Addressing Social Justice in the Science Methods Classroom through Critical Literacy: Engaging Preservice Teachers in Uncomfortable Discussions

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Bautista, N.U., & Batchelor, K.E. (2020). Addressing social justice in the science methods classroom through critical literacy: Engaging preservice teachers in uncomfortable discussions. Innovations in Science Teacher Education, 5(4). Retrieved from https://innovations.theaste.org/addressing-social-justice-in-the-science-methods-classroom-through-critical-literacy-engaging-preservice-teachers-in-uncomfortable-discussions/

by Nazan U. Bautista, Miami University; & Katherine E. Batchelor, Miami University

Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to exemplify how teacher candidates can be engaged in discussions around social justice and equity in science methods courses while also learning about and practicing essential science teaching strategies and skills. Our aim is that science teacher educators who do not feel confident enough to explicitly address these important issues in methods courses are encouraged to think creatively about how they can modify or alter their current practices in a way to prepare science teachers for the changing demographics of science classrooms. We present an engineering design activity that is coupled with critical literacy skills, called ‘Build a Child.” Upon identifying the problem, we introduce the context of the preservice teachers’ science methods course and reason for this work, followed by defining critical literacy and how it pairs well in science education. We then share the “Build a Child” engineering project and how we asked preservice teachers to critique and reflect on their creations, thus bringing in a critical literacy framework to the curriculum. Next, we share three findings based on our data analysis, and we end with the importance of science methods courses implementing social justice education and suggestions on how to reexamine our science curriculum to make it more culturally relevant and equitable for all students.

Introduction

In 2016, a white, female, science teacher in an 8th grade classroom in Baltimore, Maryland grabbed a black male student by the hood of his jacket and told him he was a “punk a** n***** who is going to get shot” as she hauled him out of the classroom. She then turned to the rest of the students, most of whom were students of color, and called them “idiots” and “stupid” (Green, 2016). In March 2018, a white, female teacher in Crystal River, FL was fired after her white nationalist and racist podcast unearthed (Stevens, 2018). In December 2018, another white, female, science teacher in South Fresno, California was caught on camera forcibly cutting a student’s hair in front of his peers as she sang the U.S. national anthem loudly (Hutcherson, 2018). In March 2019, a white, male, science teacher was suspended after allegedly using the “n-word” during a science class in Pens Groove, New Jersey (Brown, 2019).

A quick Internet search will show that the aforementioned incidents are hardly unique. As science teacher educators we have seen more than a dozen of news stories like these in the media over the last decade. We could not believe that a teacher would behave in such a deplorable way and possibly blame them for not acquiring the required dispositions to teach, especially in a context that is racially, ethnically and linguistically diverse. What we ignore, however, is the role we, as science teacher educators, play in these teachers’ inability to understand and interact with students who are culturally different from them. It is about time we revisit our complicitness with teacher candidates’ stereotypes of people from other cultures and races different than their own.

Over the last three decades, science educators’ agendas have heavily focused on changing classroom science teaching practices from traditional lecture and cookbook labs format to constructivist and inquiry-oriented teaching and learning approaches. We have focused on developing teachers’ (both prospective and inservice) and students’ scientific argumentation skills and improving their understanding of scientific ways of knowing. While emphasizing these issues are important, teacher educators rarely, if at all, center instruction on social justice and equity, and thus, fall short in preparing teachers for the changing demographics and needs of their classrooms.

Teacher candidates’ perceptions of preparing to become a science teacher are not any different from ours. They come to our courses with the expectation that we will address the science content knowledge they need to know and teach the strategies and techniques necessary to “deliver” the content (Ball & McDiarmid, 1990; Feiman-Nemser, 2012). Rarely teacher candidates find concepts, such as understanding the needs of their culturally diverse students, practicing culturally relevant teaching practices, or learning to properly integrate reading and writing in science instruction to help their students develop their language literacy skills as important and relevant as learning to teach science (Silverman, 2010). The news stories we shared above provide evidence that science teacher preparation is and should be indeed more than just preparation of teachers for the content expertise.

Scholars (e.g., Gay, 2010; Ladson-Billings, 1995, 2014; Nieto, 2005; Sleeter, 2005) recommend increased emphasis on culturally relevant teaching pedagogy in teacher preparation courses. Preservice teachers are in need of preparation that places culturally relevant teaching at the forefront in order to prepare future teachers with issues that may arise regarding race, culture, and gender, for example, in their classrooms, and culturally relevant pedagogy provides ways of centering the cultures, languages, and experiences that diverse learners bring to classrooms (Villegas & Lucas, 2002). However, too often science teacher educators themselves are not knowledgeable about how to cater to the unique needs of culturally diverse students of science or what culturally relevant teaching approaches should look like in science classrooms. Considering the lack of science teacher educator knowledge and experience with culturally relevant teaching, our goal is to exemplify how teacher candidates can be engaged in discussions around social justice and equity in science methods courses while also learning about and practicing essential science teaching strategies and skills. Our hope with this article is that science educators like Nazan, who do not feel confident enough to explicitly address these important issues in methods courses are encouraged to think creatively about how they can modify or alter their practices in a way to prepare science teachers for the changing demographics of classrooms.

We want to clarify, however, that we do not claim that this single activity that spans over a couple of days makes big changes in the worldviews preservice teachers have developed over their lifetime. However, it is through engaging and thought-provoking activities such as the one we explain below that both science teacher educators and preservice teachers will engage in conversations that they may find difficult and uncomfortable. For real change to happen, more of these conversations and engagements must happen in the entire curriculum of a program.

We begin by introducing the context of the preservice teachers’ science methods course and reason for this work, followed by defining critical literacy and how it pairs well in science education. We then share an engineering design project and how we engaged preservice teachers in critical conversations by critiquing and reflecting on their creations. Next, we share conversations preservice teachers had among themselves and with us, and the themes that emerged from these audio-taped conversations. We end with the importance of science methods courses implementing social justice education and suggestions on how to reexamine our science curriculum to make it more culturally relevant and equitable for all students.

Context

In 2016, the Department of Teacher Education at this Midwestern university adopted a mission statement which highlighted our commitment to preparing teachers for confronting social injustices in all educational settings. This commitment required a shift in what was in the center of our curricula. As we revised our course curricula by centering it on learners and focusing on culturally relevant pedagogical approaches, it became obvious that Nazan’s lack of expertise and experiences in these approaches were obstacles in effective implementation.

Nazan is an international scholar who was born and raised in a non-English speaking and Muslim country. She was one of the eight female students out of 60 who studied and earned a bachelor’s degree in Physics prior to pursuing a graduate degree in the U.S. Her personal and academic experiences and worldviews have been shaped by her perceived minority identities (ethnic, religious, and gender).  While she could empathize with injustices that other minority groups (e.g., LGBTQ+ and people of color, or POC) faced with and became allied to related causes such as Black Lives Matter, she failed to recognize her dominant white identity and its impact on the communities in which she was engaged. Through the process of critical introspection in faculty meetings, learning communities, and audited courses with social justice foci, she started to acknowledge her white identity and the need to address issues of social justice in her science methods courses.

