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.

Scaffolding Prospective Teachers’ Development of Noticing in Video-Based and Authentic Classroom Settings

by Lu Wang, Indiana University Kokomo

As an important aspect of teacher expertise, noticing skills need to be learned and practiced in teacher education programs. Although noticing literature has reported on the effectiveness of videos with associated scaffolding structures and the significant role that practical experiences play in teachers’ development of noticing skills, research on ways to support prospective teachers’ noticing in both video-based and authentic classroom settings in the field of science education is scarce. Building on teacher noticing research and the critical incident framework, this article describes a model that engages a group of prospective elementary teachers in the practice of noticing first in a 2-week, online, video-based training module and then in dynamic and complex classrooms when they attend a practicum associated with a science methods course. Detailed descriptions of the model, prospective teachers’ learning outcomes, and thoughts and considerations for implementing the model are shared. Differences between prospective teachers’ noticing journal entries prior to the video-based training module and immediately after, along with their noticing patterns in the practicum classrooms, show the development of prospective teachers’ noticing skills during the semester. Factors that were found to impact prospective teachers’ noticing in video-based and authentic classroom settings include: (a) using the adapted critical incident framework as a scaffolding guideline, (b) providing continuous feedback on prospective teacher noticing journals, and (c) having opportunities to observe science instruction in practicum classrooms.

Supporting Preservice Elementary Teachers in Teaching Science for Equity and Justice: A Practical Framework

by Elizabeth A. Davis, University of Michigan

Preservice elementary teachers bring many strengths to science teaching but may not get extensive support in learning to work toward equity and justice in their science teaching. Drawing on four approaches to equity from a recent report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (2022), this article presents a practical framework for helping preservice elementary teachers in this challenging work. The article first explores each approach, suggesting interpretive frames and teaching moves that preservice teachers could use in moving from a relatively abstract call for equity to making concrete decisions in elementary science instruction. A practical framework is developed based on that exploration, with a description of how the framework has been used instructionally in an elementary science methods class. Then, the article presents the results of a pilot study of 31 preservice elementary teachers’ use of a pilot framework, illustrating how these participants’ lesson plans readily reflected teaching moves focused on increasing children’s opportunity and access to science learning and increasing achievement, representation, and identification but less often reflected moves oriented toward broadening what counts as science or bringing science and justice together. The article concludes by noting that research is needed to further explore the utility of this framework and how equity can be supported in science teacher education more generally. The article also urges the field to develop representations of practice and elementary science curriculum materials that would support teachers in this challenging, lifelong work to advance equity and justice.

The Periodic Tile Project: Exploring the Elements With Teacher Candidates Through Science and Art

by Franklin S. Allaire, University of Houston-Downtown

Studies have shown that teacher candidates enrolled in teacher preparation programs, particularly those in early childhood and elementary certification tracks, do not feel comfortable with science content or feel confident in their ability to teach science effectively as they enter student teaching. The Periodic Tile Project is an interdisciplinary project and performance assessment that takes an essential component of the chemistry curriculum that is often treated as a static tool to be memorized and brings the dynamic facets of the elements to life through the integration of science and art. Integrating science and art in performance-based assessments has been shown to increase engagement, self-motivation, and sense of ownership and enhance expression and communication skills in K–12 students. It can provide the same benefits to science teacher candidates. This article describes the use of the Periodic Tile Project with teacher candidates to explore the elements in a fun, meaningful, and memorable way.

STEM Teacher Leader Collaborative: A Responsive Professional Learning Network With Radical Hope

by Alison Mercier, University of Wyoming

Many elementary teachers in the United States receive little to no STEM-focused professional learning during an average school year. When elementary teachers do participate in professional learning opportunities focused solely on STEM teaching and learning, they are often positioned as novices in need of improvement or instruction rather than colearners and cocontributors to the learning community. In this article, I describe the STEM Teacher Leader Collaborative as one way to address current challenges in STEM-focused professional learning and as an infrastructure for responsive teacher learning. I highlight the STEM Teacher Leader Collaborative as a model of a responsive professional learning network with radical hope, describing its guiding principles and the meanings teachers make of their experience within the network.

A Sociotechnical Approach to Engineering Education: Engineering Social Justice for Elementary Preservice Teachers

by David Kimori, Minnesota State University, Mankato; & Charlene Ellingson, Minnesota State University, Mankato

In this article, we describe an assignment that we have developed in our Engineering for Elementary Teachers course. The assignment was designed to address social justice within the engineering design process. In this course, preservice teachers (PSTs) develop an engineering project that integrates six criteria of engineering for social justice into their lesson plan as a way to make the social relevance of engineering more apparent. Beyond having teachers develop an engineering lesson plan, the goal is to increase awareness of the social justice dimension of engineering as a strategy for integrating culturally relevant pedagogies into engineering lessons. In this article, we share several lessons our PSTs have developed as well as insights that they gained about the relationship between engineering and social justice. We also share some of the challenges that the PSTs faced and the insights that we gained about integrating social justice criteria into engineering lessons.

Making It Personal: Focusing on Food and Using Concept Maps to Promote the Development of Environmental Identities Among Elementary Teacher Candidates

by Rachel E. Wilson, Appalachian State University

This article explores the use of food as a focal topic in an environmentally focused curriculum course for elementary teacher candidates (ETCs) to help them personally connect to the content. Environmental topics are interdisciplinary; therefore, as we prepare ETCs to teach them, consideration of the social dimensions of science is imperative. This article discusses how the design and implementation of a unit on food allowed for exploration of elementary science and social studies environmental content with the goal of developing ETCs’ environmental identities. A focus unit on food as a daily practice that connects ETCs to the environment is described to highlight the personal salience of environmental issues and how ETCs impact and are dependent on the environment. Concept maps of daily activities that connect them to the environment were used as initial and final assessments for the course, along with an oral reflection with the instructor on their final maps. Examples of initial maps, final maps, and comments from students’ oral reflections show that ETCs deepened their understanding of how salient environmental issues were to their daily life activities, such as eating. Implications of the implementation on how to increase ETCs’ explicit connections with their identity positions relative to their experiences of and responses to environmental issues and proposed solutions are discussed.