Employing Justice-Oriented Curricula and Pedagogy to Support Elementary Teacher Candidates’ Future Science Teaching

by Daniel Alston, University of North Carolina at Charlotte; & Lenora Crabtree, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

An imperative shift in science education from approaches that emphasize access and identity to those that center justice will require both an inward critical analysis of science as a discipline and outward exploration of the role science might play in creating a more just society. Accordingly, future elementary science teachers need opportunities to consider how science education might be leveraged to create a more just and equitable society. However, many science teacher educators struggle to model justice-oriented pedagogies within discipline-specific instruction; employing justice-oriented approaches is especially challenging in elementary education programs. This manuscript will describe three justice-oriented curricular innovations which supported preservice elementary teachers as they learned to teach science to elementary students. Also described are the rationales for each curricular innovation and the impact of each innovation on student learning. We conclude with a discussion about the strengths and weaknesses of the curricular innovations, their generalizability and the relevance and need for justice-oriented curricular innovations in the current political climate.

Promises and Pitfalls: Using an AI Chatbot as a Tool in 5E Lesson Planning

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

The authors describe how we approached using an AI chatbot, ChatGPT, during the spring 2023 semester with preservice elementary education students as an exercise in thinking about planning 5E lessons. We report here how we explored the tool with four different sections of preservice teachers and what we found about using this particular AI chatbot to help them develop planning skills for inquiry-based science instruction. Specifically, we found that when using a single prompt, the tool was not reliably accurate or realistic in planning for real classrooms or creating quality 5E lessons. However, when we employed techniques to focus and refine our prompts, we found value in using the chatbot as a part of brainstorming, and we determined that ChatGPT was particularly useful for generating high-quality, open-ended questions. Our overall conclusion from the experience is the importance of scaffolding students to use AI chatbots in an iterative process, focusing on creating high-quality prompts and successive questioning to get useful output information. Opportunities and cautions for using such tools in education are reviewed.

Preservice Teachers Facilitating a Discussion With Elementary Student Avatars Before Facilitating It With Real Students

by Pamela S. Lottero-Perdue, Towson University; Karen Cimino, Towson University; & Julia Brandeberry, Towson University

In this article, we share our innovation in which we used backward design to develop a scenario for use within the Mursion mixed-reality (MR) upper elementary simulated classroom environment to enable preservice teachers (PSTs) to practice facilitating an ambitious group discussion before facilitating that discussion to students in their field placement. The third-year elementary PSTs were enrolled in a course in which they taught a fourth-grade, NGSS-aligned unit that focused on the external and internal structures of sea turtles and how an injury to one or more of those structures could impact their growth, survival, behavior, or reproduction. To enhance the unit, we added a nonfiction text, Karl’s New Beak (Nargi & Popham, 2019), that examines the ramifications on survival, behavior, and reproduction faced by an Abyssinian ground hornbill missing most of his lower beak. At the end of the unit, each PST facilitated a discussion to elicit connections their students made between key ideas in the unit and text about how an injury to an animal impacts its survival, behavior, or reproduction. We share key elements of scenario design and how the PSTs prepared for, implemented, and debriefed from the MR simulated discussion. We also summarize and provide examples from the PSTs’ reflections on how the simulated experience prepared them to facilitate the same discussion with their small groups of fourth graders. For teacher educators who have access to the Mursion system, we provide our scenario and recommendations on how to begin utilizing this technology.

Chat-Based Role-Play for Preservice Teachers to Practice Eliciting Students’ Arguments

by Pamela S. Lottero-Perdue, Towson University; Peter Rillero, Arizona State University; Cathy Liebars, The College of New Jersey; Adam Goldberg, Southern Connecticut State University; & Justin Reich, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