Sharing scholarship at the faculty meetings and ideas during hallway conversations enabled us to identify the exemplary work already been done by colleagues. Katherine, for example, had her English Language Arts education majors select print and nonprint linked texts, centering on a social justice theme (e.g., Black Lives Matter) and then critique their texts through a critical literacy lens to address their implicit biases (Batchelor, DeWater, & Thompson, 2019). What attracted Nazan to this work was that Katherine was able to meaningfully weave the new mission with the content of her course (ELA), which her students were expected to teach.

The question for Nazan was, How could the same be done in a science methods course? This is how the idea of integrating engineering design and critical literacy came to coexist for us. Early Childhood Education majors in Nazan’s science methods course had just learned engineering design principles as addressed in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS, NGSS Lead States, 2013). The critical literacy infused engineering design activity, called “Build a Child” mentioned below, would create a context for the preservice teachers to apply principles of engineering design they previously learned while enabling us to engage them in uncomfortable discussions and identify any implicit bias preservice teachers might have about their future students. In a study conducted with a comparable sample of preservice teachers, Bautista, Misco, and Quaye (2018) found that preservice teachers often “have submerged epistemologies (e.g., implicit biases) about the world that may or may not show themselves in teacher preparation classes and the schools in which they may teach” (p. 166). Batchelor (2019) research also revealed that preservice teachers’ sociocultural experiences and intersectionality awareness influenced their thinking about bias. Therefore, engaging preservice teachers in an explicit discussion about their child creations using a critical literacy lens would encourage this engineering design activity to become a platform for culturally relevant teaching.

Critical Literacy Paired with Science in Preservice Teacher Education

There is a disparity between children’s diversity and the standardizations and curricula associated with them (Genishi & Dyson, 2009). With 80% of teachers identifying as white, middle class, monolingual females, it’s not hard to see why (Nieto, 2000; Villegas & Lucas, 2002).  Children need to see themselves in the curriculum, but without the pedagogical backbone of culturally relevant teaching, this can become a roadblock to curricular choices for some teachers, especially future teachers. One way to combat this void is through the practice of critical literacy. Critical literacy provides pathways for teachers who are seeking to engage in culturally relevant teaching practices since it is rooted in democracy, injustice, and considered a lens of literacy as well as a practice engaged to encourage students to use language to question their everyday world experiences. In particular, it centers on the relationship dynamic between language and power, positing that text and education are never neutral. It is a sociopolitical system that either privileges or oppresses, especially regarding race, class, and gender. Critical literacy meshes social, cultural, and political worlds with how texts (in the broadest sense) work, in what context, and discusses who benefits and is marginalized within the boundaries of these text uses (Lewison, Leland, & Harste, 2014), which is one of the tenets of culturally relevant teaching: developing a critical consciousness (Gay, 2010; Ladson-Billings, 1995), meaning, students are able to critique cultural norms and values society has deemed worthy.

There is no set “how-to” on how to enact critical literacy in the classroom. This is because each experience is contingent upon the students’ and teachers’ power relations and the needs and inquiries of each child. However, the most commonly used practices that support critical literacy in the classroom include: reading supplementary texts; reading multiple texts; reading from a resistant perspective; producing counter-texts; having students conduct research about topics of personal interest; and challenging students to take social action (Behrman, 2006).

Critical literacy practices and inquiry-based science pair well since both encourage instructional strategies that build on students’ curiosities of the world around them and enhance literacy skills. Additionally, scientific literacy requires the ability to critique the quality of evidence when reading various media, including the Internet, magazines, and television. Moreover, providing opportunities for students to question and ponder what students find meaningful is important to promote an inquiry-based classroom, whether it be in science or language arts.

Both critical literacy and science education encourage students to meaningfully and actively participate with others in a global society. For example, DeBoer (2005) suggests, “Science education should develop citizens who are able to critically follow reports and discussions about science that appear in the media and who can take part in conversations about science and science related issues that are part of their daily experience” (p. 234). Therefore, the many benefits of including critical literacy practices in science education should be examined with preservice teachers as well as practicing teachers.

Preparing Preservice Teachers for the Critical Conversations

In the days leading to the engineering design and the critical conversations, preservice teachers read articles by Montgomery (2001), Moll et al. (1992) and Yosso (2005) focusing on creating culturally responsive and inclusive classrooms and students’ funds of knowledge. They conducted a diversity self-assessment adopted from Bromley (1998).  They shared their self-assessment responses in small groups and discussed the ideas that emerged from these small groups as a whole class. Perhaps the most important aspects of these discussions was that most preservice teachers initially shared their own stories of being stereotyped. For instance, identifying herself as feminine, Bekah expressed that people often assumed she could not use power tools, such as a drill press, or do physical hard work (e.g., putting up a drywall). Yufang, the only international student in the methods class, explained how she felt silenced and invisible in most of her college courses by peers and professors as she could not speak English fast enough during her freshman and sophomore years. Nazan, then guided preservice teachers to consider their future students experiencing similar or other biases (e.g., racial, religious, etc.) and what actions they might take to reach out to these students. Using Moll’s (1992) funds of knowledge and Yosso’s (2005) cultural wealth model, preservice teachers compiled ideas to make their future students feel included in their classrooms and were encouraged to add new ideas to the class list for the rest of the semester. These classroom discussions set the stage for the “Build a Child” engineering design activity, which they started in the following class meeting.

“Build a Child” Engineering Design Challenge

We called the activity, composed of three phases, “Build a Child” because of both its literal and symbolic meanings. While constructing a product using cardboards and Makedo tools as part of the engineering design process in the first phase, we asked preservice teachers to imagine who they were building and who the child was as a whole with his/her/their background, race, ethnicity, struggles, communities he/she/they lived, etc. (second phase). Through these reflective and critical discussions, preservice teachers would become more aware of the stories their future students would bring to their classrooms and the ways in which they needed to build strong relationships with these students (third phase).

Phase 1: Engineering Design

Preservice teachers first practiced engineering design principles as they built a child using cardboards and MakedoTM construction toolkit[1]. Engineering design is the method that engineers use to identify and solve problems.  What distinguishes engineering design from other types of problem solving is the nature of both the problem and the solution. The problems are open-ended in nature, which means there is no single correct solution. Engineers must produce solutions within the limitations of their context and choose solutions that include the most desired features. The solution is tested, revised, and re-tested until it is finalized, and different groups of engineers can end up with different valid solutions. See Figure 1 for the tasks and rules we provided to the preservice teachers to complete this task successfully.

Figure 1 (Click on image to enlarge)
Rules and Criteria Provided for the “Build a Child” Engineering Design Activity and Used to Evaluate Preservice Teachers’ Creations

Once the designs were ready, Nazan, as the instructor, tested each of them to verify whether the designs followed the rules provided in figure 1. Based on the results, preservice teachers either moved on to the next section or revised their design based on the feedback provided until their design was re-tested and approved.

Phase 2: Essays

In the next phase of the lesson, the cardboard children came alive. Preservice teachers individually wrote a background story about their children, detailed enough for the class to get to know each child well. We provided some questions to guide them as they wrote the stories (see figure 2). Since the class time was not long enough to finish these essays, they finalized them and submit them to the instructor prior to the next meeting, which would start with everyone presenting their stories.

