Eliciting and Refining Conceptions of STEM Education: A Series of Activities for Professional Development

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Dare, E. A. & Ring-Whalen, E. A. (2021). Eliciting and refining conceptions of STEM education: A series of activities for professional development. Innovations in Science Teacher Education, 6(2). Retrieved from https://innovations.theaste.org/eliciting-and-refining-conceptions-of-stem-education-a-series-of-activities-for-professional-development/

by Emily A. Dare, Florida International University; & Elizabeth A. Ring-Whalen, St. Catherine University

Abstract

Integrated STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education is becoming increasingly common in K–12 classrooms. However, various definitions of STEM education exist that make it challenging for teachers to know what to implement and how to do so in their classrooms. In this article, we describe a series of activities used in a week-long professional development workshop designed to elicit K–12 teachers’ conceptions of STEM and the roles that science, technology, engineering, and mathematics play in STEM education. These activities not only engage teachers in conversations with peers and colleagues in a professional development setting but also enable teachers to reflect on their learning related to STEM education in the context of creating lesson plans and considering future teaching. In addition to describing these activities, we share suggestions related to how these activities may be used in venues outside of professional development.

Introduction

Current policy documents have called for K–12 science classrooms to employ integrated science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) strategies that provide a more authentic learning environment for students (Honey et al., 2014). Although the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS; NGSS Lead States, 2013) and state standards that include engineering (Moore et al., 2013) strongly support the incorporation of engineering into science classrooms, the nature of engineering and how to effectively integrate it into science teaching is typically outside of most teachers’ knowledge bases (Cunningham & Carlsen, 2014). Although national policy documents strongly support the integration of STEM education, there remains disagreement on models and effective approaches for integrated STEM instruction (e.g., Breiner et al., 2012; Moore et al., 2020; Martín‐Páez et al., 2019).

Because of this disagreement, there is a need to better understand what integrated STEM education is in order to implement it in practice. The literature reveals a wide variety of approaches that include: STEM as a replacement term for science and mathematics (Breiner et al., 2012; Sanders, 2009), STEM as a pedagogical shift toward an integrated approach (Breiner et al., 2012; English, 2016; Honey et al., 2014; Kelley & Knowles, 2016), curriculum changes that reflect the work of STEM professionals (Breiner et al., 2012; Labov et al., 2010; Sanders, 2009), and curricula that emphasize engineering design challenges (Bryan et al., 2015). Despite these variations in definitions, there are common elements across these approaches to STEM, such as the inclusion of an engaging, real-world context (e.g., Breiner et al., 2012; Brown et al., 2011; Moore et al., 2020); explicit connections between science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and modeling those connections as they would be observed in STEM careers (e.g., English, 2016; Herschbach, 2011; Honey et al., 2014; Kelley & Knowles, 2016; Moore et al., 2020); the intentional development of 21st-century competencies (e.g., Bryan et al., 2015; Honey et al., 2014); and an emphasis on student-centered pedagogies (e.g., Bryan et al., 2015; Breiner et al., 2012; Labov et al., 2010; Sanders, 2009). In short, integrated STEM education is a complex combination of content and pedagogy, which makes it difficult to define.

This creates an additional challenge for teachers who are asked to implement integrated STEM. Professional development (PD) is one way to assist teachers not only in learning integrated STEM education instructional practices but also in helping them conceptualize what integrated STEM education means within their particular context. This is especially important given that “PD programs have the best chance of impact on teacher and student outcomes when the goals of the PD program are aligned with policies at the school, district, and state levels, as well as existing teacher beliefs regarding STEM” (Johnson & Sondergeld, 2015, p. 204). By eliciting teachers’ conceptions of integrated STEM education at the beginning of a STEM-focused PD through drawing conceptual models, facilitators can help teachers move from undefined or vague models to better defined models (Dare et al., 2019; Ring et al., 2017); similar activities have been included in preservice teacher education (Radloff & Guzey, 2016). Furthermore, teachers can reference these drawings during the PD to help them conceptualize integrated STEM curricula and recognize when their conceptual model has changed.

In our previous work analyzing teacher’s conceptual models of STEM, we found that K–12 science teachers’ understanding of what STEM education is varied greatly (Ring et al., 2017). These models ranged from simply using STEM as an acronym to prioritizing science or engineering to focusing on real-world problem-solving. We found that teachers’ conceptions reflected the variety of definitions that exist in the literature (e.g., Bybee, 2013) and that these conceptions can change through PD, curriculum writing, and implementation. Our prior research allowed us to meaningfully redesign previously used activities and design new activities for use in PD settings that would allow teachers to confront their conceptions of integrated STEM education, reflect on those conceptions, and collaborate with others to better define what STEM education is in their specific teaching context.

The work presented here highlights activities designed to elicit STEM conceptions during a week-long PD workshop on integrated STEM education. Informed by our prior work, the purpose of these activities was to elicit teachers’ conceptions of integrated STEM, share and reflect on those conceptions with others, use those conceptions as a foundation to guide the writing of curricular materials for classroom use, and ultimately develop new conceptions of STEM education through reflection. These activities may be used in a variety of settings, and we offer suggestions for alternative implementation.

 

Professional Development Context

The work described here is part of a larger 4-year funded project that seeks to improve the quality of K–12 integrated STEM education in science and engineering classrooms through the development and dissemination of a classroom observation protocol for integrated STEM instruction. The authors are two of the five principal investigators (PIs) on the project. As part of the project, three separate week-long (5-day) PD workshops were offered near the home institutions of project personnel, which include a large Southeastern city (Site 1) and a large Midwestern city (Site 2). One secondary (middle and high school) PD workshop was offered at Site 1, and two separate PD workshops were offered at Site 2: one elementary (K–5) and one secondary (high school). The professional development activities were planned jointly by project personnel from both sites, allowing for site-specific modifications as necessary. The project PIs designed and facilitated the PD with the assistance of several graduate research assistants and science and STEM coordinators from the local school and district. Within the context of the larger project, these workshops provided teachers with a foundational knowledge of integrated STEM; examples of integrated STEM activities, lessons, and units; and dedicated time to develop their own curriculum materials for classroom use. The teachers in these workshops were then expected to participate in classroom observations when they implemented their developed lessons (typically one or two 50-minute class periods) or curricular units (anywhere from week-long units to units that spanned several weeks) the following school year. The observations also allowed project personnel to continue supporting teachers’ learning and implementation of integrated STEM education because observations were followed by post-observation coaching conversations.

Participants. A total of 106 participants across the two sites participated in the three PD workshops (Table 1). Of these participants, 21 teachers participated in the secondary PD at Site 1; 58 teachers, two principals, and five instructional coaches participated in the elementary PD at Site 2; and 15 teachers, two administrators, and three instructional coaches participated in the secondary PD at Site 2. These teachers came from six different school districts. Two of these were large urban school districts, three were large suburban districts, and one was a smaller, rural district. The secondary teachers taught across multiple content areas: There were 12 middle school science teachers, eight biology/life science teachers, seven chemistry teachers, four physical science or physics teachers, one environmental science teacher, one photography teacher, one agriculture teacher, and one orchestra teacher.

 

Table 1

Professional Development Participants

PD participant descriptors across two sites

Our integrated STEM education framework. During the PD, we elicited teachers’ conceptions of integrated STEM education, exposed teachers to different approaches to integrated STEM instruction, actively engaged these teachers in example integrated STEM activities, and supported teachers in developing integrated STEM curricular materials for use in their classrooms. The definition of integrated STEM education that guided our work was adopted from Kelley and Knowles (2016) who defined integrated STEM education as “the approach to teaching the STEM content of two or more STEM domains, bound by STEM practices within an authentic context for the purpose of connecting these subjects to enhance student learning” (p. 3). This definition was selected due to its emphasis on student learning through context and making connections between disciplines and its flexibility as to how many domains were needed to “count” as integrated STEM. To reflect the states’ science standards and district initiatives, activities in the PD fore-fronted science and engineering, but mathematics and technology were integrated into the activities throughout the week.

In addition to the broad definition of STEM education shared above, we used a project-developed integrated STEM framework to guide the workshops’ activities. This framework consists of 13 components (Table 2) identified in the literature as being important within effective integrated STEM instruction (e.g., Breiner et al., 2012; Bryan et al., 2015; Martín‐Páez et al., 2019; Moore et al., 2020). These components have guided the development of the larger project’s observational protocol, which was still under development during the time of the PD. These components were grouped into three separate categories: STEM Concepts and Practices, STEM Pedagogies, and Contextualizing Learning. The concepts of “communicating understanding” and “collaboration” were identified as components that cut across the other three categories. Each of these 13 components was explicitly explored before, during, or immediately following at least one example of the integrated STEM activities in the PD, which is described below.

 

Table 2

Components of Integrated STEM Education Used in Professional Development

Descriptions of components of integrated STEM Education used in PD

Professional development design. The overall design of the PD utilized best practices to actively engage teachers in hands-on integrated STEM instruction as learners, reflect on their learning individually and with others, try out new practices through curriculum work while receiving feedback from peers and facilitators, receive feedback on their teaching, and reflect on their teaching (e.g., Banilower et al., 2007; Capps et al., 2012; Garet et al., 2001; Luft et al., 2020; Supovitz & Turner, 2000); the last of these two practices were incorporated into the coaching support during the school year. The purpose of the PD was not to improve content knowledge but to develop teachers’ understanding of STEM education as a pedagogy, which requires developing a conceptual understanding of integrated STEM as a whole. The collaboration with the teachers’ schools and districts ensured that our PD met their needs (Garet et al., 2001; Johnson & Sondergeld, 2015; Luft et al., 2020). Teachers were asked to come to the PD with curricular materials that they currently used in their classrooms. During the PD, we engaged teachers in modifying those curricular materials to transition them from a science-only focus to one that reflected integrated STEM. Teachers used project-supplied composition notebooks to respond to key reflective prompts throughout the week, which included explicit reflections on STEM conceptions, and to keep track of their own curricular ideas.

 

Conceptualizing Integrated STEM Education in Professional Development

As with most PD workshops, teachers were first introduced to the logistics of the week and what the following school year would look like in relation to the larger project (e.g., continued support through observations and coaching). Before introducing teachers to our STEM framework and a mix of facilitator-designed and published integrated STEM activities, we elicited teachers’ conceptions of STEM education through a series of activities and discussions. The sections that follow detail the activities used, which were revisited throughout the week as a means to reflect upon and revise teachers’ thinking related to STEM. These activities provided a foundation for teachers’ learning throughout the week. Although examples of integrated STEM activities are provided, the purpose of this manuscript is to share activities related to eliciting teachers’ STEM conceptions and to describe how teachers used these conceptions during reflection and curriculum-writing portions of the PD.

Initial STEM conceptions drawings. At the beginning of Day 1, we tasked teachers with creating individual, sketched representations of what integrated STEM education was to them. Our previous work has shown that teachers enter into professional development spaces with their own conceptions of STEM education (Ring et al., 2017). Since the intention of this activity was to elicit each teacher’s conception, we did not provide a definition or give any instruction prior to this exercise. After teachers drew their conceptions, they shared them with their self-selected table teams (approximately four or five members). As they shared, we asked teachers to identify similarities and differences among the various drawings they examined that were then shared in whole-group discussion. This exercise served to demonstrate the variety of conceptions that existed. Following this activity, the teachers responded to two prompts on the backside of their drawing: (1) “How does your STEM model compare to the other models at your table,” and (2) “after seeing other models, would you make any changes to yours?” Once teachers had individually responded to these prompts, they were asked to keep their drawings out for reference during the next activity.

STEM poster activity. After sharing their conceptions about integrated STEM, each teacher was provided with four sticky notes. We asked teachers to write down their ideas related to the roles of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in STEM education, each on a separate sticky note. Those who wanted to add more than one idea for each area used additional sticky notes. Teachers then added their sticky notes to large poster papers corresponding to each area (science, technology, engineering, or mathematics) hanging around the room. We placed the teachers in four teams, and each team was assigned to one of the large poster papers. Because of the large size of the elementary group at Site 2, there were multiple sets of posters to keep the teams small. At their assigned posters, each team read the sticky notes and then arranged them into team-developed categories that were labeled with marker.

Once each team had created and labeled their categories, teams rotated from poster to poster. While reading through the other posters, we asked teachers to reflect upon what they noticed about the identified categories, note any changes they would make to those categories, and identify how the categories across the posters related to one another, if at all. Once all teams had read through the other three posters, we facilitated a large group discussion in which the teachers shared their reflections, specifically focusing on the relationships across the posters. Teachers were then asked to individually reflect upon what it means to integrate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics using their personal conceptual models from the preceding activity by responding to the following prompt: “Using your model, explain what it means to integrate S-T-E and M.” Finally, the teachers shared their ideas about the integration of S-T-E and M with their small groups, and commonalities among ideas were recorded as a whole group. The large S-T-E-M posters remained in the workshop space for the remainder of the week, and after copies were made, the teachers held on to their individual conceptions of STEM education models, which were used throughout the rest of the week as described below.

