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

by Elizabeth A. Davis, University of Michigan

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

Is This an Authentic Engineering Activity? Resources for Addressing the Nature of Engineering With Teachers

by Jacob Pleasants, University of Oklahoma

Including engineering as part of K–12 science instruction has many potential benefits for students, but achieving those benefits depends on having classroom teachers who are well prepared to effectively implement engineering instruction. Science teacher educators, therefore, have an essential role to play in ensuring that engineering is incorporated into science instruction in productive ways. An important component of that work is developing teachers’ understanding of the nature of engineering: what engineering is, what engineers do, and how engineering is both related to yet separate from science. Teachers must understand these concepts to implement engineering design activities that authentically reflect the field. In this article, I describe a sequence of instructional activities designed to help teachers, either preservice or inservice, develop their knowledge of the nature of engineering. At the core of the instructional sequence is a set of stories that provide teachers with descriptions of authentic engineering work. Surrounding the stories are activities that help teachers draw accurate conclusions about the nature of engineering and draw out the implications of those conclusions for instructional decision-making. I provide an overview of the instructional sequence and also share details from my own work with teachers, including transcripts of classroom conversations and the impact of instruction on teachers’ knowledge.

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

by Franklin S. Allaire, University of Houston-Downtown

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

CURating Science Literacy and Professional Identity Among Biology and Science Education Majors

by Tonia A. Dousay, University of Idaho; Brant G. Miller, University of Idaho; & Christine E. Parent, University of Idaho

In this article, we discuss a novel approach to course-based undergraduate research experiences (CURE) by exploring the impact of a near-peer configuration within three courses: the Elementary Science Education and Secondary Science Methods courses for education students and the Dimensions of Biodiversity course for students in the biological sciences. We were interested in understanding how students from education would benefit from partnering with students from the sciences and vice versa. We discuss our approach to designing and implementing the near-peer approach along with extended details regarding the process for research groups. We used a modified Undergraduate Research Student Self-Assessment (URSSA) to understand how science and science education majors influence one another in developing researcher identity, including scientific literacy and communication skills, after engaging in a near-peer structured CURE. Our results show that most science education students reported increased interest in conducting research in the future and some biology students reported an increased interest in teaching science. Logistical and interpersonal relationships were noted as the primary adverse challenges to implementation. Future programming and research efforts should expand to include other scientific disciplines and pay close attention to interpersonal dynamics, especially during the matchmaking phase.

Engaging Preservice Teachers in Collaborative Inquiry Projects During Remote Instruction

by Julie Robinson, University of North Dakota; & Rebekah Hammack, Montana State University

We implemented a remote collaborative inquiry project with elementary preservice teachers who were enrolled in their science methods course during the 2020–2021 academic year. The courses were taught in one of three modalities: (1) fully online and asynchronous (graduate students seeking initial licensure), (2) fully online with synchronous and asynchronous components (undergraduate students), and (3) blended with face-to-face and asynchronous online components (undergraduate students). During the project, groups of two to four preservice teachers engaged remotely in collaborative, hands-on inquiry projects and documented their communication throughout the process. The remote collaborative inquiry projects were adapted from existing course assignments that had previously been used in face-to-face settings. We found that despite encountering some unexpected challenges with implementation, most participants recognized the value of group work for learning science. However, many preservice teachers, especially undergraduate students, focused on completing a quality end product rather than the learning that occurred throughout the process of collaboration and inquiry. It was also clear that many did not differentiate between collaborative and cooperative learning and often utilized a divide-and-conquer cooperative strategy. Future implementations of the project should intentionally provide opportunities for preservice teachers to discuss the differences between collaboration and cooperation and how these strategies impact learning in addition to the completion of a final product.

Designing for Justice: Preparing Culturally Competent Science and Mathematics Teacher Advocates for High-Need Schools 

by Monica Grillo, William & Mary; & Meredith Kier , William & Mary

In a time when the United States is faced with continued racism and social unrest, it is more important than ever to prepare teachers who can advocate for marginalized students and social justice. This article describes the evolution of a seminar course called Theory and Reality: Practicum in Math and Science Teaching in High-Need Schools within the context of a predominately White teacher-preparation program. Guided by scholars of culturally relevant education and our professional and personal journeys as equity-focused teacher educators, we sought to design experiences to prepare preservice science and mathematics teachers to teach in high-poverty or underfunded schools. Specifically, the course was intended to (1) develop an understanding of pedagogical practices and educational strategies for successful teaching in a high-need school setting, especially in mathematics and science classrooms, and (2) cultivate both cultural self-awareness and cross-cultural consciousness in one’s ability to adapt to the high-need environment in a culturally responsive way. We describe the evolutionary rationale for changes made to course assignments and readings to promote cultural competence and early advocacy skills for teacher candidates interested in teaching in schools facing poverty. We highlight preservice teachers’ reflections that evidence their early conceptualizations of teaching in a high-need school context and how assignments promoted their relationship-building and advocacy skills for marginalized students.

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

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

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

Promoting Understanding of Several Elements of Nature of Science Using an Analogy: A Tangram Activity

by Mansour Vesali, Shahid Rajaee Teacher Training University; Noushin Nouri, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley; & Maryam Saberi, Ministry of Education, Iran

Developing a proper view of the nature of science (NOS) amongst teachers and students has been the goal of science education for decades. This article discusses an innovative activity designed for training preservice science teachers on NOS. We endorse an approach according to which several aspects of NOS can be explicitly discussed and explained. This activity is an extended version of a tangram activity introduced by Choi (2004). Aside from introducing NOS elements covered by Choi, our tangram activity also introduces the following elements: (1) theories are valid products of science, (2) the role of subjectivity and bias in science, (3) the importance of scientific community in science, (4) prediction is part of science, and (5) creativity and imagination are important in science. The activity can be used decontextualized (i.e., as a stand-alone lesson) in science methods classes, but it also has high potential to be contextualized within content related to the history of science. In this article, we provide procedures for using an analogy activity (the tangram activity) and explain how to connect each part to NOS elements. This activity was tested successfully in several science methods courses, a NOS course, and two professional development workshops.

Training Preservice Science Teachers to Teach Inclusively

by Elizabeth M. Watts, University of Kassel

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was adopted in 2006. Since its ratification, the educational landscape has rapidly changed because inclusion requires a radical restructuring of mainstream schooling. At the classroom level, adaptations must be made to course materials, teaching approaches, testing, and other aspects of classroom teaching to meet the needs of an increasingly heterogeneous student body. To prepare future teachers to meet the objectives set forth in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006), it is necessary to develop preservice course modules that specifically cultivate sensitivity toward students with disabilities and train preservice teachers in how to adapt their teaching to accommodate students with disabilities or chronic illnesses. This type of training is critically important for preservice science teachers. The idea of inclusive education can be particularly daunting because of the complexity of science topics and the variety of educational activities that would require adaptation (e.g., course materials, experiments, and excursions). This article outlines an online, project-oriented module that effectively increased preservice science teachers’ positive views on inclusion and their self-efficacy in terms of accommodating effectively.