Figure 2 (Click on image to enlarge)
Guiding Questions for the “Build a Child” Essays

Phase 3: Critical Conversations

The next phase, critical conversations, began when we asked preservice teachers to imagine that the children they built and narrated would be the children in their future classrooms. We provided the questions in figure 3 to engage them in the critical conservations. We reassured our students before discussion began that acknowledging our own privileges is never easy, and talking about them is even harder, especially when it comes to unpacking implicit biases we all hold. Tensions will arise, but it is through these tensions that we outgrow our thinking. Both Nazan and Katherine shared personal experiences with implicit biases they carried in order to build trust and share that even though they are “seasoned teachers,” they too were challenged with personal biases they carried. By revealing these moments and prefacing the conversation on tension producing reflection, preservice teachers were more willing to share beliefs about their children in small group settings.

Figure 3 (Click on image to enlarge)
Critical Conversation Questions Used to Guide Explicit Discussions

During these small group discussions, both authors sat in on conversations and listened. When conversations were in lull, they would pose questions to extend and nudge students to provide more thinking behind their decisions to create a child with a particular race or gender, for example, and ask them to delve deeper into their own experiences as a student and what they witnessed in school, and more importantly, build empathy toward their created child’s story.

Critical literacy and culturally relevant teaching empower students and teachers to be risk-takers, for voices to be shared and heard. Therefore, when small group discussions concluded, both authors gathered the class back as a whole and asked them to share the highlights of their conversations; question and critique who is in power in making curricular decisions, and generate ideas as to how they would address some of these issues as they make curricular decisions in the future.

Effectiveness of Preservice Teachers’ Critical Conversations

Following the tenets of culturally relevant teaching (Gay, 2010; Ladson-Billings, 2014; Nieto, 2005), modeling it with and for our students, we engaged in instructional conversations based on meaningful topics, such as systemic issues in education, making the conversation more student-based than teacher-based, and we used open-ended questions to elaborate meaningful discussion. Nieto (2005) discussed ways to support future and practicing teachers by assisting them to “reflect deeply on their beliefs and attitudes” (pp. 217-218), which will hopefully over time, provide opportunities to engage in sustainable culturally relevant pedagogy. We are fully aware that changing students’ beliefs or what Gay (2010) called “ ideological anchors” can be challenging at best, even recognizing that some of our preservice teachers will walk away with some of the same preconceived notions as when they started our courses. However, both authors assert that this doesn’t mean we stop trying. We work through the initial resistance, confusion, and assumptions with which students enter our courses, and offer opportunities to unpack them in a space that supports deconstructing implicit biases.

As stated in the introduction, our university division committed to teaching for social justice, thus providing numerous opportunities for guest speakers, professional development, and collaboration supporting this endeavor both for faculty and students. Because of this commitment, educators better prepare future teachers to talk about issues of race, privilege, and marginalization, for example, because they themselves are also practicing it in their courses. Preservice teachers in the program now experience the overarching theme of social justice woven into each of their courses through dialogic practice, readings, and modeling culturally relevant pedagogical tenets. It is because of this overarching thread that Katherine’s students were prepared and even eager to engage in complicated conversations centering on their created children.

For the purpose of this article, we gathered the “Build a Child” essays written by the 12 preservice teachers and the audiotaped small-group and whole-class conversations. These data sources allowed us to check how effective we were in bringing submerged beliefs to the surface for open dialogue and how well the instruction worked in engaging preservice teachers in meaningful conversations about social justice and equity issues.  Based on our analysis, the following three themes emerged from the thematic review of the data sources: 1) emerging awareness of various forms of diversity; 2) blindness to identity; and 3) stereotypes about gender and gender binary.

Emerging Awareness of Various Forms of Diversity

Overall, preservice teachers’ designs included children from different racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups, children with physical and learning disabilities, and children who were in different points of the gender spectrum. However, gender far outweighed the other forms of diversity represented. For example, six of the 12 designs were girls and five were boys. Katie initially described her design as a boy, but later in the essay identified him as non-binary gender queer and changed her gender identifier from “him” to “them.”

Regarding racial identity, one of the child designs was Black, one was multi-racial (Latina and White), and one was an immigrant (born in China), while the rest were White. Not surprisingly, the Black, female child was built by a Black, female preservice teacher, Brianna, and the Chinese child (boy) was built by a Chinese preservice teacher, Yufang. Children designed by Debi and Yufang were bilingual.

Looking at living situations, the cardboard children had very supportive families and communities, with the exception of one child who “came from an abusive family.” All children were identified as living in middle class neighborhoods, while one lived in an upper, middle class town with a low unemployment rate.  Two were in lower, middle class communities with both parents working or a single parent working multiple jobs. Only one preservice teacher, Brianna, mentioned that their cardboard child attended a “diverse school.” Three of the children lived with only one parent along with their siblings and grandparents, and only one preservice teacher mentioned divorce as part of their child’s family situation.

As for physical and mental disabilities, one child was identified as a “struggling student,” “having ADD” and another child had an amputated leg. Maddie’s child had an illness called “cardboard-itis,” which affected his ability to memorize, and Luna’s child had severe allergies, which prevented him from attending school. One child struggled with social and emotional needs and was labeled as “Gifted.”

We asked students to assume that the 12 children they created were in their classroom and to reflect on how the created classroom demographics looked similar or different from our current class group. Regarding gender identity (9 female, 1 male, and 2 non-binary gender queer in the classroom versus 6 female, 5 male, and 1 non-binary gender queer with the cardboard child creations), the cardboard children leaned more toward a “traditional” elementary science classroom and less resembled the preservice teachers’ class.  However, regarding racial identity (10 White preservice teachers, 1 Black preservice teacher, and 1 Chinese preservice teacher versus 9 White cardboard children, 1 Black cardboard child, 1 Chinese cardboard child, and 1 multiracial cardboard child), the resemblance was almost identical and is also reflective of the teacher population in the United States currently with 80% White teachers.

Blindness to Identity

Classroom conversations revealed that preservice teachers’ awareness of forms of diversity did not mean that they had an informed understanding of how to interact with or approach students with these identities. They expressed the desire to learn about the differing needs of students in order to provide appropriate support and opportunities; yet, they stated they would treat all students the same regardless of differing needs and opportunities. Identified by the authors as problematic, the conversations among preservice teachers eluded to how their future students are equal no matter their identity, which led to the naive notion of “colorblindness.”

Specifically, we called out the students’ misconception that it is not appropriate to acknowledge differences, especially regarding race. We shared with them our noticings of how each preservice teacher when sharing their child’s background did not identify the child’s race, with the exception of Brianna, the single Black preservice teacher in the course. It was only when asked specifically what the child’s race was that they addressed it. This viewpoint combined with an attitude of “everyone is equal” is problematic since race provides meaning, context, and history, just to name a few (Sensoy & DiAngelo, 2012).