Approach to integrated STEM activities. Each day of the PD focused on one or more of the 13 components of our integrated STEM framework that were highlighted in that day’s activities (an example from Site 1 in shown in Table 3). Because of the complexity of STEM education, it was important to slowly introduce these components within the context of example activities. Teachers engaged in a variety of examples of integrated STEM activities as learners followed by discussions about how to implement them into their own classrooms. Many of these activities were developed by project personnel, but some were adopted from published curricula. Appropriate state standards were shared to demonstrate alignment with curricular expectations. For each activity that was introduced, teachers first participated in the activity as students would. This allowed the teachers to encounter the same challenges that their own students might face in the classroom. Afterward, project personnel facilitated whole-group and small-group discussions to allow teachers to reflect both as learners and as educators. Each of the activities included built-in reflection time around the components emphasized during that activity, and each day concluded with a final, deeper reflection related to the days’ focal components of STEM. These reflections were completed individually and collaboratively and were recorded in the teachers’ STEM notebooks to document their growing conceptions of integrated STEM. As part of this, teachers spent time modifying their curriculum materials to reflect what they learned about integrated STEM education throughout the day. Teachers were encouraged to work with others who were focusing on similar science content and discuss ideas with workshop facilitators. The facilitators would frequently prompt teachers to refer back to their conception of STEM drawing as a formative self-assessment of their learning.

 

Table 3

Example Workshop Schedule From Site 1

Example PD schedule divided into morning and afternoon activities across 5 days

For example, after the STEM conceptions activities on Day 1, we introduced teachers to our project’s STEM framework and focused on one component: collaboration. To do this, we used the marshmallow challenge, a popular activity used to emphasize the importance of planning and communicating with peers (Wujec, 2010). After doing the activity as students would and discussing why collaboration was important in this activity, teachers were asked to use their STEM conceptions drawings to decide if this was an integrated STEM activity and, if not, how they might make it one. Teachers were quick to point out that the activity does not explicitly call for the inclusion of science content. They argued the value of an activity like this to engage students in collaboration and problem-solving skills, which could be the basis for introducing engineering. Even without a clear “right answer” of what STEM education is, teachers were able to think critically about what they valued. To this end, teachers reflected on whether or not their initial STEM models were robust enough to determine the difference between a STEM activity that helps students learn STEM content and one meant to develop STEM skills and practices. To end the day, we asked teachers to examine their curricular materials and reflect on where they would include collaboration. As facilitators, we checked in with teachers as they worked and encouraged them to reflect upon the presence of collaboration in their STEM conceptions drawings, modifying them as needed, and then use those drawings to guide their curriculum writing. Although collaboration had been included in some teachers’ initial models, this focus on collaboration prompted others to consider this as a new addition to their model.

This pattern of being introduced to target components of STEM education each day, participating in an example STEM activity, reflecting on that activity, and working on curriculum was repeated on Days 2–4. Day 2 emphasized the importance of real-world problems, STEM-specific technologies, and communicating understanding within the context of integrated STEM activities. As part of this, engineering and the engineering design process were introduced to teachers through an introductory engineering activity (e.g., creating tabletop hovercrafts in the Site 1 PD and reviewing Engineering is Elementary in the Site 2 elementary PD). As on Day 1, the last activity of the day included reflection on the key components and a review of their Day 1 STEM conceptions, modifying them as needed, to work on their curriculum materials.

By Day 3, we had provided the teachers with foundational knowledge of integrated STEM education, arming them with the tools needed to participate in a fully integrated STEM curriculum unit. We used the Save the Penguins curriculum (Schnittka, 2009) to engage teachers in examining the relationship between heat transfer and the engineering design challenge of creating a well-insulated habitat for penguins. This curriculum unit allowed us to emphasize the following components of our integrated STEM framework.

  • Real-world problems: The design challenge was framed broadly by global climate change.
  • STEM content integration: After first learning about the three forms of heat transfer through a series of hands-on, inquiry-based activities, teachers were tasked with using their knowledge of heat transfer to complete the design challenge.
  • Multiple solutions: Teachers worked in small groups to develop prototypes, build and test those prototypes, and then modify their designs to rebuild and retest their prototypes.
  • Evidence-based reasoning: Teachers were tasked with explaining their design solutions using evidence collected through a variety of hands-on activities.

At the end of the activity, we facilitated discussions about these components in connection to Save the Penguins as well as how these elements might be highlighted in (or added to) activities the teachers already use in their classrooms; teachers also made suggestions about alternative contexts that their students might find more relatable than penguins, such as making insulated dog houses. Once more, teachers were asked to consider how this activity compared to their own developing conceptions, modify their conceptions as needed, and work on their selected curriculum materials.

Day 4 started with revisiting the importance of multiple solutions and emphasizing the importance of allowing students to learn from their first designs. We also spent time reflecting on all of the activities from the week and how they could each be presented in ways that developed students’ interest in STEM careers. The afternoon was spent entirely on curriculum development. Because the teachers had been introduced to all 13 components of the integrated STEM framework, they were tasked with incorporating these into their curricular materials, using their modified conceptions and written reflections to guide their work. Many teachers chose to work with peers, even though they were not working on the same materials.

To end the week, Day 5 was spent primarily in unstructured curriculum work time during which teachers worked with each other and the workshop facilitators to continue modifying their curricular materials. We reminded teachers of the 13 components of STEM used during the workshop and encouraged them to use their STEM conceptions, written reflections, and the posters that still hung on the walls as they worked. After sharing the progress on the curricular materials and reviewing logistics for the coming year (including how to share curricular materials within the group), we ended the PD by repeating the STEM conceptions activity.

Revisiting the STEM conceptions activity. In the afternoon of Day 5, we asked teachers to examine their conceptual models and written reflections from Day 1 before drawing a new model of STEM education. We reminded teachers that (just as before) there were no wrong answers. If they felt that their model had not changed, they were not obligated to change it; however, they were required to draw it on a new sheet of paper. Similar to the Day 1 activity, teachers shared their new models with their tablemates and identified similarities and differences across the different models present at their tables. Additionally, we asked the teachers to compare their own two models. We specifically asked them to consider how their own models had changed (if at all) and how they planned to implement their model during the upcoming school year. We asked them to write their responses to the following questions on the back of their second model.

  1. “How does your STEM model from today compare to your previous model?”
  2. “Describe how your STEM thinking has both changed and stayed the same. What do you think or know that is new?”
  3. “What will be your approach to implementing this model into your classroom?”

Although these written reflections were done individually, teachers also shared their reflections with their peers during a whole-group discussion. These final models were collected and copied by facilitators.

 

Outcomes of STEM Conceptions Activities

Unsurprisingly, we observed that participating teachers came to the PD with different ideas related to what STEM education is. Because of this, teachers were able to engage in meaningful discussions with their peers to consider multiple perspectives. For instance, some teachers focused on the presence of multidisciplinary content, some focused on the engineering design process, and others focused on framing STEM as real-world problem-solving. These different models showcased how STEM was conceptualized by teachers as a mix of content and pedagogical considerations. The reflections that arose out of conversations with peers allowed teachers to identify similarities and differences across their conceptions of STEM, positioning them to understand that STEM does not have to be just one thing. Furthermore, they recognized that there were common features valued across the models and that no model was “wrong.” In reviewing the Day 1 reflections, we found that 75% of the 106 teachers noted that they would want to make changes after seeing other models, stressing the importance of multiple “correct” models. This supports the rest of the work during the week in which teachers engaged in activities that encouraged them to revise their thinking. The workshop activities emphasized the constant revision of thinking surrounding STEM education because each activity focused on different components of STEM education from our STEM education framework. At no point did we, as facilitators, suggest that there was one way to “do STEM.” By pointing to their Day 1 models throughout the week, we encouraged teachers to consider whether or not their model was still an accurate representation of their understanding of STEM education and to refine their thinking in the process.

The repeated STEM conceptions activity on Day 5 allowed teachers to consider their learning over the course of the week and think forward to the upcoming school year. Some teachers chose not to modify their drawings, but side-by-side comparisons revealed that 91% of the teachers made changes, many of which included the addition of pedagogical elements from the PD activities. For example, one high school teacher’s drawing changed from a complex model that focused on content to a simple model of STEM education that showcased STEM education as a strategy (Figure 1). One elementary teacher shifted from thinking STEM was equivalent to a linear engineering design process to recognizing that STEM includes real-world problems, collaboration, and multiple solutions (Figure 2). Through these side-by-side comparisons, it is clear that most teachers’ conceptions changed. Furthermore, the inclusion of some of the 13 components of our STEM framework in teachers’ models on Day 5 indicates that teachers saw value in the framework we shared. Because our own STEM framework shared with teachers was not prescriptive, teachers were able to highlight which components were of importance to them in their models.

 

Figure 1

Day 1 and Day 5 conceptions of STEM education from a high school teacher.

Drawings of conceptions of STEM with written reflections

 

Figure 2

Day 1 and Day 5 conceptions of STEM education from an elementary teacher.

Drawings of conceptions of STEM with written reflections

 

Although the first STEM conceptions activity is a modification of an activity that we had previously used in workshops, the “Roles of S-T-E-M” large poster activity was new (Figures 3, 4, 5, and 6). We designed this activity based on our experience in observing how science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are used in lessons tagged as integrated STEM such that often S, T, E, and M are present but not necessarily well-defined or explicitly connected to one another (Dare et al., 2019; Ring-Whalen et al., 2018). The third reflective prompt on Day 1 (“Using your model, explain what it means to integrate S-T-E and M”) aimed to help teachers consider how these roles might play out in their own models. By allowing teachers to first consider the various roles and purposes of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, they were better prepared to consider how these disciplines might work together when considering an integrated STEM approach in their models. For instance, the Site 1 secondary science teachers conceptualized science in STEM education as the intersection of theory and practice that leads to innovation (Figure 3). They also positioned technology in STEM education as assisting with teaching strategies that provide students with hands-on applications to collect data and communicate. This activity explicitly asked teachers about the connections between S, T, E, and M, which is often not captured in drawn models alone (Dare et al., 2019) but is important when considering lesson planning and implementation.

 

Figure 3

Role of science in STEM poster by the secondary science teachers at Site 1.

Poster showing how practices and theory come together to generate innovation in science

Figure 4

Role of technology in STEM poster by the secondary science teachers at Site 1.

Poster show components of technology: data gathering, teaching strategies, application/hands-on, communication, presentation

Figure 5

Role of engineering in STEM poster by the secondary science teachers at Site 1.

Poster showing components of engineering: principles, problem-solving practices, specific outcomes

Figure 6

Role of mathematics in STEM poster by the secondary science teachers at Site 1.

Poster showing components of mathematics: data, logic, quantification, calculating, defining math

Facilitator Reflection on Activities

As facilitators, this set of activities allowed us to activate the different conceptions of STEM education teachers held before they engaged in STEM activities when they might assume there is one way to “do STEM.” Additionally, they allowed teachers to work with others to understand that STEM education is not just one prescribed way of teaching that has to be conducted in the same manner all the time. Through activities designed to elicit STEM conceptions, teachers engaged in rich conversations that allowed them to explore a variety of conceptions of STEM, thus, leading to a deeper understanding of what STEM can look like in different contexts. These conversations and explicit reflections on the integrated STEM activities helped the teachers further develop their own conceptions of STEM, as indicated by the changes from Day 1 to Day 5. We were able to help the teachers actualize and refine their conceptions of STEM as we guided the them in curriculum writing throughout each day of the PD.

Furthermore, these activities allowed teachers to confront what roles science, technology, engineering, and mathematics play in STEM education in their own classrooms. Our previous work noted that teachers’ interpretations of models of STEM failed to show how to “do STEM” (Dare et al., 2019), so these activities required teachers to specifically consider the mechanisms through which they might integrate across various content areas. This helped the teachers identify places where science, technology, engineering, and mathematics can be integrated more naturally, which resulted in conversations about what, specifically, that integration can look like. These conversations were important in helping the teachers develop curricula for their own classrooms that not only included two or more of the STEM disciplines but also included various elements addressed in the PD, such as collaboration and solving real-world problems.

Implementing these activities was not without challenges. Some teachers began the week looking for the “correct” way to “do STEM” and were initially disappointed that they would not be provided one answer, nor would they be blindly led through examples of integrated STEM curricula. Our approach required teachers to consider their own ideas and reflect on their learning. Additionally, the conceptions elicitation activities were inherently challenging and cognitively demanding tasks because they forced individuals to interrogate something that they were not necessarily confident about. Reminding the teachers that there was no wrong answer was key in eliminating some of their fears associated with being wrong; these fears were further ameliorated by sharing ideas in small groups first before opening up to the large group. Our openness to discussion, constant challenging of ideas, and adoption of high-quality PD practices (e.g., peer collaboration, engaging in activities as students, and dedicated curricular work time) allowed us to push teachers to question others and reflect on their own learning, which proved successful.

Teacher feedback solicited on the last day demonstrated that the overall design of the PD was well-received. Although differences existed across the three workshops, the positive feedback was echoed. For instance, one secondary science teacher from Site 1 shared:

 

The theory combined with the modeling followed by action and reflection made the PD very effective. I feel very confident in my ability to integrate STEM in my classroom because of the format in which this PD was presented. I also loved the time that we had to develop units and lessons that integrate STEM.

