Online coursework in science teacher education is becoming increasingly common. However, some content in science teacher education—how to skillfully (and safely) lead laboratory investigations, for instance—can pose a particular challenge when converted to an online format. We describe how we met this challenge in the creation of an online version of a practice-based science methods course focused on leading inquiry-based labs. Specifically, we articulate the design principles that guided our transition to a fully online course that produced student outcomes comparable to in-person sections and generated consistent, highly positive feedback from our graduate students. Additionally, by designing an online course that retained the teaching of lab competencies classically taught in person, we positioned the institution to better support students and instructors who found themselves suddenly online when the COVID-19 pandemic struck in the spring of 2020.
Traditional science teaching has tended to focus on compartmentalized academic content that is removed from the practice of everyday life. Confronting this has been a perennial challenge in science teacher education, and the impact on the stifling of students’ creativity, critical thinking, and engagement has been well documented in the literature. Progressive science teaching, however, emphasizes situating instruction in sociocultural contexts that engage children in the activity of learning by tapping into their natural instincts of wonder, curiosity, questioning, and actively seeking meaning about the world around them. This article describes week-long, immersive, inquiry-based events that university educators facilitate at local schools. The purpose of the events is to model how to engage students in inquiry-based experiences and stimulate their natural curiosity and, at the same time, facilitate professional development for teachers. These educative experiences are positioned in the notion of interdisciplinary, inquiry-based learning that drew from science, the creative arts, social sciences, language arts, and mathematics. During this week-long event, we build a community of engagement aimed at fostering heightened levels of academic commitment, developing natural inquiry skills, and cultivating authentic scientific habits of mind through inquiry that would captivate both students and teachers across multiple grade levels.
To engage elementary preservice teachers enrolled in a science methods course in authentically doing science, I developed an assignment focused on the NGSS scientific practices. Unless preservice teachers engage in some type of authentic science, they will never understand the scientific practices and will be ill-equipped to communicate these practices to their future students or engage future students in authentic science. The two main objectives for this assignment were for the PSTs to gain a more realistic understanding of how science is done and gain confidence in conducting investigations incorporating the scientific practices to implement in their future classrooms. To obtain evidence about how these objectives were met, I posed the following questions: What do PSTs learn about using the practices of science from this experience, and what do they predict they will implement in their future teaching relevant to authentic investigations using the scientific practices? Quotes from preservice teachers demonstrating their (a) learning relevant to doing science, (b) their struggles doing this type of investigation, and (c) predictions of how they might incorporate the scientific practices in their future teaching are included. The assignment and the challenges encountered implementing this assignment in a science methods course are also described.
The third space of teacher education (Zeichner, 2010) bridges the academic pedagogical knowledge of the university and the practical knowledge of the inservice K-12 teacher. A third space elementary science methods class was taught at a local elementary school with inservice teachers acting as mentors and allowing preservice teachers into their classes each week. Preservice teachers applied the pedagogical knowledge from the course in their elementary classrooms. The course has been revised constantly over six semesters to improve its logistics and the pre-service teacher experience. This article summarizes how the course has been developed and improved.
This article discusses the Home Inquiry Project which is part of a science methods course for elementary preservice teachers. The aim of the Home Inquiry Project is to enhance elementary preservice teachers’ understanding of the scientific inquiry process and increase their confidence and motivation in incorporating scientific inquiry into learning experiences they plan for their future students. The project immerses preservice teachers in the process of scientific inquiry and provides them with an opportunity to learn about and utilize scientific practices such as making observations, asking questions, predicting, communicating evidence, and so forth. Preservice teachers completing this project perceive their experiences favorably, recognize the importance of understanding the process of science, and reflect on the application of this experience to their future classroom science instruction. This project has immense implications for the preparation of a scientifically literate and motivated teacher population who will be responsible for cultivating a scientifically literate student population with a positive attitude and confidence in science.