Stereotypes About Gender and Gender Binary

Interestingly, preservice teachers felt comfortable enough to construct a child representing the opposite sex (e.g., male student built a female child or vice versa) but those who considered themselves straight were not comfortable in building a child who identified on the LGBTQ spectrum. Additionally, regarding gender equity in science education, it was refreshing to witness how evenly distributed the children’s gender was in the science classroom, especially regarding their cardboard children’s attitudes and proclivity toward science. For example, one preservice teacher stated their child wanted to be an astronaut when he grew up (albeit a male child), and another preservice teacher’s female child claimed to be “good at math and science,” while a third, female, cardboard child stated math was her favorite subject.

However, conversations also revealed additional stereotypes about gender roles. For instance, when asked why she built a boy, Kim said her child had short hair and as a result, she imagined the child being a boy. She then turned to Luna who had short hair and identified as gender fluid and apologized. Similarly, the cardboard male students built by Jackie and Kim assumed traditional male roles in their essays. Jackie, stated that her cardboard child was the only boy in the family and he got to be the king while his three older sisters were princesses. Kim stated that her cardboard child had to “step up for his mother and younger sisters after their father walked out on them.”

Discussion

The ultimate goal of this three phase instruction was to push preservice teachers out of their comfort zones by engaging them in critical conversations around issues of social justice. Although the results may not have produced any unordinary instances, we believe that we were able to achieve this goal. Overall, our findings revealed that preservice teachers who state they have the best interests in their future students’ education while appreciating the diversity students bring to their future classrooms have biases about students who have identities that differ from their own. Furthermore, considering societal norms and expectations as “normal” (e.g., heterosexuality), some expressed feeling uncomfortable to openly talk about their students’ gender and racial identity when the students do not exhibit the identities that are “normal.”

Science methods courses provide the necessary context and the opportunity to address preservice teachers’ implicit biases about their students and the communities these students belong to. Science teacher educators must explicitly address that teachers’ values and beliefs influence the way they teach content and curriculum and how they interact with their students. Content mastery cannot be ensured without “seeing” and “understanding” the whole child, which is more than knowing his or her favorite color, game, or animal. It is, in fact, part of their “job” to understand how to effectively teach the content by making it culturally relevant to their students.

To start, science teachers can examine their curriculum through a critical literacy lens, noting whose voices are marginalized and left out of the science conversation. This includes providing a variety of role models in science who represent diversity in all its senses: gender, race, sexuality, ability, age, etc. For example, if examining a unit on inventors and inventions, use Alan Turing’s computer responsible for breaking the Nazi Enigma code during World War II, and provide his background and how he identified as gay. When studying space exploration, mention Sally Ride’s, the first American woman in space, female life partner. Look at how diverse (or nondiverse) the scientists represented in the science textbook or supplementary texts are and provide numerous non-White, examples. For example, show clips of the Oscar-winning movie Hidden Figures (2017), to showcase the life work of four, Black, female pioneer NASA scientists. Promote Indigenous science role models by reading The Girl Who Could Rock the Moon (Cointreau, 2019), an inspirational story of the first Native American female scientist, Mary Golda Ross. Talk about the possible barriers and tensions these scientists overcame in order to open the doors for conversations surrounding social justice in science.

Our first implementation of this activity was toward the end of the semester.  These conversations were extended into their final project, titled Community Asset Map for Science Teaching and Learning. Preservice teachers were encouraged to consider ideas generated from these conversations as they developed the asset maps for the partner schools where they completed their clinical experiences. However, Nazan has now altered the course curriculum to include this activity at the beginning of the semester so continued conversations can unpack preservice teachers’ implicit biases surrounding their created children as well as use this experience as an “A-ha!” moment for students to return to throughout the semester, connecting it to future readings and discussions. We have also thought about pairing this activity with students taking an implicit association test (IAT) (see Greenwald, McGhee, & Schwartz, 1998) to acknowledge various biases, such as gender and race. We could then have students match their implicit bias test results to their created-child’s story, thus, making a deeper connection.

Most importantly, we believe our future teachers need to have continued support throughout the rest of their program and into their beginning years of teaching in order to make culturally relevant teaching a realization in their future science classrooms. We need to ask repeatedly, “What does culturally relevant teaching look like and feel like in the science classroom?”

Conclusion

Our research revealed that more needs to be done regarding preparing future science teachers to be culturally relevant practitioners. Science education must address social justice, which means, science teachers must learn how to disrupt the current curriculum, create nurturing and supportive learning environments that are conducive to all children, and how to engage in critical conversations. This effort starts with the future of education: Preservice teachers. Teacher educators must teach them to question and examine their preconceived notions of gender, race, sexuality, able-ism, etc. Moreover, there is a need for more research to examine power relations and how culturally relevant practices are enacted in the classroom, especially science classrooms.

Overall, children need to see themselves in the curriculum, and when practicing teachers as well as future teachers are given the opportunity to examine curriculum in this manner, more voices can be included. Modeling culturally relevant science teaching approaches for future teachers as well as engaging them in “difficult” conversations about race, ethnicity, sexuality, and gender in the context of science teaching are first steps toward proper preparation of teachers for the increasingly diverse classrooms.

Notes

[1] Makedo Tools are child-friendly (3 years and up) tools specifically designed so as to not cut or punch skin (as described at https://www.make.do/).

Supplemental Files

APPENDIX-A.docx

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Stevens, M. (2018, March 7). Florida teacher says her racist podcast was ‘satire.’ The New York Times. retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/07/us/florida-teacher-racism.html

Villegas, A. M., & Lucas, T. (2002). Educating culturally responsive teachers: A coherent approach. Albany: State University of New York Press.

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The Framework for Analyzing Video in Science Teacher Education and Examples of its Broad Applicability

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Arias, A., Criswell, B., Ellis, J.A., Escalada, L., Forsythe, M., Johnson, H., Mahar, D., Palmeri, A., Parker, M., & Riccio, J. (2020). The framework for analyzing video in science teacher education and examples of its broad applicability. Innovations in Science Teacher Education, 5(4). Retrieved from https://innovations.theaste.org/the-framework-for-analyzing-video-in-science-teacher-education-and-examples-of-its-broad-applicability/

by Anna Arias, Kennesaw State University; Brett Criswell, West Chester University; Josh A. Ellis, Florida International University; Lawrence Escalada, University of Northern Iowa; Michelle Forsythe, Texas State University; Heather Johnson, Vanderbilt University; Donna Mahar, SUNY Empire State College; Amy Palmeri, Vanderbilt University; Margaret Parker, Illinois State University; & Jessica Riccio, Columbia University

Abstract

There appears to be consensus that the use of video in science teacher education can support the pedagogical development of science teacher candidates. However, in a comprehensive review, Gaudin and Chaliès (2015) identified critical questions about video use that remain unanswered and need to be explored through research in teacher education. A critical question they ask is, “How can teaching teachers to identify and interpret relevant classroom events on video clips improve their capacity to perform the same activities in the classroom?” (p. 57). This paper shares the efforts of a collaborative of science teacher educators from nine teacher preparation programs working to answer this question. In particular, we provide an overview of a theoretically-constructed video analysis framework and demonstrate how that framework has guided the design of pedagogical tools and video-based learning experiences both within and across a variety of contexts. These contexts include both undergraduate and graduate science teacher preparation programs, as well as elementary and secondary science methods and content courses. Readers will be provided a window into the planning and enactment of video analyses in these different contexts, as well as insights from the assessment and research efforts that are exploring the impact of the integration of video analysis in each context.