 

Site 2 was no different. The positive feedback from secondary and elementary teachers at Site 2 was very similar. One secondary science teacher shared the following:

 

Thank you for a great week of learning. I was very happy with the workshop and what I learned. Thank you for the time to work on lessons/units that are applicable to what we will do. The time to chat with others helped A LOT!

 

Elementary teachers at Site 2 also valued their new knowledge:

 

The time to collaborate and discuss our learning with colleagues was incredibly helpful. It allowed us to take the new information and apply it to our individual units, schools, etc. It also allowed us to digest the information and ask questions in a safe environment.

 

From these examples, it is clear that the ability to directly have a take-away product that teachers could immediately use in their classrooms and the conversations with others was beneficial.

Furthermore, these types of activities allowed us to address these very visual conceptions in the moment and to refer back to them throughout the PD to reflect on and refine their understanding of STEM. As they participated in the workshop activities, teachers often referenced the large poster papers that hung in the room as a reminder of different ways to incorporate each of the STEM disciplines while they worked on developing their own lesson plans. Additionally, when teachers requested assistance during curriculum writing, we frequently asked them to revisit their conceptions and consider if they needed modification or how they were being actualized in their planning. Full curriculum materials and observations are still being collected as part of the larger project; however, we anticipate that this may result in more cohesive and more well-integrated lessons and units. Future research will address how teachers’ conceptions of STEM were actualized in their curricular materials and implementation.

 

Implications for Future Practice

These activities were used primarily with inservice teachers, but they can also be used with administrators, preservice teachers, and teacher educators to better parse out what STEM education means and how to enact it. In schools and districts moving to become STEM schools or STEM districts, these activities could be used to develop a unified vision for STEM within the school or district, which is important for making forward progress. Participating administrators then have an opportunity to gain a realistic sense of what is being asked of their teachers when tasked with developing integrated STEM lessons and implementing them in the classroom. The conversations these activities promote are useful in helping to define STEM education within bounded contexts.

These activities can also be used for research, the primary motivation in the initial creation of the STEM conceptions activity (Ring et al., 2017). Post-PD comparisons of the teachers’ conceptions on Day 1 of the PD to their conceptions on Day 5 of the PD can help facilitators measure and evaluate the impact of the professional development’s activities, which aligns with our own future research plans. This research could then allow facilitators to adjust the activities to better serve the needs of professional development participants. Understanding the conceptions of STEM education held by teachers will allow administrators, professional development facilitators, and others involved in improving STEM education to better support teachers implementing STEM in their classrooms.

Acknowledgments

This work was supported by the National Science Foundation under Award Numbers 1854801, 1812794, and 1813342. The findings, conclusions, and opinions herein represent the views of the authors and do not necessarily represent the view of personnel affiliated with the National Science Foundation.

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Herschbach, D. R. (2011). The STEM initiative: Constraints and challenges. Journal of STEM Teacher Education, 48(1), 96–122. https://doi.org/10.30707/JSTE48.1Herschbach

Honey, M., Pearson, G., & Schweingruber, H. (Eds.). (2014). STEM integration in K–12 education: Status, prospects, and an agenda for research. National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/18612

Johnson, C. C., & Sondergeld, T. A. (2015). Effective STEM professional development. In C. C. Johnson, E. E. Peters-Burton, & T. J. Moore (Eds.), STEM road map: A framework for integrated STEM education (pp. 203–210). Routledge.

Kelley, T. R., & Knowles, J. G. (2016). A conceptual framework for integrated STEM education. International Journal of STEM Education, 3, Article 11. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40594-016-0046-z

Labov, J. B., Reid, A. H., & Yamamoto, K. R. (2010). Integrated biology and undergraduate science education: A new biology education for the twenty-first century? CBE—Life Sciences Education, 9(1), 10–16. https://doi.org/10.1187/cbe.09-12-0092

Luft, J. A., Diamond, J. M., Zhang, C., & White, D . Y. (2020). Research on K-12 STEM professional development programs: An examination of program design and teacher knowledge and practice. In C. C. Johnson, M. J. Mohr-Schroeder, T. J. Moore, & L. D. English (Eds). Handbook of research on STEM education (pp. 361–374). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429021381-34

Martín‐Páez, T., Aguilera, D., Perales‐Palacios, F. J., & Vílchez‐González, J. M. (2019). What are we talking about when we talk about STEM education? A review of literature. Science Education, 103(4), 799–822. https://doi.org/10.1002/sce.21522

Moore, T. J., Johnston, A. C., & Glancy, A. W. (2020). STEM integration: A synthesis of conceptual frameworks and definitions. In C. C. Johnson, M. J. Mohr-Schroeder, T. J. Moore, & L. D. English (Eds). Handbook of research on STEM education (pp. 3–16). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429021381-2

Moore, T. J., Tank, K. M., Glancy, A. W., Kersten, J. A., & Ntow, F. D. (2013). The status of engineering in the current K-12 state science standards (research to practice). Paper presented at the 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, GA. https://doi.org/10.18260/1-2–22619

NGSS Lead States. (2013). Next generation science standards: For states, by states. National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/18290

Radloff, J., & Guzey, S. (2016). Investigating preservice STEM teacher conceptions of STEM education. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 25(5), 759–774. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10956-016-9633-5

Ring, E. A., Dare, E. A., Crotty, E. A., & Roehrig, G. H. (2017). The evolution of teacher conceptions of STEM education throughout an intensive professional development experience. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 28(5), 444–467. https://doi.org/10.1080/1046560X.2017.1356671

Ring-Whalen, E., Dare, E., Roehrig, G., Titu, P., & Crotty, E. (2018). From conception to curricula: The role of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in integrated STEM units. International Journal of Education in Mathematics, Science and Technology, 6(4), 343–362. https://www.ijemst.net/index.php/ijemst/article/view/257

Sanders, M. (2009). STEM, STEM education, STEMmania. The Technology Teacher, 68(4), 20–26.

Schnittka, C. G. (2009). Save the penguins STEM teaching kit: An introduction to thermodynamics and heat transfer. Auburn University. http://www.auburn.edu/~cgs0013/ETK/SaveThePenguinsETK.pdf

Wujec, T. (2010, February). Build a tower, build a team [Video]. TED Conferences.  https://www.ted.com/talks/tom_wujec_build_a_tower_build_a_team?language=en

Supporting Middle and Secondary Science Teachers to Implement Sustainability-Themed Instruction

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Mark, S. L. (2021). Supporting Middle and Secondary Science Teachers to Implement Sustainability-Themed Instruction. Innovations in Science Teacher Education, 6(1). Retrieved from https://innovations.theaste.org/supporting-middle-and-secondary-science-teachers-to-implement-sustainability-themed-instruction/

by Sheron L. Mark, PhD, University of Louisville, College of Education and Human Development, 1905 S 1st Street, Louisville, KY 40292

Abstract

In today’s society, we face many complex environmental, social, and economic challenges that can be addressed through a lens of sustainability. Furthermore, our efforts in addressing these challenges must be collective. Science education is foundational to preparing students with the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to engage in this work in professional and everyday capacities. This article describes a teacher education project aimed at preparing middle and secondary preservice and alternatively certified science teachers to teach through a lens of sustainability. The project was embedded within a middle and secondary science teaching methods course. Work produced by the teacher candidates, including case-study research presentations and week-long instructional plans, is described.

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References

Barnett, R. (2011). Environmental issues, Louisvile, KY. Kentucky Institute for the Environment and Sustainable Development.

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Colucci-Gray, L., Perazzone, A., Dodman, M., & Camino, E. (2013). Science education for sustainability, epistemological reflections and educational practices: From natural sciences to trans-disciplinarity. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 8(1), 127–183. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11422-012-9405-3

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NGSS Lead States. (2013). Next generation science standards: For states, by states. National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/18290

Rodriguez, A. J. (2015). What about a dimension of engagement, equity, and diversity practices? A critique of the Next Generation Science Standards. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 52(7), 1031–1051. https://doi.org/10.1002/tea.21232

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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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References

Banchi, H., & Bell, R. (2008). The many levels of inquiry. Science and Children, 46(2), 26-29.

Center for Educational Research. (1967). Conceptually Oriented Program in Elementary Science.  New York, NY: New York Center for Field Research and School Services, New York University.

Cunningham, C. M., & Kelly, G. J. (2017). Epistemic practices of engineering for education. Science Education, 101(3), 486-505. doi:10.1002/sce.21271

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Engineering is Elementary (EiE). (2011b). A stick in the mud: Evaluating a landscape. Boston, MA: Museum of Science.

Engineering is Elementary (EiE). (2011b). A sticky situation: Designing walls. Boston, MA: Museum of Science.

Engineering is Elementary (EiE). (2011c). The best of bugs: Designing hand pollinators. Boston, MA: Museum of Science.

Engineering is Elementary (EiE). (2011d). Lighten up: Designing lighting systems. Boston, MA: Museum of Science.

Engineering is Elementary (EiE). (2019). The engineering design process: A five-step process Retrieved January 28, 2019 from https://eie.org/overview/engineering-design-process

Goldberg, F., Robinson, S., Price, E., Harlow, D., Andrew, J., & McKean, M. (2018).  Next Generation Physical Science and Everyday Thinking.  Greenwich, CT: Activate Learning

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Lottero-Perdue, P.S. (2017a). Engineering design into science classrooms. In Settlage, J., Southerland, S., Smetana, L., & Lottero-Perdue, P.S. Teaching Science to Every Child: Using Culture as a Starting Point. (Third Edition). (pp. 207-266). New York, NY: Routledge.

Lottero-Perdue, P.S. (2017b). Pre-service elementary teachers learning to teach science-integrated engineering design PBL. In Saye, J. & Brush, T. (Eds.), Developing and supporting PBL practice: Research in K-12 and teacher education settings. (pp. 105-131). West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press.

Lottero-Perdue, P.S., Bolotin, S., Benyameen, R., Brock, E., and Metzger, E. (September 2015). The EDP-5E: A rethinking of the 5E replaces exploration with engineering design. Science and Children 53(1), 60-66.

Lottero-Perdue, P.S., Bowditch, M. Kagan, M. Robinson-Cheek, L., Webb, T., Meller, M. & Nosek, T. (November, 2016) An engineering design process for early childhood: Trying (again) to engineer an egg package. Science and Children, 54(3), 70-76.

Lottero-Perdue P.S., Haines, S., Baranowski, A. & Kenny, P. (2020). Designing a model shoreline: Creating habitat for terrapins and reducing erosion into the bay. Science and Children, 57 (7), 40-45.

Lottero-Perdue, P.S. & Parry, E. (2019, March). Scaffolding for failure: Upper elementary students navigate engineering design failure. Science and Children, 56(7), 86-89.

Lottero-Perdue, P. & Sandifer, C. (in press). Using engineering to explore the Moon’s height in the sky with future teachers. Science & Children.

Lottero-Perdue, P.S., Sandifer, C. & Grabia, K. (2017, December) “Oh No! Henrietta got out! Kindergarteners investigate forces and use engineering to corral an unpredictable robot.” Science and Children, 55(4), 46-53.

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Sandifer, C. (2018). Activities in physical science. Unpublished course text.

Sandifer, C., Hermann, R. S., Cimino, K., & Selway, J. (2015). Early teaching experiences at Towson University: Challenges, lessons, and innovations. In C. Sandifer & E. Brewe (Eds.), Recruiting and Educating Future Physics Teachers: Case Studies and Effective Practices (pp. 129-145). College Park, MD: American Physical Society.

Sandifer, C., Lising, L., & Renwick, E.  (2007). Towson’s PhysTEC course improvement project, Years 1 and 2: Results and lessons learned. 2007 Conference Proceedings of the Association for Science Teacher Education.

Sandifer, C., Lising, L., & Tirocchi, L.  (2006). Our PhysTEC project:  Collaborating with a classroom teacher to improve an elementary science practicum.  2006 Conference Proceedings of the Association for Science Teacher Education.

Sandifer, C., Lising, L., Tirocchi, L, & Renwick, E.  (2019, February 28). Towson University’s Elementary PhysTEC project: Final report. Retrieved from https://www.phystec.org/institutions/Institution.cfm?ID=1275

Sandifer, C., & Lottero-Perdue, P.  (2014, April). When practice doesn’t make perfect: Common misunderstandings of the NGSS scientific practices. Workshop presented at the meeting of the National Science Teachers Association, Boston, MA.

Sandifer, C., & Lottero-Perdue, P. S.  (2019). Activities in Earth and space science and integrated engineering (2nd ed.). Unpublished course text.

 

 

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.

Innovations Journal articles, beyond each issue's featured article, are included with ASTE membership. If your membership is current please login at the upper right.

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References

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

Britsch, S. (2019). Exploring science visually: Science and photography with pre-kindergarten children. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 19(1), 55-81.

Byrnes, J., & Wasik, B.A. (2009). Picture this: Using photography as a learning tool in early childhood classrooms. Childhood Education, 85, 243-248.

