less resembled the preservice teachers’ class.  However, regarding racial identity (10 White preservice teachers, 1 Black preservice teacher, and 1 Chinese preservice teacher versus 9 White cardboard children, 1 Black cardboard child, 1 Chinese cardboard child, and 1 multiracial cardboard child), the resemblance was almost identical and is also reflective of the teacher population in the United States currently with 80% White teachers.

Blindness to Identity

Classroom conversations revealed that preservice teachers’ awareness of forms of diversity did not mean that they had an informed understanding of how to interact with or approach students with these identities. They expressed the desire to learn about the differing needs of students in order to provide appropriate support and opportunities; yet, they stated they would treat all students the same regardless of differing needs and opportunities. Identified by the authors as problematic, the conversations among preservice teachers eluded to how their future students are equal no matter their identity, which led to the naive notion of “colorblindness.”

Specifically, we called out the students’ misconception that it is not appropriate to acknowledge differences, especially regarding race. We shared with them our noticings of how each preservice teacher when sharing their child’s background did not identify the child’s race, with the exception of Brianna, the single Black preservice teacher in the course. It was only when asked specifically what the child’s race was that they addressed it. This viewpoint combined with an attitude of “everyone is equal” is problematic since race provides meaning, context, and history, just to name a few (Sensoy & DiAngelo, 2012).

Stereotypes About Gender and Gender Binary

Interestingly, preservice teachers felt comfortable enough to construct a child representing the opposite sex (e.g., male student built a female child or vice versa) but those who considered themselves straight were not comfortable in building a child who identified on the LGBTQ spectrum. Additionally, regarding gender equity in science education, it was refreshing to witness how evenly distributed the children’s gender was in the science classroom, especially regarding their cardboard children’s attitudes and proclivity toward science. For example, one preservice teacher stated their child wanted to be an astronaut when he grew up (albeit a male child), and another preservice teacher’s female child claimed to be “good at math and science,” while a third, female, cardboard child stated math was her favorite subject.

However, conversations also revealed additional stereotypes about gender roles. For instance, when asked why she built a boy, Kim said her child had short hair and as a result, she imagined the child being a boy. She then turned to Luna who had short hair and identified as gender fluid and apologized. Similarly, the cardboard male students built by Jackie and Kim assumed traditional male roles in their essays. Jackie, stated that her cardboard child was the only boy in the family and he got to be the king while his three older sisters were princesses. Kim stated that her cardboard child had to “step up for his mother and younger sisters after their father walked out on them.”

Discussion

The ultimate goal of this three phase instruction was to push preservice teachers out of their comfort zones by engaging them in critical conversations around issues of social justice. Although the results may not have produced any unordinary instances, we believe that we were able to achieve this goal. Overall, our findings revealed that preservice teachers who state they have the best interests in their future students’ education while appreciating the diversity students bring to their future classrooms have biases about students who have identities that differ from their own. Furthermore, considering societal norms and expectations as “normal” (e.g., heterosexuality), some expressed feeling uncomfortable to openly talk about their students’ gender and racial identity when the students do not exhibit the identities that are “normal.”

Science methods courses provide the necessary context and the opportunity to address preservice teachers’ implicit biases about their students and the communities these students belong to. Science teacher educators must explicitly address that teachers’ values and beliefs influence the way they teach content and curriculum and how they interact with their students. Content mastery cannot be ensured without “seeing” and “understanding” the whole child, which is more than knowing his or her favorite color, game, or animal. It is, in fact, part of their “job” to understand how to effectively teach the content by making it culturally relevant to their students.

To start, science teachers can examine their curriculum through a critical literacy lens, noting whose voices are marginalized and left out of the science conversation. This includes providing a variety of role models in science who represent diversity in all its senses: gender, race, sexuality, ability, age, etc. For example, if examining a unit on inventors and inventions, use Alan Turing’s computer responsible for breaking the Nazi Enigma code during World War II, and provide his background and how he identified as gay. When studying space exploration, mention Sally Ride’s, the first American woman in space, female life partner. Look at how diverse (or nondiverse) the scientists represented in the science textbook or supplementary texts are and provide numerous non-White, examples. For example, show clips of the Oscar-winning movie Hidden Figures (2017), to showcase the life work of four, Black, female pioneer NASA scientists. Promote Indigenous science role models by reading The Girl Who Could Rock the Moon (Cointreau, 2019), an inspirational story of the first Native American female scientist, Mary Golda Ross. Talk about the possible barriers and tensions these scientists overcame in order to open the doors for conversations surrounding social justice in science.

Our first implementation of this activity was toward the end of the semester.  These conversations were extended into their final project, titled Community Asset Map for Science Teaching and Learning. Preservice teachers were encouraged to consider ideas generated from these conversations as they developed the asset maps for the partner schools where they completed their clinical experiences. However, Nazan has now altered the course curriculum to include this activity at the beginning of the semester so continued conversations can unpack preservice teachers’ implicit biases surrounding their created children as well as use this experience as an “A-ha!” moment for students to return to throughout the semester, connecting it to future readings and discussions. We have also thought about pairing this activity with students taking an implicit association test (IAT) (see Greenwald, McGhee, & Schwartz, 1998) to acknowledge various biases, such as gender and race. We could then have students match their implicit bias test results to their created-child’s story, thus, making a deeper connection.