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References

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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References

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

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Facilitating Preservice Teachers’ Socioscientific Issues Curriculum Design in Teacher Education

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Foulk, J.A., Sadler, T.D., & Friedrichsen, P.M. (2020). Facilitating preservice teachers’ socioscientific issues curriculum design in teacher education. Innovations in Science Teacher Education, 5(3). Retrieved from https://innovations.theaste.org/facilitating-preservice-teachers-socioscientific-issues-curriculum-design-in-teacher-education/

by Jaimie A. Foulk, University of Missouri - Columbia; Troy D. Sadler, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill; & Patricia M. Friedrichsen, University of Missouri - Columbia

Abstract

Socioscientific issues (SSI) are contentious and ill-structured societal issues with substantive connections to science, which require an understanding of science, but are unable to be solved by science alone. Consistent with current K-12 science education reforms, SSI based teaching uses SSI as a context for science learning and has been shown to offer numerous student benefits. While K-12 teachers have expressed positive perceptions of SSI for science learning, they cite uncertainty about how to teach with SSI and lack of access to SSI based curricular materials as reasons for not utilizing a SSI based teaching approach. In response to this need we developed and taught a multi-phase SSI Teaching Module during a Science Methods course for pre-service secondary teachers (PSTs), designed to 1) engage PSTs as learners in an authentic SSI science unit; 2) guide PSTs in making sense of an SSI approach to teaching and learning; and 3) support PSTs in designing SSI-based curricular units. To share our experience with the Teaching Module and encourage teacher educators to consider ways of adapting such an approach to their pre-service teacher education contexts, we present our design and resources from the SSI Teaching Module and describe some of the ways PSTs described their challenges, successes, and responses to the experience, as well as considerations for teacher educators interested in introducing PSTs to SSI.

Introduction

Socioscientific issues (SSI) based teaching is a pedagogical philosophy consistent with current reform movements in K-12 science education (Zeidler, 2014b). SSI are societal issue[s] with substantive connections to science ideas (Sadler, Foulk, & Friedrichsen, 2017, p. 75), which lack structure, are controversial in nature, and for which science understanding is necessary but insufficient to offer complete solutions (Borgerding & Dagistan, 2018; Kolstø, 2006; Owens, Sadler, & Friedrichsen, 2019; Simonneaux, 2007). Because they are values-influenced, lack clear solutions, and bear significant, and often conflicting, implications for society, SSI tend to be contentious (Zeidler, 2014a).

Studies of SSI-focused learning contexts have identified many learner benefits. Students who participated in SSI-based learning experiences have demonstrated gains in understanding of science ideas (Dawson & Venville, 2010, 2013; Sadler, Klosterman, & Topcu, 2011; Sadler, Romine, & Topçu, 2016; Venville & Dawson, 2010), nature of science (Khishfe & Lederman, 2006; Lederman, Antink, & Bartos, 2014; Sadler, Chambers, & Zeidler, 2004); and scientific practices, such as modeling (Peel, Zangori, Friedrichsen, Hayes, & Sadler, 2019; Zangori, Peel, Kinslow, Friedrichsen, & Sadler, 2017) and argumentation (Venville & Dawson, 2010). Beyond these traditional learning outcomes, studies have also identified benefits such as improved reasoning skills (Kolstø et al., 2006; Sadler et al., 2004; Sadler & Zeidler, 2005; Zeidler, Applebaum, & Sadler, 2011); moral, ethical, and character development (Fowler, Zeidler, & Sadler, 2009; H. Lee, Abd‐El‐Khalick, & Choi, 2006); and increased enthusiasm and interest within science learning contexts (M. K. Lee & Erdogan, 2007; Saunders & Rennie, 2013).

The role of classroom teachers is of primary importance in facilitating reform-oriented learner experiences (Bybee, 1993) such as those based on SSI. Research has revealed that many classroom teachers hold favorable perceptions of SSI; however, despite some K-12 science teachers’ recognition of potential benefits to learners, and acknowledgements of the subsequent importance of incorporating SSI into science classroom contexts, research indicates that K-12 science teachers struggle to incorporate an SSI-focused pedagogy in their classrooms, and those who utilize SSI tend to do so infrequently and superficially (H. Lee et al., 2006; Lumpe, Haney, & Czerniak, 1998; Sadler, Amirshokoohi, Kazempour, & Allspaw, 2006; Saunders & Rennie, 2013). Three notable explanations for teachers’ omission of SSI-focused activities from their classrooms are: teachers’ unfamiliarity, lack of experience, and/or discomfort with an SSI-focused teaching approach (H. Lee et al., 2006; Sadler et al., 2006; Saunders & Rennie, 2013); teachers’ limited access to SSI-focused curricular resources (Sadler et al., 2006); and discrepancies between teachers’ perceptions of SSI and the philosophical basis of the pedagogy (Hansen & Olson, 1996; H. Lee et al., 2006; Sadler et al., 2006).

While a small number of prepared curricular resources for SSI have begun to be made available to teachers (cf. Kinslow & Sadler, 2018; Science Education Resource Center; The ReSTEM Institute; Zeidler & Kahn, 2014a), practical access to SSI curricula remains limited. Literature around SSI features an array of project-specific SSI-focused curricular resources on a variety of topics (Carson & Dawson, 2016; Christenson, Chang Rundgren, & Höglund, 2012; Dawson & Venville, 2010; Eilks, 2002; Eilks, Marks, & Feierabend, 2008; Friedrichsen, Sadler, Graham, & Brown, 2016; Kolstø, 2006; Lederman et al., 2014; H Lee et al., 2013; Peel et al., 2019; Sadler & Zeidler, 2005). However, only very few of the studies (Eilks, 2002; Friedrichsen et al., 2016; Zeidler et al., 2011) have focused on the process or products of SSI curricular design and the curricula from this research generally have not been distributed for classroom use. In addition, research has demonstrated the potentially transformative power to teachers of engaging in the design of reform-oriented, including SSI-focused, curricular resources (Coenders, Terlouw, Dijkstra, & Pieters, 2010; Eilks & Markic, 2011; Hancock, Friedrichsen, Kinslow, & Sadler, 2019; Zeidler et al., 2011).

In view of the demonstrated discrepancy between teachers’ perceptions and enactment of SSI; limited access to SSI curricular resources; the transformative value of engaging in reform-oriented curricular design; and the potential of SSI-based pedagogy to promote reform-oriented learning experiences; we view supporting teachers in the design of SSI-oriented curricula as a promising approach to educational reform. This project reflects that view. We sought to support pre-service science teachers (PSTs) in their uptake of SSI-based teaching in a Science Methods course through our design and teaching of an SSI Teaching Module intended to: 1) engage PSTs as learners in an authentic SSI science unit; 2) guide PSTs in making sense of an SSI approach to teaching and learning; and 3) support PSTs in designing SSI-based curricular units. The purpose of this paper is to describe our Teaching Module and share related resources with teacher educators, as well as to provide some examples of PSTs’ challenges, successes, and responses to the experience. It is our hope that the Teaching Module will serve as an inspiration for teacher educators interested in supporting future science teachers’ uptake of SSI.