Cappello, M., & Lafferty, K. E. (2015). The roles of photography for developing literacy across the disciplines. The Reading Teacher, 69, 287-295.

Cook, K., & Quigley, C. (2013) Connecting to our community: Utilizing photovoice as a pedagogical tool to connect college students to science. International Journal of Environmental & Science Education, 8, 339-357.

Eschach, H. (2010). Using photographs to probe students’ understanding of physical concepts: the case of Newton’s 3rd law. Research in Science Education, 40, 589-603.

Good, L. (2005/2006). Snap it up: Using digital photography in early childhood. Childhood Education, 82, 79-85.

Hoisington, C. (2002). Using photographs to support children’s science inquiry. Young Children, 57(5), 26-30, 32.

Jones, A.D. (2010). Science via photography. Science and Children, 47(5), 26-30.

Katz, P. (2011) A case study of the use of internet photobook technology to enhance early childhood “scientist” identity. Journal of  Science Education and Technology, 20, 525-536.

Krauss, D.A., Salame, I.I., & Goodwyn, L.N. (2010). Using photographs as case studies to promote active learning in biology. Journal of College Science Teaching, 40(1), 72-76.

Lee. H., & Feldman, A. (2015). Photographs and classroom response systems in middle school astronomy classes.  Journal of Science Education and Technology, 24, 496-508.

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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

Abarca, M. (2006). Voices in the kitchen: views of food and the world from working-class Mexican and Mexican-American women. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press.

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Benavides, R., & Medina-Jerez, W. (2017). No Puedo, I don’t get it: Assisting Spanglish- speaking students in the science classroom. The Science Teacher, 84(4), 30-35.

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NGSS Lead States. (2013). Next generation science standards. For states, by states. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

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Steinberg, R., Wyner, Y., Borman, G., & Salame, I. L. (2015). Targeted courses in inquiry science for future elementary school teachers. Journal of College Science Teaching, 44(6), 51-56.

Swan, E. & Flowers, R. (2015). Clearing up the table: Food pedagogies and environmental education—contributions, challenges and future agendas. Australian Journal of Environmental Education, 31(1), 146-164.

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Windschitl, M. (2006). Why we can’t talk to one another about science education reform. Phi Delta Kappan, 87, 349-355.

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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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References

Avraamidou, L. (2015). Reconceptualizing Elementary Teacher Preparation: A case for informal science education. International Journal of Science Education, 37, 108-135.

Bandura, A. (1986). The explanatory and predictive scope of self-efficacy theory. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 4, 359-373.

Harlow, D. B. (2012). The excitement and wonder of teaching science: What pre-service teachers learn from facilitating family science night centers. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 23, 199-220.

Jacobbe, T., Ross, D. D., & Hensberry, K. K. R. (2012). The effects of a family math night on preservice teachers’ perceptions of parental involvement. Urban Education, 47, 1160-1182.

Kelly, J. (2000). Rethinking the elementary science methods course: a case for content, pedagogy, and informal science education. International Journal of Science Education, 22, 755-777.

Kisiel, J. (2012). Introducing Future Teachers to Science Beyond the Classroom. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 24, 67-91.

McDonald, R. B. (1997). Using participation in public school “family science night” programs as a component in the preparation of preservice elementary teachers. Science Education, 81, 577-595.

NGSS Lead States. (2013). Next generation science standards: For states, by states. The National Academies Press Washington, DC.

Palmer, D. H. (2002). Factors contributing to attitude exchange amongst preservice elementary teachers. Science Education, 86, 122-138.

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Collaborating with Virtual Visiting Scientists to Address Students’ Perceptions of Scientists and their Work

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Grossman, B.T., & Farland-Smith, D. (2020). Collaborating with virtual visiting scientists to address students’ perceptions of scientists and their work. Innovations in Science Teacher Education, 5(3). Retrieved from https://innovations.theaste.org/collaborating-with-virtual-visiting-scientists-to-address-students-perceptions-of-scientists-and-their-work/

by Brandon T. Grossman, University of Colorado Boulder; & Donna Farland-Smith, Ohio State University

Abstract

The idea that middle school students hold stereotypic representations or impressions of scientists is not new to the field of science education (Barman, 1997; Finson, 2002; Fort & Varney, 1989; Steinke et al., 2007). These representations may match the way scientists are often portrayed in the media in terms of their race (i.e., white), gender (i.e., male), the way they dress (i.e., lab coat, glasses, wild hair), their demeanor (i.e., nerdy, eccentric, anti-social), and where they work (i.e., in a laboratory by themselves). Bringing scientists into classrooms to collaborate with students and teachers has been shown to positively influence students’ perceptions of scientists and their work (Bodzin & Gerhinger, 2001; Flick, 1990). However, the planning and collaboration involved in this in-person work can be challenging, complex, and time consuming for both teachers and visiting scientists. Advances in classroom technologies have opened up new opportunities for disrupting problematic representations and supporting students in developing more expansive perceptions of science and scientists. This paper explores the collaboration between a middle school science teacher, five visiting scientists, and a science teacher educator around the development and implementation of a week long virtual visiting scientist program for middle school students. The impact the program had on the teacher’s ongoing practice and on students’ self-reported perceptions of science and scientists is also examined.

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References

Angell, C., Henriksen, E., Isnes, K., & Isnes, A. (2003). Why learn physics? Others can take care of that! Physics in Norwegian Education: Content-perceptions-choices. Science Education Perspectives, Research & Development Oslo: Akademisk, 165-198.

Barman, C. (1997). Students’ views of scientists and science: Results from a national study. Science and Children, 35(1), 18-23.

Bodzin, A. & Gehringer, M. (2001). Breaking science stereotypes: Can meeting actual scientists change students’ perceptions of scientists? Science & Children, 38, 24-27.

Erb, T. O. (1981). Attitudes of early adolescents toward science, women in science, and science careers. Middle School Research Selected Studies, 6, 108-118.

Farland‐Smith, D. (2009). Exploring middle school girls’ science identities: Examining attitudes and perceptions of scientists when working “side‐by‐side” with scientists. School Science and Mathematics109, 415-427.

Finson, K.D. (2002). A multicultural comparison of draw-a-scientist test drawings of eighth graders. Paper Presented at the Annual Meeting of the International Conference of the Association of Educators of Teachers of Science, Charlotte, NC.

Flick, L. (1990). Scientist in Residence program: Improving children’s images of science and scientists. School Science Mathematics, 90, 205-214.

Fort, D.C. & Varney, H.L. (1989). How students see scientists: Mostly male, mostly white, mostly benevolent. Science & Children, 26 (8), 8-13.

Gettys, L. D., & Cann, A. (1981). Children’s perceptions of occupational sex stereotypes. Sex Roles, 7, 301-308.

Lindahl, B. (2003). Pupils’ responses to school science and technology? A longitudinal study of pathways to upper secondary school. Göteborg Studies in Educational Sciences, 196, 1-18.

Maltese, A. V., & Tai, R. H. (2010). Eyeballs on the fridge: Sources of early interest in science. International Journal of Science Education, 32, 669-685.

Steinke, J., Lapinski, M.K., Crocker, N., Zietsman-Thomas, A., Williams, Y., Evergreen, S.H., & Kuchibhotla, S. (2007). Assessing media influences on middle school-aged children’s perceptions of women in science using the Draw-A-Scientist Test (DAST). Science Communication, 29, 35-64.

 

Connecting Preservice Teachers and Scientists Through Notebooks

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Carter, I., & Schliemann, S. (2020). Connecting preservice teachers and scientists through notebooks. Innovations in Science Teacher Education, 5(2). Retrieved from https://innovations.theaste.org/connecting-preservice-teachers-and-scientists-through-notebooks/

by Ingrid Carter, Metropolitan State University of Denver; & Sarah Schliemann, Metropolitan State University

Abstract

The use of science notebooks in an elementary methods course can encourage preservice teachers’ engagement in collaborative work and participation in science through writing (Morrison, 2008). In this paper we describe how we, a teacher educator and a scientist, collaborated to focus on how scientists use notebooks in their work, and how this compares and contrasts to how notebooks can be used in both a preservice elementary methods course and in the elementary classroom. We describe our facilitation of notebooks with preservice teachers and how we emphasize professional scientists’ use of notebooks. Additionally, we offer recommendations based on our experiences in our collaboration and facilitation of notebook use with preservice teachers. Our intention is to provide recommendations that can be applied in a variety of university contexts, such as emphasizing the Science and Engineering Practices and the Nature of Science, including discussion about the work of professional engineers, and making connections to literacy.

Introduction

The use of science notebooks in an elementary methods course can encourage preservice teachers’ engagement in collaborative work and participation in science through writing (Morrison, 2008). Furthermore, it can offer opportunities to preservice teachers to engage in working and thinking like a professional scientist, and to think critically about how this notion can be transferred to elementary science teaching. While there is prior work on using science notebooks with preservice teachers, the purpose of this paper is to demonstrate how collaboration across disciplines can support an emphasis in the methods course on how scientists work, or more specifically, how scientists use notebooks in their work. This paper describes how an elementary education faculty member (Ingrid) and a science faculty member (Sarah) collaborated on the integration of science, health, and engineering notebooks into an elementary preservice science and health methods course.

Ingrid is an Associate Professor in the Department of Elementary Education and Literacy and teaches the science and health methods course for elementary preservice teachers. Sarah is a lecturer in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences with expertise in environmental chemistry. In addition, she has taught the prerequisite science content courses designed for elementary preservice teachers. The idea to begin this collaboration was initiated by an interest by both authors to build a “real-world” connection for preservice teachers about how scientists use notebooks in their work, and how this can potentially enhance preservice teachers’ learning about science notebooks as well as their use of notebooks with their future elementary students.

Science Notebooks with Preservice Teachers

Prior research has indicated that use of science notebooks in preservice methods courses has been fruitful and has positively influenced preservice teachers’ science learning (Morrison, 2005; Morrison, 2008). Morrison (2008) found that preservice teachers valued recording their science ideas. By the end of the semester they viewed the notebook as a learning tool, rather than as an assignment that was being graded. Indeed, they became less concerned about the neatness of their notebooks, and more focused on their use of the notebook. Further, preservice teachers indicated that they planned to use science notebooks in their future classrooms as a place for students to record their thinking and as a formative assessment tool.  An earlier study by Morrison (2005) also noted that science notebooks supported preservice teachers’ understanding of formative assessment. Dickinson and Summers (2011) found that preservice elementary teachers engaged in both written and graphic recordings of their thoughts in their science notebooks and the participants indicated they would like to use the notebooks they created in class as examples for their future students. Frisch (2018) examined preservice elementary and special education teachers’ use of a hybrid digital/paper-and-pencil notebook. She found that preservice teachers most frequently chose to use a hard copy notebook (e.g., recording observations, writing reflections, creating concept maps) and included photos to demonstrate their learning.

Teachers Working with Scientists

We sought to build on prior work using science notebooks with preservice teachers by incorporating how professional scientists use notebooks in their work. In our work, we aimed to integrate rich examples of and discussion about how scientists use notebooks to enhance the use of notebooks in the methods class. Brown and Melear (2007) examined secondary preservice teachers’ experiences working as apprentices with professional scientists. They found that the preservice teachers valued the experience working with professional scientists and the learning that took place, and that the experience supported their confidence to teach inquiry-based science. Further, the preservice teachers saw the value in supporting their own future students’ interest when teaching science. Sadler, Burgin, McKinney, and Ponjuan (2010) conducted a review of literature of secondary students, college students, and K-12 teachers working as research apprentices on science research projects. They found that teachers’ understandings of the Nature of Science (NOS) improved, as well as their confidence in their ability to do and teach science. They also found, however, that changes in teacher practice varied and that limitations existed with regard to transferability of the science research experience to the classroom context. More recently, Anderson and Moeed (2017) examined inservice teachers’ beliefs about science after working with professional scientists for six months and found that the teachers developed a deeper understanding of scientists’ work and NOS. Tala and Vesterinen (2015) found that “teacher students” held a “deeper and more focused view” (p. 451) in their understanding of elements of the science practices (i.e., modeling) after engaging in contextualized interviews with scientists about their work.

Prior research indicates the value of using notebooks with preservice teachers in methods courses, as well as providing teachers the opportunity to talk and work with scientists. Therefore, the purpose of this work was to make explicit connections between science notebooks at the preservice teacher and elementary school level, and notebooks professional scientists create. In the next section, we describe how we infused the use of notebooks in the preservice methods course, and how we made connections between how the preservice teachers were using their notebooks, how elementary students might use notebooks, and how professional scientists use notebooks.