In this article, we describe our implementation of an innovative approximation of practice in teacher education: chat-based role-play. In so doing, we share our collective experiences as teacher educators about how the preservice teachers (PSTs) across our four methods courses—two elementary science courses, one elementary mathematics course, and one middle school mathematics course—practiced eliciting students’ initial arguments about a matter investigation (for science) or a fractions or ratio problem (for mathematics). The chat-based role-play to which we refer involves a one-on-one, 7-minute-long, teacher–student typed chat in which the teacher aims to elicit the student’s claim and evidence-based reasoning (for science) or justification (for math). We used Eliciting Learner Knowledge (ELK; https://tsl.mit.edu/practice_space/eliciting-learner-knowledge/), a multiplayer option in the Teacher Moments online platform from the MIT Teaching Systems Lab that is free and available for public use, to support this role-playing experience; however, we also explain how other platforms (e.g., Google Docs) can achieve a similar effect. In this article, we describe (a) the affordances of typed chat-based role-play; (b) the ELK platform and elementary science chat as an example; (c) the ways in which we prepared PSTs for their chats, formatted their chat experiences, and asked them to reflect after the chats; (d) how our PSTs benefitted from preparing for, engaging in, and debriefing from these chats; (e) implementation challenges and associated suggestions; and (f) alternate ways of conducting typed chat-based role-play in methods courses. Content-specific examples throughout the article are from science.

3D Into 5E for Space Sciences Lessons Using NASA Education Resources for Elementary and Middle School Classrooms

by Soon C. Lee, Kennesaw State University; Bergman, Daniel, Wichita State University; & Novacek, Greg, NA

Implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS; NGSS Lead States, 2013) 3D learning that is well aligned with the performance expectations has been challenging for many science teachers. Furthermore, studies on curriculum materials for NGSS have rarely provided templates or guidelines that are straightforward for teachers to use in their science classes. This project aimed to provide professional development opportunities to middle school teachers (Grades 5–8) through a workshop designed to facilitate the integration of NASA’s educational resources into science lessons aligned with the NGSS 3D learning framework. The workshop included a conceptual model (i.e., 3D Into 5E), lesson templates, and sample lessons. Specifically, the project activities were designed to improve the participating teachers’ space-science content knowledge and instructional strategies, thereby enabling them to capture their students’ interest and channel it toward related STEM careers. Although the BSCS 5E Instructional Model (Bybee et al., 2006) is not a new concept, this project has demonstrated its efficacy as a template for effectively integrating the three dimensions of NGSS with related phenomena in science teaching. This project has not only demonstrated the effectiveness of the 5E model as a tool for promoting a deeper understanding of scientific concepts but also innovatively incorporated hands-on space-science activities to enhance its impact. By engaging teachers in these activities, the project improved their ability to modify instructional materials using the 3D Into 5E template, ultimately leading to a more engaging and impactful learning experience for their students. The study’s results showed that participating teachers experienced significant improvements in their space-science content knowledge and teaching confidence, indicating the effectiveness of this innovative approach. The teachers also reported high levels of student engagement and enjoyment during space-science activities, indicating the potential of this approach to enhance student-centered learning and improve the quality of science instruction delivered to students. Overall, this project’s innovative approach has the potential to transform science education by providing teachers with practical tools and strategies to engage students in science and promote a deeper understanding of space-science concepts.

Elementary Science Teacher Educators Learning Together: Catalyzing Change With Educative Curriculum Materials and Vignette Writing

by Sumreen Asim, Indiana University Southeast; Jeni Davis, Salisbury University; Melanie Kinskey, Sam Houston State University; Heather Lavender, University of Georgia; Jaclyn Murray, Augusta University; Amanda Obery, Central Washington University; Carrie-Anne Sherwood, Southern Connecticut State University; & Sarah Voss, Drake University

In this article, we describe a professional learning community (PLC) for science teacher educators that supported changes in pedagogy through educative curriculum materials and vignette writing. The PLC was convened as part of a grant-supported project to build preservice elementary teachers’ content knowledge for matter using educative curriculum materials. PLC members collaborated with one another over an academic year to learn about and discuss implementing curricular materials in their respective science teacher education courses. Due to the collaborative nature of the PLC, members were able to engage in sensemaking collectively around challenges of practice through vignette writing. The process of writing vignettes within the PLC allowed for productive reflection around content knowledge for matter and science teaching practices, ultimately, advancing preservice teachers’ learning about teaching elementary science.