SSI-TL – A Framework to Operationalize SSI-Based Pedagogy

Our group has developed the SSI Teaching and Learning (SSI-TL) Framework (Sadler et al., 2017) for the purpose of supporting teachers’ uptake of SSI-based teaching. Intended as a guide for classroom teachers, the SSI-TL framework highlights elements we consider to be essential to teaching science with SSI, while also remaining highly adaptable to various subdisciplines, courses, and classroom contexts in K-12 science education. SSI-TL is one instantiation of SSI-based teaching, developed from multiple projects that utilized research-based SSI frameworks featured in previous literature (Foulk, 2016; Friedrichsen et al., 2016; Klosterman & Sadler, 2010; Presley et al., 2013; Sadler, 2011; Sadler et al., 2015; Sadler et al., 2016). This project contributed to the development of SSI-TL, and we drew from an intermediate version of the framework throughout the project (See Figure 1).

Figure 1 (Click on image to enlarge)
SSI-TL Framework

SSI-TL specifies requisite components of SSI-based learning experiences, the sum total of which are necessary for a complete SSI-TL curricular unit. Such a unit consists of a cohesive, two- to three-week sequence of lessons designed around a particular SSI, to promote students’ achievement of a defined set of science learning objectives. Within any SSI-TL curricular unit, a focal SSI is foregrounded in the curricular sequence and revisited regularly throughout the unit, in order to serve as both motivation and context for learners’ engagement in authentic science practices and sensemaking about science ideas. A continuous focus on the selected SSI also guides students in exploration of societal dimensions of the issue; that is, the potential impacts of the issue on society, such as those of a social, political, or economic nature. Participation in an SSI-TL unit is intended to engage students in sensemaking about both the relevant science ideas and the societal dimensions of the issue. Student learning in SSI-based teaching is assessed with a culminating project in which learners synthesize their understanding of scientific and societal aspects relevant to the issue. In this project, our intermediate version of the SSI-TL framework served as both a representation of SSI-based teaching and a tool to support PSTs’ uptake of the approach.

The SSI Teaching Module in a Methods Course

Project Context, Goals, and Audience

The project described in this paper consisted of a six-week SSI Teaching Module that was implemented during a semester-long Science Methods course for secondary PSTs. The Science Methods course was the last in a sequence of three required methods courses in an undergraduate secondary science education program, and occurred immediately prior to the student teaching experience. The focus of the 16-week course was curricular planning and development, and the primary course goal was that PSTs would be able to design a coherent secondary science curricular unit, consisting of a two- to three-week sequence of related lessons organized around selected NGSS performance expectations. The purposes of the six-week SSI Teaching Module were to facilitate PSTs’ familiarity with SSI-based teaching; to explicate and challenge, as appropriate, PSTs’ perceptions about SSI; and to promote PSTs’ learning about SSI-based science teaching, as evidenced by their ability to develop cohesive science curricular units consistent with the SSI-TL framework.

A cohort of 13 PSTs in their final year of undergraduate coursework completed the SSI Teaching Module during Fall 2015. The first author developed and taught the SSI Teaching Module and the Science Methods course and conducted assessment of PSTs’ work in the course. The second author served in an advisory capacity during design, enactment, and assessment phases of the Teaching Module and Methods course. Both the second and third authors served as advisors during the writing stages of the project.

Project Design

The SSI Teaching Module consisted of three distinct phases, in which PSTs engaged with SSI-based science education from the perspectives of learner, teacher, and curriculum maker. (See SSI Teaching Module Schedule, below). In the first phase of the SSI Teaching Module, PSTs participated as learners of science in a sample secondary science unit designed using the SSI-TL framework, learning science content which was contextualized in an authentic SSI. (See SSI units for secondary science at our project website: http://ri2.missouri.edu/ri2modules.) In the second phase of the SSI Teaching Module, the PSTs spent time considering their SSI learning experience, this time from a teacher perspective, with explicit attention to the SSI-TL framework and key components of the sample SSI unit. Finally, in the third phase, the PSTs created SSI-based curricular units for use in their future secondary science classrooms. In all phases of the SSI Teaching Module, PSTs were asked to engage in personal reflection about their perceptions of SSI and its potential utility in their future teaching practice, with various writing prompts used during class, reflective writing assignments, and in-class discussion. More detailed description of each phase of the SSI Teaching Module follows (See Table 1).

Table 1 (Click on image to enlarge)
SSI Teaching Module Schedule

SSI Teaching Module – Phase 1: Learning Science with SSI

The first phase of the SSI Teaching Module focused on PSTs’ engagement with a sample SSI-TL unit. The sample unit was developed for an Advanced Exercise Science course at the secondary level, using NGSS standards relevant to the topic of energy systems, and presented through a nutritional science lens. The focal SSI for the nutrition unit was taxation of obesogenic foods. The SSI nutrition unit, as representation of the SSI-TL approach, engaged PSTs in several learning activities appropriate for incorporation into their own secondary-level SSI curricular unit designs. During this phase PSTs explored societal dimensions of the issue and engaged in sensemaking about the relevant science ideas, just as secondary students would do. Find the complete “Fat Tax” SSI-TL unit plan on our project website: http://ri2.missouri.edu/ri2modules/Fat Tax/intro.

The nutrition focus of the sample SSI unit was purposely selected for several reasons. First, this choice of topic leveraged the first author’s personal background and interest in nutritional sciences. Second, a pair of teaching partners in a local secondary school had approached the first author for help with preparing a unit for a new course they would be teaching. Finally, this topic offered opportunities for the methods students who had content backgrounds in different science disciplines to see the integration of diverse science ideas, and to build upon their own content knowledge. The SSI nutrition unit and the secondary course for which it was prepared represented authentic possibilities for PSTs’ future teaching assignments.

As specified in the SSI-TL framework, the SSI nutrition unit was introduced with a focal SSI. PSTs began by reading an article about a proposed “fat tax,” and were then asked to articulate and share ideas about the issue, providing reasoning to support their positions. Various positions were proposed, and a lively discussion followed. “Henry,” who had previously worked in a grocery store, shared initial support for the tax, justified by his personal observations of patterns in consumer buying habits. “Gregg” pushed back on what he considered to be stereotyping in Henry’s example, and argued that taxation of groups of food items toward controlling consumer choice was not within the purview of government agencies and could place an unnecessary burden on population subgroups such as college students and young families, who might depend on convenience foods during particular life phases. Various PSTs shared about personal and family experiences linking nutrition and health, which highlighted the challenge of defining “healthful” nutrition. The result of this introductory activity was PSTs’ recognition of their need to better understand both scientific and societal dimensions of the issue.