Notebooks in the Elementary Science and Health Methods Course

The science and health methods course meets once a week for 2 hours and 35 minutes (plus a 15-minute break) over a 15-week semester. The preservice teachers in the science and health methods course are usually undergraduate juniors—the methods course is taken one or two semesters before they begin a year-long teaching residency. Most of the preservice teachers are majoring in elementary education, which includes all the coursework and experiences they need for state K-6 general education teaching licensure. The methods course is part of a block of co-requisite courses that includes the mathematics methods course and a shared 45-hour field experience. The preservice teachers are required to take two 3-credit science content courses in their general studies program as prerequisites to the science and health methods course. Sarah has worked extensively in revising and teaching the two science content courses for elementary teachers. The preservice teachers also take a 2-credit health and physical education course for elementary teachers. While they do not take an engineering course as a part of their program, Ingrid incorporates engineering into the science and health methods course because the new 2020 Colorado Academic Standards for Science (Colorado Department of Education, 2018) were developed based on the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) that integrate engineering concepts into the science standards. Preservice teachers have sometimes stated that they have experience creating a science notebook in their K-12 education, and/or they have created notebooks in other content methods courses in their elementary education program. The following sections describe how science, health, and engineering notebooks are introduced and facilitated throughout the semester in the methods course.

Introducing the Science, Health, and Engineering Notebook

Ingrid introduces notebooks to the preservice teachers in the first (or second) class session of the 15-week semester. The introduction begins with asking preservice teachers to read Nesbit, Hargrove, Harrelson, and Maxey’s (2004) article titled “Implementing Science Notebooks in the Primary Grades” before coming to class. This article provides an overview of how and why notebooks can be used in elementary classrooms. Preservice teachers are given the assignment to keep their own science, health, and engineering notebooks throughout the semester (see Appendix A for notebook assignment description and rubric). As stated in the assignment description, creating their own notebooks throughout the semester is designed to “allow [preservice teachers] to explore if and how [they] will use this tool as a teacher in [their] own science, health, and engineering instruction.” Preservice teachers use their notebooks during almost every class period (with the exception, for example, of class sessions when students plan and conduct teacher rehearsals), and create two entries: one “student” entry where they record information as they engage in an inquiry lesson suitable for elementary students, and one “teacher” entry where they analyze and record ideas on teaching methods and pedagogy.  This is based on the idea of science interactive notebooks that suggests K-12 students create a two-sided notebook (Young, 2012). For school-aged students, the left side can contain “output,” or ideas to support students as they process and think critically about information and concepts. The right side contains “input,” or the data that students gather while investigating a concept (Young, 2012). Preservice teachers are asked to distinguish their entries a bit differently, as they choose one side of their notebook for “student” entries and one side of their notebook for “teacher” entries. This format is designed to indicate to preservice teachers which course activities are intended to model pedagogy (student entry) and which activities involve reflection, application, and metacognition about science teaching (teacher entry). For example, early on in the semester preservice teachers begin to learn about inquiry and the Science and Engineering Practices ([SEPs], NGSS Lead States, 2013). Preservice teachers read about the SEPs for class (Konicek-Moran & Keeley, 2015), and then in class engage in an abridged version of the Sheep in a Jeep lesson (Ansberry & Morgan, 2010) on the “student side” (see Figure 1). For the “teacher side,” small groups work together to create a summary of characteristics of each SEP and share this with the class. The preservice teachers then work in their table groups to reflect on and record their ideas about which and how the SEPs may be evident in Sheep in a Jeep lesson. Figure 2 demonstrates an example of this work as preservice teachers begin to develop an understanding of the SEPs at the beginning of the semester and how they connect to an inquiry lesson.

Figure 1 (Click on image to enlarge). Preservice teacher notebook of the “student” side.

Figure 2 (Click on image to enlarge). Preservice teacher notebook of the “teacher” side.

The preservice teachers have indicated that having the student side and teacher side is helpful in distinguishing the two “hats” they wear in class, as they examine lessons through the student lens and through the pedagogical lens, and that creating a science notebook has helped them think about how to use them with their own students. We discuss in class that the elementary students’ notebooks can also have two sides with dual purposes—an experimental side and a reflections side (Young, 2012). When asked at the end of the semester what they gained (if anything) from creating a science notebook, one preservice teacher indicated:

I learned how to do it with students, basically. Like you said, like, hey, here is what we can do for the student side, we can do something, like you said with the teacher side, we can change this to have them do daily reflections, questions that pop up, they maybe go home and do outside research, but definitely having that experimental slash note side and then having that questions, reflection, what do you think on this side, I think that is very useful for me, it’s like, this is how I can set it up.

Also related to learning how to implement notebooks with elementary students, one preservice teacher stated that it was helpful to create a notebook herself so that she knew what to expect:

I think it was really helpful to see the student side of it, specifically, ’cause how I, I never had them so, I think just jumping into residency or even teaching and having kids do it, or really knowing what you want them to get out of it, or your expectations, so I think this is a good way to set those expectations for myself for the students. Being able to actually do it so that I can show them how.

Interestingly, some preservice teachers indicated that their ideas about the value of creating their own notebook developed over the course of the semester. They developed an understanding of how the notebooks supported their own learning, for example, the notebooks helped keep them organized or provided them a resource about their learning in the course to which they could later refer.

Facilitating Use of the Notebook Throughout the Semester

In a typical class session, preservice teachers experience an inquiry lesson that includes either part or all of a 5E lesson (Bybee, 1997). In most cases, time permits engagement only in the first 3 E’s (Engage, Explore, and Explain). During these lessons, preservice teachers record the focus question and data in their notebooks. Later in the semester, preservice teachers also record more detailed explanations from the data. During the lesson, Ingrid models a pedagogical strategy. After experiencing the three parts of a 5E lesson, the class debriefs, analyzes, and/or discusses the pedagogical strategy that was modeled. For example, preservice teachers engage in a lesson to compare solids and liquids and make Oobleck to explore an anomaly (non-Newtonian fluid). Throughout the lesson, Ingrid models elementary science assessment strategies, such as a solids and liquids card sort (Keeley, 2008) as a pre-assessment in the Engage phase, and Traffic Light Dots (Keeley, 2008) as a self-assessment, whereby preservice teachers place green, yellow, and red dots next to statements they have written in their notebook to indicate their level of understanding and/or comfort with the what they wrote and did. Ingrid also plans to incorporate a discussion of how to assess elementary students’ notebooks into this lesson in the upcoming semester. Preservice teachers then discuss additional strategies that could be used to assess throughout the lesson.

Modeling of notebooks is a key aspect of introducing notebooks (Lewis, Dema, & Harshbarger, 2014). When Ingrid first started using notebooks with preservice teachers, she did not model using her own notebook, however throughout the years preservice teachers have indicated they wanted an example. Ingrid therefore began modeling the set-up of the notebook and the first few entries, and then gradually releasing this modeling. She has also found the assignment description and rubric are helpful—critical aspects of the notebook are creativity and to use the notebook as an exploratory tool. Ingrid has thus attempted to find a balance between supporting preservice teachers who prefer specific details related to assignment expectations while allowing space for freedom and creativity. In addition, preservice teachers sometimes request a review of required entries to ensure they have met the assignment requirements. To support their work, Ingrid provides one or two opportunities throughout the semester for preservice teachers to receive optional formative feedback, whereby Ingrid reviews the contents of the notebooks and provides comments and suggestions (e.g., to keep the table of contents up-to-date or to consider adding creativity to the notebook) on sticky-notes, so that the preservice teachers can remove the feedback and still feel ownership of their notebook (Nesbit et al., 2004). Ingrid has found over the years that preservice teachers appreciate the notebook having a point value in the class, as they have mentioned that it suggests that their work is valuable and important, and thus contributes to their course grade.

Throughout the semester, preservice teachers are asked to use their notebooks in various ways. For example, sometimes the preservice teachers are asked to write a reflection about the pedagogical topic of the class, or to write a Line of Learning (Nesbit et al., 2004). Mid-semester, preservice teachers are asked to set one goal they would like to achieve with their notebooks. For example, one preservice teacher wrote: “Goal Statement: Starting this/next week, I will start reflecting using the 3,2,1 countdown[1] AND to decorate the cover of my notebook! Shoot for the stars!” The following week, preservice teachers review their goals to determine if they achieved them, make a plan to achieve them if they did not, and set further goals for their notebook use.

Explicitly Connecting Notebooks to Scientists’ Work

The purpose of Sarah’s visit is for preservice teachers to meet and interact with a professional scientist who uses notebooks in her work. She comes to the class midway through the semester (about week 7) so that preservice teachers have had some experience working with their notebooks, exploring inquiry, and examining the SEPs (NGSS Lead States, 2013). We consider Sarah being a woman an added benefit and encourage inviting scientists to the classroom that represent diversity in the STEM workforce.

The preservice teachers are assigned to read before class Chapter 4 of their Questions, Claims, and Evidence text (Norton-Meier, Hand, Hockenberry, & Wise, 2008) titled, “Writing as an Essential Element of Science Inquiry.” In this chapter, they read about writing to learn and the importance of combining students’ knowledge bases of science and writing. The preservice teachers are also assigned to read an article by Schneider, Bonjour, and Bishop Courtier (2018) that connects notebooks to literacy, inquiry, and the SEPs (NGSS Lead States, 2013).

Facilitating the “Student” Side: How Do Professional Scientists Use Notebooks?

The class session begins (Engage phase) with Ingrid reading the book, Notable Notebooks: Scientists and Their Writings (Fries-Gaither, 2017), which describes how various scientists use notebooks in their work. The focus question for the “student” side of the lesson is “How do professional scientists use notebooks?” The lesson is framed as a “student” lesson because elementary teachers can bring scientists into the classroom and engage elementary students in a similar lesson. We introduce the focus question and facilitate a discussion about how the preservice teachers think scientists use notebooks. Preservice teachers are provided with a “data” sheet to tape into their notebooks on which they record their observations and inferences about how scientists use notebooks based on Notable Notebooks (Fries-Gaither, 2017) and on sample notebooks Sarah shares. The preservice teachers highlight activities such as planning experiments, creating hypotheses, and writing results. Classroom teachers may have students complete these writing activities in their notebooks, but they are not generally how scientists use their notebooks. Although there is quite a bit of variety from notebook to notebook, scientists mainly use notebooks to record data.

After this initial discussion, Sarah shares notebooks samples of her own work and that of her colleagues (see Figures 3-5) and discusses the various way scientists use notebooks in their work (Explore phase). Throughout this discussion, we ask the preservice teachers questions to guide their thinking: What kinds of data are the scientists collecting? How have the scientists organized their data? How did the professional scientists in the examples we just shared use their notebooks in different ways? What is the purpose of notebooks as professional scientists use them?

Figure 3 (Click on image to enlarge). Botany notebook featuring drawings of plants noted in the field.

Figure 4 (Click on image to enlarge). Genetics notebook containing photos of gel electrophoresis (a DNA fingerprinting technique).

Figure 5 (Click on image to enlarge). Environmental science notebook containing tables of water quality measurements.

These notebooks demonstrate the wide variety of content present in scientific notebooks. For example, Sarah shows drawings of plants that one of her research assistants, who was double majoring in art and environmental science, completed while making observations in the field as part of one of Sarah’s projects (see Figure 3). She also shows sets of numerical data from a study on soil chemistry. As the preservice teachers examine the notebooks, they are asked to make further observations about them. They often observe that each notebook is unique and serves as a place to record the work conducted by the scientist. They comment that some notebooks are filled with numbers, some with drawings, and some even have “artifacts” taped into them. Indeed, Sarah brings in an example of a scientific notebook that includes photographs of gel electrophoresis (a DNA fingerprinting technique) that the scientist inserted (see Figure 4). The discussion then returns to the focus question: How do professional scientists use notebooks? (Explain phase). We recommend facilitating a Claim and Evidence statements to answer the focus question that uses the preservice teachers’ observational notes from Notable Notebooks (Fries-Gaither, 2007) and from the samples of scientists’ notebooks to support their claims.

Facilitating the “Teacher” Side: Notebooks Across Contexts

The observations preservice teachers make about scientists’ notebooks offer the opportunity to begin to distinguish the similarities and differences between scientific and classroom notebooks. To begin thinking of the lesson as teachers, we facilitate a discussion about how scientists’ notebooks compare to both the preservice teachers’ notebooks and elementary students’ notebooks. For example, how are the ways that professional scientists use their notebooks similar/different to how we are using notebooks in this class? How is this similar/different to how elementary students use science notebooks? What is the purpose of notebooks as elementary students use them? How is this the same/different from how we are using them this semester? The preservice teachers generally see connections between classroom and scientific notebooks, for example, both are personal records of thoughts, observations, and questions. The authors of each make decisions about what is included and how—notebooks usually have a system of organization which is chronological. The preservice teachers are required to date every entry, a practice that scientists often consider critical as well. This chronological organization can demonstrate growth or learning over a time period: the student over an academic year, the scientist over the course of a study. Elementary teachers also usually ask their students to date their notebook entries. Further, we discuss how the scientists’ notebooks shared were all created in hard copy and how the preservice teachers also create hard copy notebooks. While there are merits to maintaining digital work, we discuss the importance of scientists using hard copy notebooks (e.g., so that they can bring them into the field regardless of the weather). One concept we emphasize is that scientists generally do not erase any work in their notebook, but cross it out if they need to make a change. This is an important point because scientists want to see their thought-processes and therefore it is helpful to keep all their work. Similarly, elementary teachers may ask their students to cross out their work rather than erase it, for the same reason of being able to see students’ thought processes. We point out that although the preservice teachers (and perhaps elementary students) may not bring their notebooks outside, hard copy notebooks may support creativity so that students do not have to navigate technology while creating their notebook. Furthermore, hard copy notebooks allow students to easily insert artifacts and handouts into the notebook as perhaps, a scientist may do (as in the DNA example).