Most importantly, we believe our future teachers need to have continued support throughout the rest of their program and into their beginning years of teaching in order to make culturally relevant teaching a realization in their future science classrooms. We need to ask repeatedly, “What does culturally relevant teaching look like and feel like in the science classroom?”

Conclusion

Our research revealed that more needs to be done regarding preparing future science teachers to be culturally relevant practitioners. Science education must address social justice, which means, science teachers must learn how to disrupt the current curriculum, create nurturing and supportive learning environments that are conducive to all children, and how to engage in critical conversations. This effort starts with the future of education: Preservice teachers. Teacher educators must teach them to question and examine their preconceived notions of gender, race, sexuality, able-ism, etc. Moreover, there is a need for more research to examine power relations and how culturally relevant practices are enacted in the classroom, especially science classrooms.

Overall, children need to see themselves in the curriculum, and when practicing teachers as well as future teachers are given the opportunity to examine curriculum in this manner, more voices can be included. Modeling culturally relevant science teaching approaches for future teachers as well as engaging them in “difficult” conversations about race, ethnicity, sexuality, and gender in the context of science teaching are first steps toward proper preparation of teachers for the increasingly diverse classrooms.

Notes

[1] Makedo Tools are child-friendly (3 years and up) tools specifically designed so as to not cut or punch skin (as described at https://www.make.do/).

Supplemental Files

APPENDIX-A.docx

References

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The Framework for Analyzing Video in Science Teacher Education and Examples of its Broad Applicability

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Arias, A., Criswell, B., Ellis, J.A., Escalada, L., Forsythe, M., Johnson, H., Mahar, D., Palmeri, A., Parker, M., & Riccio, J. (2020). The framework for analyzing video in science teacher education and examples of its broad applicability. Innovations in Science Teacher Education, 5(4). Retrieved from https://innovations.theaste.org/the-framework-for-analyzing-video-in-science-teacher-education-and-examples-of-its-broad-applicability/

by Anna Arias, Kennesaw State University; Brett Criswell, West Chester University; Josh A. Ellis, Florida International University; Lawrence Escalada, University of Northern Iowa; Michelle Forsythe, Texas State University; Heather Johnson, Vanderbilt University; Donna Mahar, SUNY Empire State College; Amy Palmeri, Vanderbilt University; Margaret Parker, Illinois State University; & Jessica Riccio, Columbia University

Abstract

There appears to be consensus that the use of video in science teacher education can support the pedagogical development of science teacher candidates. However, in a comprehensive review, Gaudin and Chaliès (2015) identified critical questions about video use that remain unanswered and need to be explored through research in teacher education. A critical question they ask is, “How can teaching teachers to identify and interpret relevant classroom events on video clips improve their capacity to perform the same activities in the classroom?” (p. 57). This paper shares the efforts of a collaborative of science teacher educators from nine teacher preparation programs working to answer this question. In particular, we provide an overview of a theoretically-constructed video analysis framework and demonstrate how that framework has guided the design of pedagogical tools and video-based learning experiences both within and across a variety of contexts. These contexts include both undergraduate and graduate science teacher preparation programs, as well as elementary and secondary science methods and content courses. Readers will be provided a window into the planning and enactment of video analyses in these different contexts, as well as insights from the assessment and research efforts that are exploring the impact of the integration of video analysis in each context.

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References

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A 20-year Journey in Elementary and Early Childhood Science and Engineering Education: A Cycle of Reflection, Refinement, and Redesign

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Sandifer, C., Lottero-Perdue, P., & Miranda, R.J. (2020). A 20-year journey in elementary and early childhood science and engineering education: A cycle of reflection, refinement, and redesign. Innovations in Science Teacher Education, 5(4). Retrieved from https://innovations.theaste.org/a-20-year-journey-in-elementary-and-early-childhood-science-and-engineering-education-a-cycle-of-reflection-refinement-and-redesign/

by Cody Sandifer, Towson University; Pamela S. Lottero-Perdue, Towson University; & Rommel J. Miranda, Towson University

Abstract

Over the past two decades, science and engineering education faculty at Towson University have implemented a number of course innovations in our elementary and early childhood education content, internship, and methods courses. The purposes of this paper are to: (1) describe these innovations so that faculty looking to make similar changes might discover activities or instructional approaches to adapt for use at their own institutions and (2) provide a comprehensive list of lessons learned so that others can share in our successes and avoid our mistakes. The innovations in our content courses can be categorized as changes to our inquiry approach, the addition of new out-of-class activities and projects, and the introduction of engineering design challenges. The innovations in our internship and methods courses consist of a broad array of improvements, including supporting consistency across course sections, having current interns generate advice documents for future interns, switching focus to the NGSS science and engineering practices (and modifying them, if necessary, for early childhood), and creating new field placement lessons.