Because societal dimensions of SSI are a key focus of SSI-based teaching, and because research indicates that science teachers may struggle most with this component of SSI (Sadler et al., 2006), the relevant social aspects of the nutrition focal SSI were heavily featured in the SSI Teaching Module. An example of a nutrition lesson that emphasized societal dimensions of the focal SSI was one that incorporated an SSI Timeline activity (Foulk, Friedrichsen, & Sadler, 2020). In small groups, PSTs explored historically significant nutrition recommendations, summarizing their findings and posting them on a collaborative class timeline. Then the PSTs discussed their collective findings, comparing and contrasting nutrition recommendations through the years, and proposing significant historical events that may have impacted recommendations. Next, the small groups reconvened to research scientific, political, and economic events, which had been selected for their historical significance to nutritional health. PSTs summarized the impact of their assigned events, color coded according to the nature of impacts on historical nutritional recommendations. The result was a very engaged group of learner-participants, and a great deal of discussion about their new understandings of nutrition policy. Following the introduction of the issue and participation in this timeline activity, PSTs expressed an awareness that meaningful interpretation and assessment of commonly shared nutrition advice (e.g., “eat everything in moderation” or “avoid cholesterol and saturated fat”) depends on an understanding of scientific ideas about nutrition. Specifically, the PSTs recognized their need to be able to make sense of the structure and function of nutrition macromolecules and their significance in metabolic pathways. As learners, PSTs benefitted from this activity by identifying science concepts they needed to know in order to address the focal issue (See Figure 2 and Figure 3).

Figure 2 (Click on image to enlarge)
SSI Timeline Activity

Figure 3 (Click on image to enlarge)
SSI Timeline Categories of Societal Dimensions

SSI Teaching Module – Phase 2: Teaching Science with SSI

The second phase of the SSI Teaching Module allowed PSTs to reflect on their learner experiences with the SSI nutrition unit, from the perspective of teachers. After participating in selected portions of the SSI nutrition unit, the PSTs began the process of unpacking their experience and making sense of the teaching approach. They were first asked to inspect the SSI-TL framework, and then they received written copies of the SSI nutrition unit for comparison. In small groups PSTs discussed elements of the framework they were able to distinguish in the nutrition unit, as well as the purposes they saw for each activity they had identified. A whole class discussion of the unit resulted in a mapping of the unit to the SSI-TL framework (See Figure 4).

Figure 4 (Click on image to enlarge)
Unit Map

In another lesson during the second phase of the SSI Teaching Module, a whole class discussion of the philosophical assumptions of the SSI-TL framework helped PSTs to consider broader educational purposes of the approach (Zeidler, 2014a). The instructor again provided a copy of the framework and asked PSTs to consider ways it compared and contrasted to their experiences as learners of science, and their ideas about teaching science. During the discussion, “Travis” shared, “I would’ve eaten this up as a high school student, because I didn’t always like science classes. I think connecting science to real life is a great way to reach students who might not like science otherwise.” Conversely, “Dale” expressed his concerns about shaking up tried and true teaching methods in his subdiscipline, arguing that there are more beneficial ways to teach than forcing science learning into SSI: “Everything we teach at the high school level for physics was settled 200 years ago. Why should students spend time looking at news stories and history?” The group revisited these conversations about educational philosophy and socioscientific issues frequently.

Following a whole class discussion about the SSI-TL framework and nutrition unit as an exemplar, PSTs used the framework to collaboratively analyze examples of externally created SSI-focused curricula. Small groups identified components of SSI-based teaching such as the focal issue, opportunities to consider societal dimensions of the issue, and connections to relevant science ideas. (Friedrichsen et al., 2016; Schibuk, 2015; Zeidler & Kahn, 2014a, 2014b, 2014c). Finally, individual PSTs completed a structured analysis of these assigned SSI curricular units. This activity served to further help the PSTs in identifying key components of SSI-based science curricula, and to see varied ways that classroom activities, lessons, and units might be created to align with the approach. See the analysis rubric tool designed to support PSTs’ individual curricular analyses (See Figure 5).

Figure 5 (Click on image to enlarge)
Curriculum Analysis Rubric

SSI Teaching Module – Phase 3: Designing SSI Curricula

The third and final phase of the SSI Teaching Module focused on curricular design. Because curricular design was the primary goal of the Science Methods course, activities prior to the SSI Teaching Module had been designed to engage PSTs in utilizing NGSS and other educational standards, as well as in structuring and planning for meaningful learning activities in secondary science classrooms. This phase of the SSI Teaching Module was designed to build upon the PSTs’ prior experiences with elements of curriculum planning, and to integrate them with the activities of the previous phases of the module.

Over a series of lessons, in various formats, and with numerous feedback opportunities, the PSTs were supported in their development of a cohesive SSI-focused curricular unit designed around the SSI-TL framework, which served as the culminating course project. With regular instructor feedback, in both in-class collaborative settings and as out-of-class assignments, PSTs selected topics applicable to their science certification areas, brainstormed potential focal SSIs in which to contextualize their science units, and identified NGSS standards most relevant to their topics. In addition to feedback from both instructor comments and class discussions, PSTs used several resources intended as tools to guide their process, including the SSI-TL framework, written requirements for the SSI Curriculum Design task, access to the SSI nutrition unit from phase one of the SSI Teaching Module, and an electronic template in which to create their units (See Figure 6).

Figure 6 (Click on image to enlarge)
Curriculum Design Task Requirements

All activities in phase three of the SSI Teaching Module served to help PSTs draft detailed unit overviews consisting of a two- to three-week sequence of lessons with multiple detailed lesson plans, specifically focused on introducing the focal SSI, exploring societal dimensions of the issue, and activities for mastery of related science content ideas. Assessment of PSTs’ units was based upon a detailed scoring rubric collaboratively constructed with the PSTs during the third phase of the Teaching Module. Together the course instructor and PSTs used the Curriculum Design Task Requirements and the SSI-TL framework, as well as the Curriculum Analysis Rubric, to prioritize elements and characteristics of SSI units. Finished units were later assessed for alignment to the SSI-TL framework in terms of unit structure, principles of SSI, and general quality of activities and lessons. See the scoring rubric for the unit design task, below. Note also that NGSS-aligned lesson plan design was a requirement for the PSTs in a previous methods course and continued as an expectation throughout PSTs’ education program. Selected PSTs’ SSI unit design products are summarized (See Figure 7 and Table 2).

Figure 7 (Click on image to enlarge)
SSI Unit Design Task – Scoring Rubric

 

Table 2 (Click on image to enlarge)
Table of Selected PST Curricular Units

 

Discussion & Conclusion

In this project, we sought address the tension between K-12 science teachers’ favorable perceptions of SSI-based pedagogy and their simultaneous unlikelihood to utilize SSI in their science classrooms. Specifially, we designed and implemented an SSI Teaching Module intended to leverage the transformative potential of the curriculum design process, in an effort to address commonly cited barriers to SSI-based pedagogy enactment, including: unfamiliarity or discomfort with SSI-based teaching; lack of access to SSI curricular resources; and misalignment between teachers’ perceptions and the pedagogical philosophy of SSI. We observed several specific examples of favorable impacts for the PST participants in this experience.