Preservice teachers also discuss how the notebooks they are creating in the methods course differ from scientists’ notebooks, for example, their notebooks have a “student” side and a “teacher” side, and their notebooks contain notes, ideas, and reflections on science teaching and learning. Likewise, elementary students’ notebooks may contain a “data” or “observations” side and a “reflections” side (Young, 2012). The science notebooks that Sarah shares largely contain numerical or descriptive data, whereas the notebooks created by preservice teachers and elementary students contain a variety of notes and reflections. The preservice teachers’ notebooks also contain a required system of organization, which includes a table of contents and a glossary (see Appendix A). This system is intended to model how to support elementary students as they create their notebooks, however scientists will likely not use this type of system in their own notebooks.

Preservice teachers are asked to consider how they would use a notebook in their future class or how they have observed their cooperating teachers in their field experiences use notebooks in the classrooms in which they are working. Indeed, preservice teachers are given a field reflection assignment about notebooks for class that day. Through a discussion, the preservice teachers identify the learning objectives elementary teachers may have when using notebooks including building organization and literacy skills. They also see the notebooks as a way for students to demonstrate growth over a unit, semester, or year, and reflect back on their work throughout the school year. In contrast, preservice teachers may view scientific notebooks as mechanisms for thinking about and carrying out scientific investigations. At this point in the lesson, we ask preservice teachers to complete a t-chart that lists the SEPs (NGSS Lead States, 2013), and how scientists’ notebooks reflect how scientists engage in the SEPs (please see Recommendations section below for a modification to this approach).

Lastly, the class is asked to consider the value in bringing a professional scientist to visit the class to talk about their work and how they use notebooks. The preservice teachers again comment that meeting a scientist makes science seem more approachable and less abstract. At the end of the semester one student stated:

I think when you brought in like the real science, like the real scientists’ notebooks like for us to see that was really cool, too, because it just kind of like, I like the idea of um, ya know, think like a scientist.

When Sarah visits the class, she describes her work by explaining what she does and why it is important. This discussion helps to demystify science and scientists. If a scientist is able to explain exactly what they do in their work, it can perhaps make it easier for students to envision themselves in the role. During the discussion, we encourage the preservice teachers to invite scientists into their own future classrooms so that elementary students can also see how scientists work. We suggest that they begin by emailing faculty from local colleges, including community colleges. Other possible locations include government agencies (local, state, federal), non-profits, engineering firms, environmental consulting firms, zoos/ aquariums, museums, and hospitals. We point out that since many professionals are busy their emails may go unanswered, but we encourage preservice teachers to persist in finding someone who can visit their classroom. We also encourage them to speak with the scientist before their visit to discuss the content so that it is grade-appropriate and to discuss their learning goals—we note that since they are education experts, it is their responsibility to ensure that the visit goes smoothly.

Recommendations

In this section, we provide reflections and recommendations based on our experiences in our collaboration and facilitation of notebook use with preservice teachers. Our intention is to provide recommendations that can be applied in a variety of university contexts.

Building a Collaboration

The university setting can make cross campus collaboration difficult—it may be common for faculty to remain in their disciplines, and these disciplines can be geographically separated by different buildings. Such work is possible, however, if faculty explore opportunities at the university, for example, by participating in service outside of the department, school, or college. Our collaboration and friendship began with a service project that involved faculty from the School of Education and the College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences. The service does not need to be specifically related to the intended project, as any service outside the department can be a valuable to meet faculty outside of teacher education. If such a service opportunity is not available, it may be possible to establish a relationship by reaching out to individuals that are likely to share a mutual interest. Although Sarah is a scientist and teaches in a science department, she also teaches a class for preservice teachers. Thus, it is not surprising that she has an interest in pedagogy and science instruction.

Emphasizing Professional Use of Notebooks with Preservice Teachers

We believe a critical component of emphasizing scientists’ work is to share real-life examples of scientists’ notebooks. Please note that this may take some time since the scientists will need to ensure that the information they are sharing is permitted by IRB. When sharing examples of scientists’ notebooks, it is important to compare/contrast the way scientists use notebooks not only with how the preservice teachers use notebooks in the methods class, but also how they can be used with elementary students. As we continue our collaboration, we have obtained various insights into ways that we could further enhance our emphasis of how professionals use notebooks, and how that relates to how preservice teachers, and elementary students, use notebooks.

Explicit and continued connection to scientists’ notebooks. First, we plan to explicitly connect and reflect back to Sarah’s visit throughout the semester. This can be done by asking questions after the inquiry investigations done in class such as: How do you think a professional scientist would conduct an investigation to answer the same focus question? What kind of data could/would they gather, and how could they organize it? Further, this connection can be extended and emphasized through discussion about the work that scientists may record in notebooks and how this relates to the SEPs (NGSS Lead States, 2013) and to the Nature of Science (NOS). Tables 1 and 2 provide some ideas for how to connect professional scientists’ notebooks to the SEPs and NOS.

Table 1 (Click on image to enlarge)
Connections Between Science and Engineering Practices and Scientists’ Notebooks
Table 2 (Click on image to enlarge)
Connections Between Nature of Science and Scientists’ Notebooks

As preservice teachers engage in inquiry activities and make connections between elementary science learning, the SEPs (NGSS Lead States, 2013) and NOS, they can also reflect on how this relates to professional scientists’ work and their use of notebooks. Connecting scientists’ notebooks to the SEPs and NOS can support preservice teachers’ thinking about how elementary science can relate to the work of professional scientists. This is critical so that preservice teachers continue to see and think critically about how notebooks are used across contexts: in elementary classrooms, in their own methods course, and by professional scientists. We recommend asking preservice teachers to think about these connections through a three-column chart: one column lists the SEPs (NGSS Lead States, 2013) and/or the tenets of NOS, one column asks preservice teachers to make connections between the SEPs and how scientists use notebooks, and the third column asks preservice teachers to either make connections between the SEPs/NOS and how they are using notebooks or how elementary students can use notebooks. Alternatively, preservice teachers could complete a Venn diagram with three circles, one for each role (elementary student, preservice teacher, professional scientist) to compare/contrast how different roles use notebooks. As preservice teachers continue to engage in inquiry lesson as “students,” and reflect on pedagogy as teachers, they may begin to see more and deeper connections between the different contexts of notebook use.

Connections to the work of professional engineers. Next semester, we also hope to incorporate deeper discussion about how engineers use notebooks. We plan to read Fries-Giather’s (2018) Exemplary Evidence: Scientists and Their Data, which includes ideas about how engineers work. We can examine how the work of engineers compares/contrasts to the work of scientists, again using the SEPs (NGSS Lead States, 2013) and using the Framework for Science Education’s “Distinguishing Practices in Science from those in Engineering” (National Research Council, 2012, pp. 50-53) to guide the discussion. Preservice teachers can make the connection that while the practices are similar as they relate to both science and engineering, science tends to focus more on exploration and explanation, while engineering tends to focus more on solving problems. As mentioned above, connections between engineers’ notebooks and NOS can also be made.

Connections to literacy. Finally, we recommend making explicit connections between the science notebooks, literacy, and supporting language development (Schneider et al., 2018). There are a number of resources that discuss how to integrate literacy into science notebook use with elementary students (e.g., Fulton & Campbell, 2014). We suggest having class discussions about how notebooks support language and literacy, as well as facilitating an activity that allows preservice teachers to examine the state literacy and/or English Learner standards to find connections to science notebook use. Furthermore, children’s literature can be a valuable way to introduce how scientists use notebooks (before a scientist visits the class), to review/revisit how scientists use notebooks (after the scientist’s visit), and to think critically about how notebooks are used. As mentioned previously, we really like the two books by Fries-Gaither to introduce and discuss with preservice teachers how scientists work and how they use notebooks.

Conclusion

In conclusion, we have found our collaboration to be fruitful in our facilitation of notebook use with preservice teachers. An interesting and unanticipated benefit for Ingrid has been an enhanced understanding of how scientists work. Her knowledge of how scientists work has become clearer and deeper as the authors have discussed the various ways Sarah and her colleagues collect and analyze data. Preservice teachers have often mentioned the value of Sarah’s visit and sometimes refer back to it throughout the semester. Further, many preservice teachers know Sarah from the science content courses for elementary teachers they have taken. This seems to support an added level of comfort and familiarity with her when she visits the classroom. Sarah has also benefited from this collaboration as she has furthered her understanding of scientific pedagogy that has allowed her to improve her own teaching of undergraduate science courses for both elementary majors and non-majors. Finally, we believe that connecting scientists’ notebooks to the work of preservice teachers and elementary students and how that relates to the SEPs (NGSS Lead States, 2013) and NOS can provide a larger context and bring to life these dimensions of the Next Generation Science Standards.

Author Note

[1] We believe this refers to: 3 new facts I learned, 2 “ah-has,” and 1 question

Supplemental Files

Appendix-A.docx

References

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A Framework for Science Exploration: Examining Successes and Challenges for Preservice Teachers

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Croce, K. (2020). A framework for science exploration: Examining successes and challenges for preservice teachers. Innovations in Science Teacher Education, 5(2). Retrieved from https://innovations.theaste.org/a-framework-for-science-exploration-examining-successes-and-challenges-for-preservice-teachers/

by Keri-Anne Croce, Towson University

Abstract

Undergraduate preservice teachers examined the Science Texts Analysis Model during a university course. The Science Texts Analysis Model is designed to support teachers as they help students prepare to engage with the arguments in science texts. The preservice teachers received instruction during class time on campus before employing the model when teaching science to elementary and middle school students in Baltimore city. This article describes how the preservice teachers applied their knowledge of the Science Texts Analysis Model within this real world context. Preservice teachers’ reactions to the methodology are examined in order to provide recommendations for future college courses.

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Adapting a Model of Preservice Teacher Professional Development for Use in Other Contexts: Lessons Learned and Recommendations

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Park Rogers, M., Carter, I., Amador, J., Galindo, E., & Akerson, V. (2020). Adapting a model of preservice teacher professional development for use in other contexts: Lessons learned and recommendations. Innovations in Science Teacher Education, 5(1). Retrieved from https://innovations.theaste.org/adapting-a-model-of-preservice-teacher-professional-development-for-use-in-other-contexts-lessons-learned-and-recommendations/

by Meredith Park Rogers, Indiana University - Bloomington; Ingrid Carter, Metropolitan State University of Denver; Julie Amador, University of Idaho; Enrique Galindo, Indiana University - Bloomington; & Valarie Akerson, Indiana University - Bloomington

Abstract

We discuss how an innovative field experience model initially developed at Indiana University - Bloomington (IUB) is adapted for use at two other institutions. The teacher preparation programs at the two adapting universities not only differ from IUB, but also from each other with respect to course structure and student population. We begin with describing the original model, referred to as Iterative Model Building (IMB), and how it is designed to incorporate on a variety of research-based teacher education methods (e.g., teaching experiment interviews and Lesson Study) for the purpose of supporting preservice teachers with constructing models of children’s thinking, using this information to inform lesson planning, and then participating in a modified form of lesson study for the purpose of reflecting on changes to the lesson taught and future lessons that will be taught in the field experience. The goal of these combined innovations is to initiate the development of preservice teachers’ knowledge and skill for focusing on children’s scientific and mathematical thinking. We then share how we utilize formative assessment interviews and model building with graduate level in-service teachers at one institution and how the component of lesson study is adapted for use with undergraduate preservice teachers at another institution. Finally, we provide recommendations for adapting the IMB approach further at other institutions.

Introduction

There is a clear consensus that teachers must learn to question, listen to, and respond to what and how students are thinking (Jacobs, Lamb, & Philipp, 2010; NRC, 2007; Russ & Luna, 2013).  With this information teachers can decide appropriate steps for instruction that will build on students’ current understandings and address misunderstandings.  At Indiana University – Bloomington (IUB) we received funding to rethink our approach to the early field experience that our elementary education majors take in order to emphasize this need for developing our preservice teachers’ knowledge and abilities to ask children productive questions (Harlen, 2015), interpret their understanding, and respond with appropriate instructional methods to develop students’ conceptual understanding about the topics being discussed (Carter, Park Rogers, Amador, Akerson, & Pongsanon, 2016).  Our field experience model titled, Iterative Model Building (IMB), is taken in a block with the elementary mathematics methods and science methods courses, and as such half of the field experience time (~5-6 weeks) is devoted to each subject area.  Over the course of the semester, the preservice teachers attend local schools for one afternoon a week.  In teams of four to six, the preservice teachers engage with elementary students through interviews and the teaching of lessons, and then experience various modes of reflection to begin developing an orientation towards teaching mathematics and science that is grounded in the notion that student thinking should drive instruction (National Research Council, 2007).  Thus, the IMB approach consists of four components that include weekly formative assessment interviews with children, discussions regarding models of the children’s thinking from the weekly interviews, lesson planning and teaching, and small group lesson reflections similar in nature to Lesson Study (Nargund-Joshi, Park Rogers, Wiebke, & Akerson., 2012; Carter et al., 2016). The intent of our approach is to teach preservice teachers to not only attend to student thinking, but to learn how to take this information and use it when designing lessons so they will make informed decisions about appropriate instructional strategies.