Instructional Pathways to Considering Social Dimensions Within Socioscientific Issues

by Rebecca Rawson Lesnefsky, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill; Troy Sadler, University of North Carolina; Li Ke, University of Nevada-Reno; & Pat Friedrichsen, University of Missouri

The Socioscientific Issues Teaching and Learning (SSI-TL) framework is a guide for developing an instructional approach to learning experiences focused on socioscientific issues (SSI). Despite the potential benefits of SSI learning, teachers often struggle to implement this approach in their classrooms (Sadler et al., 2006; Saunders & Rennie, 2013), and one of the most prominent reasons for this struggle is science teacher concerns and hesitation associated with incorporating social dimensions of the issues into their instruction (Friedrichsen et al., 2021). The purpose of this article is to provide science teacher educators with tools to help teachers better manage the integration of the social dimensions of SSI in issues-based teaching. In doing so, we suggest an expansion of the SSI-TL framework such that it more explicitly highlights pathways for focusing on the social dimensions of SSI within science learning environments. These pathways emerged as a result of a joint effort with nine high school science teachers as they developed a unit related to COVID-19; however, the pathways support science teachers as they implement science learning experiences that provide opportunities to negotiate social dimensions across most SSI. The pathways include systems mapping, connecting analysis to policy positions, media literacy, and social justice. We present how following each pathway integrates the social dimension of the focal issue, an example from the COVID-19 unit, evidence of success, and future considerations for science teacher educators as they help classroom teachers adopt an SSI approach.

Preparing Preservice Teachers to Help Elementary Students Develop Persuasive Science Writing

by Keri-Anne Croce, Towson University; & Lucy Spence, University of South Carolina

To inspire change in the world, scientists must be agile communicators who can persuade different audiences around the globe. Persuasive science writing must reflect an understanding of how culture and language influence audiences in different ways. Examples of scientific writing designed for different audiences around the globe include pamphlets describing safe masking practices or public-service announcements about climate change. Preservice teachers must prepare the next generations of scientists to think of science content in conjunction with communication. This has created a high demand for university programs to prepare preservice teachers to teach elementary students how to create persuasive science writing. The International Science Text Analysis Protocols (ISTAP) teaching methodology was designed to help preservice teachers guide elementary students to develop tools for creating persuasive science writing. This article details how university programs may use ISTAP to support preservice teachers before, during, and after school placements. As linguistic and cultural diversity within science classrooms in the United States continues to expand, students will bring diverse resources into conversations centering on persuasive science writing. As university faculty guide preservice teachers through ISTAP, they are emphasizing diversity within science classrooms and supporting equity within STEM.

Research-Community Partnerships to Support Teacher Professional Learning

by Katherine Wade-Jaimes, University of Nevada Las Vegas; Rachel Askew, Freed-Hardeman University; Cullen Johnson, Memphis Teacher Residencey; & Chuck Butler, Memphis Teacher Residency

Providing ongoing support for inservice teachers is a challenge faced by school districts, educational organizations, and colleges of education everywhere. In this article, we describe a partnership between a community-based educational organization and educational researchers designed to provide professional development and support for science and math teachers while also supporting youth participating in a summer STEM program. Originating from an identified need of the community organization to better support youth STEM identity in their programming and rooted in a framework of STEM identity and equity in STEM, this partnership leveraged resources from different groups and was shown to be beneficial to the community organization, educational researchers, teachers, and youth. It this article, we discuss the logistics of this partnership and how it was implemented during a summer program, provide outcomes from youth and teachers, and include suggestions for the development of similar partnerships.

Building a Firm Foundation: Preparing Pre-K–4 Teachers for Integrative STEM Pedagogy

by Sharon A. Brusic, Millersville University of Pennsylvania; Nanette Marcum-Dietrich, Millersville University of Pennsylvania; Jennifer Shettel, Millersville University of Pennsylvania; & Janet White, Millersville University of Pennsylvania

Preservice teachers in early childhood (pre-K–4) education teacher preparation programs typically experience content-specific pedagogy courses that operate in isolation from each other. In addition, preservice teachers are rarely given the opportunity to learn about integrative teaching in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). In this article, the authors describe how Millersville University of Pennsylvania, a midsized regional public university in the Mid-Atlantic Region, addressed this issue in their teacher preparation program by creating an integrative STEM (iSTEM) minor that provided preservice teachers with five additional courses that explored how to implement STEM in early childhood classrooms in developmentally appropriate ways with a design-based pedagogy. This article introduces the program, including the specific coursework that preservice teachers engage in as well as other programmatic features that contribute to the success of the minor in increasing the confidence and skill levels of future teachers in successful STEM integration techniques. Photographs and artifacts are included to provide readers with a clearer picture of the types of learning activities and assignments in which students engaged. The article concludes with qualitative comments from students who participated in this program.