First, PSTs expressed excitement about learning with SSI. In a whole class conversation following phase one of the teaching module, Adam described his positive experience as a learner of SSI. Referring specifically to the use of SSI and related societal dimensions in the learning experience, he commented, “I think as a [secondary] student I would’ve been, like, sucked in from the very first day of the nutrition unit.” Adam’s sentiment echoed the enthusiasm that Travis had clearly demonstrated during phase one of the SSI Teaching Module. Having previously spoken to the first author privately regarding his uncertainty about a career path in education, Travis exceeded task expectations during the learner phase of the project. In ways that were atypical for him, Travis assumed leadership responsibilities for his group, encouraging his peers to explore and make connections among science and societal dimensions of the issue they were studying. On one occasion, Travis stayed after class to make additional contributions to the collaborative activity from that day’s lesson, describing to the first author his own engagement during participation in the SSI nutrition unit in class. During a whole class discussion in phase two of the SSI Teaching Module, Travis spoke favorably of his firsthand experience with SSI and enthusiastically shared with his peers his perception of the potential for SSI to promote learner engagement, particularly for those students who, like himself, are likely to find traditional K-12 science coursework unenjoyable.

Second, PSTs expressed enthusiasm for teaching with SSI during phases two and three of the SSI Teaching Module. In class conversations about the SSI-TL framework as well as in written reflections about SSI unit design required with the Unit Design Task, multiple PSTs expressed enthusiasm for SSI and plans to use it, despite its challenges. For example, after designing his unit, “Cooper” wrote, “I found that creating this [SSI] unit about waves was challenging, but also sort of exciting, because it makes me think about how much I’m looking forward to being a teacher.” Similarly, during our whole class discussion about the philosophical underpinnings of SSI, Adam repeatedly expressed his perception of the value of teaching science with SSI. Adam’s SSI curricular unit design was exceptional for his thoughtful choice of issue and the complex connections he made among science ideas and societal dimensions related to the issue, and his comments throughout the learner experience indicated his consideration of the challenges and possible solutions to utilizing SSI in the classroom. During his third year of teaching, Adam reached out to the first author to describe his own use of SSI-based pedagogy and asked for help in supporting veteran teachers in his department to take up the approach. Adam expressed a highly favorable view of teaching with SSI, and the project seemed to prepare him to do so.

Finally, PSTs demonstrated success in designing coherent SSI-TL curricular resources. Consistent with our framework, we considered an SSI unit to be successfully designed if it met the criteria specified in the Curriculum Design Task and Scoring Rubric, by including essential elements and characteristics of SSI and by representing the intent of the approach. Regarding elements and characteristics of SSI and by representing the intent of the approach. Regarding elements and characteristics, a unit overview was required, with specific reference to the science topic and related standards from NGSS, a thorough explanation of pertinent science ideas, and the selected focal SSI in which the unit was contextualized. The overview would also include a brief timeline describing a coherent sequence of lessons related to the topic. In addition, units were to include detailed plans for three specific types of lesson: introduction of the focal issue, exploration of societal dimensions of the issue, and explicit sensemaking about science ideas. Finally, a successful unit would describe plans for assessment, including requirements for a culminating unit project in which learners would demonstrate understanding of science ideas and societal dimensions related to the issue. Throughout the unit design, the selected SSI would feature prominently, and activities would allow for students’ meaningful sensemaking about the science ideas and societal dimensions relevant to the issue.

With participation in the SSI Teaching Module, support from their instructor, and interactions with the learning community in their methods course, each of our participant PSTs satisfied the requirements of the unit design task and designed curricular units consistent with the SSI-TL framework. PSTs were able to identify learning standards relevant to their selected science topics, provide explanations of their topics, and contextualize science learning opportunities within authentic, real-world issues. In addition, PSTs were able to create broad, cohesive overviews of their units, as well as detailed plans for specific lessons. Most notable with regard to the emphasis on SSI, PSTs were able to select relevant, appropriate socioscientific issues for their topics, and to thoughtfully weave these issues into their unit designs. PSTs reflected about general struggles related to selecting focal issues or integrating science ideas and societal dimensions, and the experiences in the SSI Teaching module that they found especially helpful, such as small group discussions during the planning process, and peer feedback on the drafts of their units.

Consistent with current calls for science education reform, we know SSI offer valuable opportunities for student learning, and we believe SSI curriculum design to be a beneficial way to support teachers’ uptake of SSI-based teaching. Furthermore, we view teacher education to be an appropriate context to support pre-service and early career teachers’ in making sense of and adopting the approach. We share the design of SSI Teaching Module to support other teacher educators in innovating pre-service methods courses toward promoting PSTs’ uptake of SSI.

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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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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

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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

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Service Learning for Science: A Transformative Field Experience for Preservice Elementary Teachers 

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Porter, J.M., & Lardy, C. (2020). Service learning for science: A transformative field experience for preservice elementary teachers. Innovations in Science Teacher Education, 5(2). Retrieved from https://innovations.theaste.org/service-learning-for-science-a-transformative-field-experience-for-preservice-elementary-teachers/

by Jenna Porter, CSU Sacramento; & Corinne Lardy, CSU Sacramento

Abstract

Preservice teachers are often faced with tension between theory about effective science education and practice. Service learning is one method for helping bridge the disconnect in meaningful ways that are mutually beneficial for both preservice teachers and community partners. With the recent adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in most states, and the upcoming accountability testing for science, some elementary schools are beginning to shift toward more science instruction that supports students’ developing understanding of science concepts, as well as the practices in which scientists engage. This transition time provides an excellent opportunity to purposefully partner universities with elementary schools in an effort to support science education (for preservice teachers, inservice teachers, and elementary school students). We have redesigned our science methods course to integrate service learning to provide our preservice teachers with authentic experiences for teaching the effective pedagogical strategies and theories learned in the course. This paper describes the service learning component of our science methods course, which includes a unique field experience. It also illustrates evidence of the positive impact this service learning approach has had on our preservice teachers and community partners, and lessons learned through the process.

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Introducing Preservice Science Teachers to Computer Science Concepts and Instruction Using Pseudocode

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Brauer, K., Kruse, J., & Lauer, D. (2020). Introducing preservice science teachers to computer science concepts and instruction using pseudocode. Innovations in Science Teacher Education, 5(2). Retrieved from https://innovations.theaste.org/introducing-preservice-science-teachers-to-computer-science-concepts-and-instruction-using-pseudocode/

by Kayla Brauer, Drake University; Jerrid Kruse, Drake University; & David Lauer, Drake University

Abstract

Preservice science teachers are often asked to teach STEM content. While coding is one of the more popular aspects of the technology portion of STEM, many preservice science teachers are not prepared to authentically engage students in this content due to their lack of experience with coding. In an effort to remedy this situation, this article outlines an activity we developed to introduce preservice science teachers to computer science concepts such as pseudocode, looping, algorithms, conditional statements, problem decomposition, and debugging. The activity and discussion also support preservice teachers in developing pedagogical acumen for engaging K-12 students with computer science concepts. Examples of preservice science teachers’ work illustrate their engagement and struggles with the ideas and anecdotes provide insight into how the preservice science teachers practiced teaching computer science concepts with 6th grade science students. Explicit connections to the Next Generation Science Standards are made to illustrate how computer science lessons within a STEM course might be used to meet Engineering, Technology, and Application of Science standards within the NGSS.

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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