In this article we describe not only the original IMB approach, but also demonstrate the flexibility in the use of its components  with descriptions of how Authors 2 and 3 (Ingrid and Julie) have adapted aspects of the IMB to incorporate into their science and mathematics teacher education courses at different institutions.  Although this journal focuses on innovations for science teacher education, at the elementary level many teacher educators are asked to either teach both mathematics and science methods, or work collaboratively with colleagues in mathematics education, as students are often enrolled in both content area methods courses during the same semester.  Therefore, we believe sharing our stories of how this shared science and mathematics field experience model was initially developed and employed at IUB, but has been modified for use at two other institutions, has the potential for demonstrating how the components of the model can be used in other contexts.

To begin, we believe it is important to disclose that Ingrid and Julie, who made the adaptations we are sharing, attended or worked at IUB and held positions on the IMB Project for several years during the funded phases of research and development.  When they left IUB for academic positions, they took with them the premise of the IMB approach as foundational to developing quality mathematics and science teachers.  However, the structure of their current teacher education programs are not the same as at IUB, and thus they adapted the IMB approach to fit their institutional structure while trying to staying true to what they believed were core aspects of the approach for quality teacher development.

We begin with sharing an overview of the components of the IMB approach followed by descriptions from Ingrid and Julie about the context and course structure where they implement components of IMB.  In addition, we share examples of how their students discuss K-12 students’ mathematical and scientific ideas and relate this to instructional decision-making.  Through sharing our stories of adaptation of the IMB approach, we aim to inspire other teacher educators to consider how they may incorporate aspects of this approach into their professional development model for preparing or advancing teachers’ knowledge for teaching in STEM related disciplines.

Overview of IMB Approach – Indiana University (IUB)

As previously mentioned, IMB includes four components: (i) developing preservice teachers’ questioning abilities to analyze students’ thinking through the use of formative assessment interviews (FAIs); (ii) constructing models of students’ thinking about concepts that are asked about in the interviews (i.e., Model Building); (iii) developing and teaching lessons that take into consideration the evolving models of children’s thinking about the concepts being taught (i.e., Act of Teaching); (iv) learning to revise lessons using evidence gathered about children’s thinking from the lesson taught (i.e., Lesson Study). Although these components may not appear to be innovative to those in the field of teacher preparation, the unique feature of the IMB model is the iterative process, and weekly combination of all four components, within an early field experience for elementary education majors that we believe demonstrate innovative practice in preparing science and mathematics elementary teachers.  In addition, the field experience at IUB applies this four-step iterative process in the first 5-6 weeks with respect to teaching mathematics concepts, then continues for an additional 5-6 weeks on science concepts.  In the next few paragraphs, each of the IMB components are described in more detail.  We have grouped components according to those that Ingrid and Julie have adopted for use at their institutions.

Formative Assessment Interviews and Model Building

Formative assessment interviews (FAIs) are modified ‘clinical interviews’ that are aimed at understanding students’ conceptualizations of scientific phenomenon or mathematics problems (Steffe & Thompson, 2000).  From these video-recorded interviews, the preservice teachers identify short snippets that illustrate elementary students explaining their thinking about what a concepts is, how it works, and how they solved for it.  These explanations are then used to try to develop a predictive model to help the teachers consider how the students might respond to a related phenomenon, problem, or task (Norton, McCloskey, & Hudson, 2012).  The Model Building sessions require the preservice teachers to consider what is known about the students’ thinking on the concept or problem, based on the specific evidence given in the snippet of video, and identify what other information would be helpful to know. See Akerson, Carter, Park Rogers, & Pongsanon (2018) for further details on the purpose, structure and ability of preservice teachers to participate in a task where they are asked to make evidence-based predictions regarding students future responses to relate content (i.e., anticipate the student thinking).

With respect to the IMB approach, a secondary purpose of the FAI and Model Building sessions is to develop preservice teachers’ knowledge and abilities to think about how to improve their questioning of students’ thinking within the context of their teaching. This relates to being able to develop their professional noticing skills; a core aspect identified in the research literature (Jacobs, et al., 2010; van Es & Sherin, 2008) and critical to fostering the expert knowledge teachers possess (Shulman, 1987). See ‘Resources’ for examples of the post FAI Reflection Form (Document A) and Model Building Form (Document B) preservice teachers complete at IUB as part of their field experience requirements.

Act of Teaching and Lesson Study

Each week the teams develop a lesson plan using the information gathered from the FAIs, Model Building sessions, and as time goes on, their experience of teaching previous lessons to the students in their field classroom.  With respect to the mathematics portion of the field experience, the mathematics lessons are developed in conjunction with the field experience supervisor from week to week.  However, given the additional time that science has, because the science teaching in the field does not start until halfway through the semester, a first draft of all five science lessons are completed as part of the science methods course. Once the switch is made to science in the field, the preservice teachers then revise the drafted lessons from week to week using the information gathered through the IMB approach and with the guidance of the field instructor.

During the teaching of the lesson, two to three members of each team lead the instruction and the other two to three members of the team move around the room amongst the elementary students observing and gathering information about what the students are saying and doing related to the lesson objectives.  After the teaching experience, all members come together and follow the IMB’s modified lesson study approach that is adapted from the Japanese Lesson Study model (Lewis & Tsuchida, 1998)[1].  Using the Lesson Study Form developed for use in the IMB, the different members of the teaching team reflect on what the children understood about the concepts taught in the lesson and propose revisions for that lesson based on the children’s understandings and misunderstandings.  Possible strategies related to these understandings are also discussed with respect to the next lesson to be taught in the series of lessons.  Supporting them in this reflective process is the evidence some members of the team recorded using the Lesson Observation Form (see ‘Resources’, Document C), as well as what those who taught the lesson assessed while teaching.  The Lesson Study Form (see ‘Resources’, Document D) guides this evidence-based, collaborative, and reflective process.

Stories of Adaptation

In the following sections we describe how Ingrid and Julie have adapted components of the IMB approach for use in their teacher education programs.  To keep with the flow of how we described the IMB approach above, we begin with Julie’s story as she adapted the FAI and Model Building components for use at her institution.  Following her story is Ingrid’s, and her adaptation of the teaching and Lesson Study components of the IMB approach.  While neither of these stories demonstrates an adaptation of the complete IMB approach, demonstrating that type of transfer is not our intent with this article.  Rather, we want to share how aspects of the IMB approach could be adapted together for use in other institutional structures.  Table 1 provides a side-by-side comparison of how the IMB components were adapted for use at our different institutions to meet the needs of our students in our different contexts.

Table 1 (Click on image to enlarge)
Comparison of IMB components across Institutions

Julie’s Story of Adaptation at the University of Idaho (UI)

In the final two years of the five year IMB, Julie was a postdoctoral researcher and IMB manager for IMB. In this capacity, she taught the field experience course and coordinated with other instructors of the course. At the same time, she worked with participants after they had completed the field experience and moved to their student teaching or actual teaching placements. Julie was also involved with writing a manual to support others to implement the IMB field experience process.

At her current institution, Julie has incorporated FAIs and Model Building into a graduate course on K-12 mathematics education. The university is a medium-size doctoral granting institution in the upper Northwest of the United States. The course, for which the IMB approach has been adapted, engages masters and doctoral students in exploring: a) connections between research literature and practice (Lambdin & Lester, 2010; Lobato & Lester, 2010), b) the cognitive demand of tasks (Stein, Smith Henningsen, & Silver, 2009), and c) professional noticing (Jacobs et al., 2010; Sherin, Jacobs, & Philipp, 2011). The fully online course lasts sixteen weeks and students engage in weekly modules around these three core foci. Students in the course are primarily practicing teachers from across the state in which the university resides.

The IMB process of engaging teachers in FAIs and Model Building is followed in this course; however, the process spans over a longer period with a whole semester devoted solely to mathematics. Each person designs two FAIs on a specific mathematical topic and completes a Model Building session for each interview. This process is slightly different than the IMB approach because there are fewer students in the graduate class, and since many are practicing K-12 classroom teachers, they have access to students with whom they can easily conduct the FAIs. Despite the teacher population and logistical differences between IUB and UI, Julie used the supporting documents and implemented them in a manner very similar to how they were initially designed and employed for the IMB approach at IUB. For example, at UI each graduate student/teacher selects appropriate mathematics content for the interview based on the standards and learning objectives that are age appropriate for the K-12 student they will interview. They then plan a goal for the interview, along with five problematic questions to be asked during the interview and related follow-up questions. Based on the second focus of the graduate course, they are encouraged to consider the cognitive demand of the tasks they include in their questions. The interview is audio recorded and the graduate students are asked to reflect on the questions outlined on the FAI Reflection Form (see ‘Resources’, Document A).  Referring specifically to the second question on the reflection form, one graduate student responded, “During my post-FAI analysis of the student work and audio, my noticing, once again, improved as I began to consider the relationship between the student’s misconceptions and teaching strategies.” Comments like this were commonly found across the FAI reflection forms, indicating the value of this interview experience in preparing teachers mathematical knowledge of content and students’ understanding of the content (Ball, Thames, & Phelps, 2008).

Following the first FAI, the graduate students are tasked to create a model of the student’s thinking that again mirrors the model-building process of the IMB approach (see ‘Resources,’ Document B). To do this, they are asked to listen to their audio recording and select a clip that highlights what the student says or does as evidence of how the student thinks about particular ideas. They transcribe the segment of audio and conduct an analysis on what the student knows, does not know, and what further information would be helpful. As an example, the following task was given during one FAI conducted by a graduate student — . Going through the Model Building process, the graduate student who gave this question in their FAI highlighted the following portion of their transcript, and provided the accompanying image of the student’s work in solving this question.

Student: I did that because the equal sign is right there.  And so because these numbers are supposed to be at the beginning but they switched them around to the end and then you would add them together to get nine and then you would do plus two and then you write your answer (write 11 underneath the box).

Teacher: How could we check that this (points to the left side of the equation) equals this (points to the right side of the equation?  Is there a way we could check that?

Student: Umm… what do you mean?

Teacher:  So, I saw that you added these numbers together and placed the nine here.  Could we check or is there a way to check that these two things added together equals these numbers added together?

Student: I guess you could just add them together.

Teacher: Do they come out equal?

Student: No because this is eleven (points to left side of equation).  And then this goes three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine.  Oh! So it goes eleven like that and then eleven, twelve, thirteen, like that and then that will equal nine.

Teacher: So I saw a light bulb go off.  Is that going to change he number you put in there (points to the box)?

Student: So if was eleven, wait, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two and that equals twenty-two.  And that is your real answer.

Building on this evidence, the graduate student wrote the following model of the student’s thinking with this problem.  This model is the graduate student’s attempt at explaining the student’s thinking with the evidence provided from the task.

Given a numeric equation with values on each side of the equation but a missing value on one side (e.g. 17+5=___+4), the student added the numbers on one side of the equation and placed that sum into the blank space. The student then continued executing computations by placing another equal sign and adding the newly determined answer with the existing value on that side of the equation. This same action happened in two different tasks with the missing value on the left and right side of the equation. Thus, the student does not conceptually understand the meaning of the equal sign and/or the concept of equality. She does not understand that the equal sign describes the relationship between two expressions and that the correct answer should create two equal expressions.  Instead, the student views the equal sign as an indicator to perform computations to find answers.

This model describes what the student knows and understands with respect to different sides of an equation.

Following this first round of FAIs and Model Building, the graduate students then repeat this entire process again, with the same student. However, before the second round, the graduate students have an opportunity to first share their models and thinking in online discussion boards and receive written instructor feedback. Their peers are also required to comment and engage in dialogue with them through the virtual discussions. With the second FAI, the intent is for the mathematical content to align with the content of the first interview, but focus on revealing deeper understandings of this content from the same student. For example, if the first FAI asked questions that broadly addressed fractional understanding at grade three, and the graduate student recognized some misconceptions related to part-whole relationships and understanding, then the second FAI may be designed to focus entirely on part-whole relationships.  The purpose of the second FAI is to dive deeper into a child’s thinking about the concept to obtain a greater understanding of how the child conceptualizes part and whole.

As the graduate students conducted the series of two FAIs and two Model Building exercises, they focused on the same K-12 student to provide an in-depth understanding of that student’s knowledge. As a result, they were then asked to deeply study what they had learned about that student’s mathematical thinking and focus on that student as a case study. This is a component that is not included in the original IMB process.  Julie elected to add this component of a case study to provide her graduate students the opportunity to revisit both cycles of the FAIs and Model Building processes and formulate some ideas around supporting the student based on evidence from interactions across the two cycles. As a part of the case study, they write a formal paper about the student that includes an analysis of the students’ thinking and makes recommendations for supporting the students’ understanding in the classroom context—these components stem from the research literature on professional noticing and the importance of attending to thinking, interpreting thinking, and making instructional decisions of how to respond (Jacobs et al., 2010). In the final component of the case study paper, the graduate student situates the student’s understanding within the broader mathematics education literature. Therefore, Julie has adapted the FAI and Model Building process of the IMB to engage graduate students in the act of professional noticing through a specific focus on one child as a case study (Jacobs et al., 2010).  The following comment from one of the case study reports illustrates the value of this adapted experience for one student, but the same sentiment was echoed by others.