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Student-Generated Photography as a Tool for Teaching Science

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Bradbury, L., Goodman, J., & Wilson, R.E. (2020). Student-generated photography as a tool for teaching science. Innovations in Science Teacher Education, 5(4). Retrieved from https://innovations.theaste.org/student-generated-photography-as-a-tool-for-teaching-science/

by Leslie Bradbury, Appalachian State University; Jeff Goodman, Appalachian State University; & Rachel E. Wilson, Appalachian State University

Abstract

This paper describes the experiences of three science educators who used student-generated photographs in their methods classes. The paper explains the impetus for the idea and includes a summary of the literature that supports the use of photographs to teach science. The authors explain the process that they used in their classes and share examples of student-generated photographs. The paper concludes with a summary of the benefits that the authors felt occurred through the use of the photographs including the building of community within the classes and the encouragement of the preservice teachers’ identity as science learners and future science teachers.

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References

Arnheim, R. (1980). A plea for visual thinking. Critical Inquiry, 6, 489-497.

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A District-University Partnership to Support Teacher Development

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Wade-Jaimes, K., Counsell, S., Caldwell, L., & Askew, R. (2020). A district-university partnership to support teacher development. Innovations in Science Teacher Education, 5(4). Retrieved from https://innovations.theaste.org/a-district-university-partnership-to-support-teacher-development/

by Katherine Wade-Jaimes, University of Memphis; Shelly Counsell, University of Memphis; Logan Caldwell, University of Memphis; & Rachel Askew, Vanderbilt University

Abstract

With the shifts in science teaching and learning suggested by the Framework for K-12 Science Education, in-service science teachers are being asked to re-envision their classroom practices, often with little support. This paper describes a unique partnership between a school district and a university College of Education, This partnership began as an effort to support in-service science teachers of all levels in the adoption of new science standards and shifts towards 3-dimensional science teaching. Through this partnership, we have implemented regular "Share-A-Thons," or professional development workshops for in-service science teachers. We present here the Share-A-Thons as a model for science teacher professional development as a partnership between schools, teachers, and university faculty. We discuss the logistics of running the Share-A-Thons, including challenges and next steps, provide teacher feedback, and include suggestions for implementation.

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References

Counsell, S. (2011). GRADES K-6-Becoming Science” Experi-mentors”-Tenets of quality professional development and how they can reinvent early science learning experiences. Science and Children49(2), 52.

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National Research Council (2007). Taking science to school: Learning and teaching science in grades K-8. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

National Research Council. (2012). A framework for K-12 science education: Practices, crosscutting concepts, and core ideas. National Academies Press.

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Opfer, V. D., & Pedder, D. (2011). Conceptualizing teacher professional learning. Review of educational research81, 376-407.

Palmer, D. (2004). Situational interest and the attitudes towards science of primary teacher education students. International Journal of Science Education26, 895-908.

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Wilson, S. M., & Berne, J. (1999). Chapter 6: Teacher Learning and the Acquisition of Professional Knowledge: An Examination of Research on Contemporary Professlonal Development. Review of research in education24(1), 173-209

 

Food Pedagogy as an Instructional Resource in a Science Methods Course

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Medina-Jerez, W., & Dura, L. (2020). Food pedagogy as an instructional resource in a science methods course. Innovations in Science Teacher Education, 5(3). Retrieved from https://innovations.theaste.org/food-pedagogy-as-an-instructional-resource-in-a-science-methods-course/

by William Medina-Jerez, University of Texas at El Paso; & Lucia Dura, University of Texas at El Paso

Abstract

This article explores the integration of culturally relevant practices and student expertise into lesson planning in a university-level science methods course for preservice elementary teachers (PSETs). The project utilized a conceptual framework that combines food pedagogy and funds of knowledge, modeling an approach to lesson design that PSETs can use in their future classrooms to bring students’ worldviews to the forefront of science learning. The article gives an overview of the conceptual framework and the origins of the project. It describes the steps involved in the design, review, and delivery of lessons by PSETs and discusses implications for instructional practices in science teacher education and science learning in elementary schools. The article concludes with a discussion of major outcomes of the use of this framework, as evidenced by PSET pre- and post- project reflections: student-centered curriculum development, increased PSET self-confidence, integrated learning for both PSET and the students, and sustained levels of engagement.​

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References

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Apprehension to Application: How a Family Science Night Can Support Preservice Elementary Teacher Preparation

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Feille, K., & Shaffery, H. (2020). Apprehension to application: How a family science night can support preservice elementary teacher preparation. Innovations in Science Teacher Education, 5(3). Retrieved from https://innovations.theaste.org/apprehension-to-application-how-a-family-science-night-can-support-preservice-elementary-teacher-preparation/

by Kelly Feille, University of Oklahoma; & Heather Shaffery, University of Oklahoma

Abstract

Preservice elementary teachers (PSETs) often have limited opportunities to engage as teachers of science. As science-teacher educators, it is important to create experiences where PSETs can interact with science learners to facilitate authentic and engaging science learning. Using informal science learning environments is one opportunity to create positive teaching experiences for PSETs. This manuscript describes the use of a Family Science Night during an elementary science methods course where PSETs are responsible for designing and facilitating engaging science content activities with elementary students.

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