The student thinking uncovered during the formative assessment interviews and the learning from this course on noticing, cognitive demand, and teacher knowledge combined together to profoundly influence on my views of mathematics instruction. Slowing down to thoughtfully probe a struggling student’s thinking revealed so much more than my prior noticing ability would have allowed.

Ingrid’s Story of Adaptation at Metropolitan State University of Denver (MSU Denver)

Ingrid joined the IMB as a graduate teaching and research assistant in the second year of implementation. In her first year with the IMB, she instructed a section of the field experience with preservice elementary teachers. Later on in her doctoral program, she taught the affiliated science methods course that is taken in the cluster with the field experience, but was no longer an instructor of the field experience.  During this time however, she remained on the IMB as a research assistant. Therefore, throughout her time on the IMB project, Ingrid worked on many facets of the IMB and was integral in developing procedures and protocols for teaching the IMB approach.

At her current institution, Ingrid has adapted the Act of Teaching and Lesson Study components of the IMB, infusing it into her undergraduate elementary science and health methods course. Her institution is a large urban commuter campus with a large majority of students being undergraduates. The student body is diverse and most are from the expansive metropolitan area. For their field experience, which combines science, health, and mathematics, each preservice teacher is placed in an elementary classroom for 45 hours per semester. In most cases, this is usually the fourth field experience these preservice teachers have participated in for their program. The science and health methods course meets face-to-face for 15 weeks of classes and incorporates a teaching rehearsal experience in the methods course to provide the preservice teachers with the opportunity to practice a lesson they have planned and the Lesson Study component of the IMB approach before completing the teaching experience in the field with children.

The preservice teachers at MSU Denver are placed in separate classrooms for their field experience, thus they plan different lessons and teach the lessons independently.  Despite this independent teaching experience, Ingrid has tried to maintain the collaborative integrity of the Lesson Study component of the IMB by pairing preservice teachers that are placed at the same school or nearby schools.  The purpose of this pairing is so they can serve as peer observers for each other and participate in a shared Lesson Study experience. Unfortunately, this request cannot always be made, and in some instances the preservice teachers work with the mentor classroom teacher through the Act of Teaching and Lesson Study components.

Before the preservice teachers begin their teaching cycle in the field however, Ingrid has her preservice teachers participate in a type of teaching rehearsal (Lampert et al., 2013).  The preservice teachers are placed into teams of four or five and together they develop a learning plan (similar to a lesson) but with a focus on just the first three Es of a Learning Cycle (Engage, Explore, and Explain) and the learning objective.  Preservice teachers usually focus on science, but in some cases they elect to teach a health or engineering lesson. Two groups are then brought together to serve as the different members of the teaching cycle.  When one team is teaching, one member of the other team serves as the peer observer completing the Lesson Observation Form (see ‘Resources’, Document C) and all remaining members of the other group are acting as elementary students for the teaching of the lesson. The group then switches and they repeat the experience for another lesson. Following each rehearsal the two groups then walk through the Lesson Study Form and complete it for each rehearsed lesson.  Ingrid believes taking her students through this rehearsal of planning a lesson, teaching it, and practicing with the forms helps the preservice teachers to be more successful in all aspects of the Act of Teaching and Lesson Study when they conduct it in their smaller pairings and in the context of their field experience classrooms.

Due to the complex structure of field placement at Ingrid’s institution, with it being a commuter-based university serving a large urban/suburban area, Ingrid has made more adaptations to the IMB approach and documents than Julie, some of which are described above. Additional adaptations however, include Ingrid providing feedback on the each preservice teacher’s lesson and then having preservice teachers revise the lesson using this feedback, and having the preservice teacher partners participating in a Pre-Observation Conference.  The purpose of this conference is help the preservice teachers who are partnered for the Act of Teaching and Lesson Study (or the preservice teacher and the mentor teacher) to understand the learning objectives of the lesson and the intentions of the preservice teacher for structuring the lesson in the manner they did.  In addition, there is a section called “look-fors” that directs the preservice teachers to anticipate what the children should be able to do by the end of the lesson (with respect to the learning objective) and what evidence will be gathered to determine this goal was met. This is intended to support the preservice teachers to focus on students’ thinking in the Act of Teaching and Lesson Study processes in the field. The pair completes one Pre-Observation Conference Form (see ‘Resources’, Document E) together for each partner’s lesson. To complete the Act of Teaching and Lesson Study cycle, each preservice teacher is required to submit a packet to document the experience that includes: the Pre-Observation Conference Form, the Lesson Observation Form completed by their partner, their collaborative Lesson Study Form, a revised lesson that incorporates the color-coded revisions suggested in the Lesson Study, and a personal reflection paper about what they took away from the experience.

Lastly, Ingrid’s Act of Teaching/Lesson Study cycle concludes with a debriefing about the experience with all students in the class. She focuses much of the conversation on asking the preservice teachers to share what they reflected on in their individual papers about the experience and she guides the discussion with questions such as,

  • What did you think about the peer observation process?
  • How did participating in lesson study support your growth as a teacher?
    • What parts of the lesson study process were particularly helpful for you?
  • What would you do differently if you could do this again?
  • How did lesson study support you in focusing on students’ thinking?
  • What have you learned from the lesson study process that you will take with you in your future classroom?

From this class discussion she is able to glean how they view the whole process as supporting the preservice teachers’ understanding of how to focus their attention on children’s scientific thinking and use this information to inform their future instruction. ​

Reflecting on Our Stories of Adaptation: Lessons Learned

At Julie’s institution (University of Idaho [UI]), implementation using FAIs and Model Building have shown to be beneficial for the graduate students, as most of them are practicing classroom teachers. One accommodation from the IMB model is the time span for the FAIs and Model Building. In the modified version, two cycles are spread over six weeks, as opposed to having a new cycle each week. Additionally, one graduate student interviews one student in K-12, as opposed to working in pairs. This has afforded opportunities for greater flexibility with scheduling and diving in deeper around a specific mathematical topic. However, the graduate student has only one student with whom they work and do not develop a broader understanding of various students, which may lessen their opportunity for understanding the thinking of multiple students. Additionally, at UI, every graduate student selects the grade level and the student with whom they will work. The FAIs and Model Building then focus on their selected student and topic, which restricts collaboration across the graduate students and learning from one another; whereas with the original IMB model, the same mathematics topic (e.g., number sense) is covered by each team.  This modification affords teams experiencing the full IMB model the opportunity to learn from each other within their team, but also across the teams to learn about content progressions. Therefore, a possible limitation of the modification at UI is that every graduate student has a different topic and they are unable to share and discuss students’ thinking and ideas about a similar mathematical domain. Determining ways to work around this limitation depends on the intentions of the course instructor/teacher educator for using FAIs and Model Building.  For Julie, her focus is on developing individual teachers’ professional noticing, thus the limitations in collaborating with others does not prevent her from meeting her intentions.

Another accommodation from the IMB model is that Julie is unable to attend the FAI recordings in person unlike the field instructors at IUB who are present weekly.  The online nature of Julie’s course provided the graduate students with flexibility in accessing students and scheduling the recordings at times throughout the school day that worked for them and the students.  However, being disconnected to the context limited Julie’s abilities, she believes, in providing more targeted or individualized feedback regarding specific student’s thinking.  The inclusion of the case study however, is how Julie works around the limited contextual understanding she feels she has and it affords her the opportunity to dig more into an understanding of the ‘whole’ child that her graduate students’ are presenting to her.  The case study, while it includes evidence from the FAI and Model Building cycles, is only a portion of what is required for the case study paper.  Therefore, we suggest the FAI and Model Building be done not in isolation but merged with other tasks that can help foster deeper professional noticing, such as Julie has done with her Case Study assignment.

With respect to Ingrid’s story of adaptation at MSU Denver, the implementation of the IMB’s modified lesson study has been positively received. As previously described, two accommodations made by Ingrid were the implementation of a modified teaching rehearsal experience and the development of the Pre-Observation Conference Form (see ‘Resources’, Document E).  Considering her field placement arrangements, she learned she needed to include both of these modifications to give the preservice teachers practice with both the Act of Teaching and Lesson Study components before doing it in the field.  Also, because the preservice teachers are not placed in the same classroom (unlike IUB) they need the opportunity to first review each other’s lesson (i.e., Pre-Observation Conference) so they had some idea of what to expect when observing each other teach.

Overall, the preservice teachers at Ingrid’s institution mentioned they enjoy the “lower stakes” atmosphere of being observed by a peer (when possible) rather than a university supervisor and the opportunity to discuss possible revisions to the lesson with a peer considering their different participatory perspectives.  This arrangement can create a challenge however, as not all preservice teachers may provide the same level of constructive criticism for revising the lesson.  Ingrid has attempted to address this challenge by first providing the teaching rehearsal experience in class so students can gain experience in her methods course on how to complete the forms and provide constructive feedback on a lesson.

 Recommendations

There is consensus across both science and mathematics teacher education that for effective teaching to occur teachers must learn to recognize and build on students’ ideas and experiences (Bransford, Brown, &Cocking, 1999; Kang & Anderson, 2015, NRC, 2007; van Es & Sherin, 2008).  Considering this goal, preparation programs often design opportunities for prospective teachers to question and analyze students’ thinking, and when possible do so within the context of teaching science.  However, few programs offer a systematic and iterative experience such as the IMB approach, and this is due in part to the structural variation in teacher education programs and the varied constraints of these different models.  As Zeichner and Conklin (2005) explain,

there will always be a wide range of quality in any model of teacher education….The state policy context, type of institution, and institutional history and culture in which the program is located; the goals and capabilities of the teacher education faculty, and many other factors will affect the character and quality of programs (p. 700).

Therefore, our intent with this article is to show the potential for taking well-recognized practices for teacher education, such as those used in the IMB approach, and demonstrate how they can be combined for use in other science and mathematics teacher education models.  In particular, we wanted to highlight the adaptations made by Ingrid and Julie because their institutions and learner populations are very different from those where the IMB approach was initially developed, and this sort of variation in context is rarely described in the research (Zeichner & Conklin, 2005).  Despite the vast program differences at our three institutions, Ingrid and Julie were able to adapt key aspects of the IMB approach to fit the context and needs of their learners.

More specifically, although we recognize that individually the four aspects of the IMB approach are not innovative, it is the potential for combining features of the IMB, as Authors 2 and 3 have shared, that we believe demonstrates the innovation and potential of the IMB approach for impacting science and mathematics teacher learning. As such, we offer the following recommendations from lessons we have learned through our adaptive processes, with the hope of inspiring others to consider how they may combine features of the IMB for use at their institutions.

  1. Understand your own orientation toward teacher preparation. Begin with selecting aspects of the IMB approach that most align with your own beliefs as to core practices for developing teachers’ cognition about learning to attend to students’ thinking to inform practice. Ingrid and Julie made their selections based on what they viewed as critical practices given the professional development needs of their student teachers (i.e., their population of teacher), as well as the purpose of their course.
  2. Don’t lose sight of the goal! Make modifications to the sample documents provided (see Resources) or provide additional support documents (e.g., the Pre-Observation Conference form designed by Ingrid) to guide preservice or inservice teachers’ cognition of how to uncover K-12 students’ ideas and reflect on their ideas in order to identify rich and appropriate learning tasks.
  3. Choose the strategies that best fit your context. If some components of the IMB approach will not fit into your current program or university structure, select the one that will fit and be most appropriate for your own students and situation. The goal is to help preservice and inservice teachers understand their students’ thinking, and whatever strategies can best work for you and your students given your context are the ones to include.
  4. Remember that improvement is an iterative process. Continue to adapt and refine the approach as needed for your context. Once you have selected the aspect or aspects of IMB that you think will be most impactful, continue to reflect on and obtain feedback about the process from the students with whom you work, and then make modifications to support your goals.
  5. Collaboration is valuable and can take many forms. At the core of the IMB approach is the belief that collaboration leads to better understandings about learning to teach science and mathematics. Whether collaborating to plan, teach, and reflect on lessons taught, or the sharing of models of students’ thinking and engaging through discussion boards online, the notion of collaboration is still at the core of each of our pedagogical approaches to working with teachers. We recognize the structure of various institutions teacher education programs/courses may make it difficult to afford students the opportunity to collaborate in the same physical space (classroom, or school), as did Julie; however, it is worth exploring what technologies your institution may offer to arrange other means of collaborating in synchronous and asynchronous spaces.

[1] For further details comparing these two models of Lesson Study see Carter et al. (2016).

Supplemental Files

IMB-Supplementary-Materials.pdf

References

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