Preservice teachers in early childhood (pre-K–4) education teacher preparation programs typically experience content-specific pedagogy courses that operate in isolation from each other. In addition, preservice teachers are rarely given the opportunity to learn about integrative teaching in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). In this article, the authors describe how Millersville University of Pennsylvania, a midsized regional public university in the Mid-Atlantic Region, addressed this issue in their teacher preparation program by creating an integrative STEM (iSTEM) minor that provided preservice teachers with five additional courses that explored how to implement STEM in early childhood classrooms in developmentally appropriate ways with a design-based pedagogy. This article introduces the program, including the specific coursework that preservice teachers engage in as well as other programmatic features that contribute to the success of the minor in increasing the confidence and skill levels of future teachers in successful STEM integration techniques. Photographs and artifacts are included to provide readers with a clearer picture of the types of learning activities and assignments in which students engaged. The article concludes with qualitative comments from students who participated in this program.
As an important aspect of teacher expertise, noticing skills need to be learned and practiced in teacher education programs. Although noticing literature has reported on the effectiveness of videos with associated scaffolding structures and the significant role that practical experiences play in teachers’ development of noticing skills, research on ways to support prospective teachers’ noticing in both video-based and authentic classroom settings in the field of science education is scarce. Building on teacher noticing research and the critical incident framework, this article describes a model that engages a group of prospective elementary teachers in the practice of noticing first in a 2-week, online, video-based training module and then in dynamic and complex classrooms when they attend a practicum associated with a science methods course. Detailed descriptions of the model, prospective teachers’ learning outcomes, and thoughts and considerations for implementing the model are shared. Differences between prospective teachers’ noticing journal entries prior to the video-based training module and immediately after, along with their noticing patterns in the practicum classrooms, show the development of prospective teachers’ noticing skills during the semester. Factors that were found to impact prospective teachers’ noticing in video-based and authentic classroom settings include: (a) using the adapted critical incident framework as a scaffolding guideline, (b) providing continuous feedback on prospective teacher noticing journals, and (c) having opportunities to observe science instruction in practicum classrooms.
Preservice elementary teachers bring many strengths to science teaching but may not get extensive support in learning to work toward equity and justice in their science teaching. Drawing on four approaches to equity from a recent report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (2022), this article presents a practical framework for helping preservice elementary teachers in this challenging work. The article first explores each approach, suggesting interpretive frames and teaching moves that preservice teachers could use in moving from a relatively abstract call for equity to making concrete decisions in elementary science instruction. A practical framework is developed based on that exploration, with a description of how the framework has been used instructionally in an elementary science methods class. Then, the article presents the results of a pilot study of 31 preservice elementary teachers’ use of a pilot framework, illustrating how these participants’ lesson plans readily reflected teaching moves focused on increasing children’s opportunity and access to science learning and increasing achievement, representation, and identification but less often reflected moves oriented toward broadening what counts as science or bringing science and justice together. The article concludes by noting that research is needed to further explore the utility of this framework and how equity can be supported in science teacher education more generally. The article also urges the field to develop representations of practice and elementary science curriculum materials that would support teachers in this challenging, lifelong work to advance equity and justice.
- Categories: Engineering, Inservice Teacher Preparation, NGSS, and Preservice Teacher Preparation
- Tags: authentic contexts, engineering, engineering practices, inservice teacher education, instructional materials, nature of engineering, and preservice teacher education
- Publication: Issue 3 and Volume 7
Including engineering as part of K–12 science instruction has many potential benefits for students, but achieving those benefits depends on having classroom teachers who are well prepared to effectively implement engineering instruction. Science teacher educators, therefore, have an essential role to play in ensuring that engineering is incorporated into science instruction in productive ways. An important component of that work is developing teachers’ understanding of the nature of engineering: what engineering is, what engineers do, and how engineering is both related to yet separate from science. Teachers must understand these concepts to implement engineering design activities that authentically reflect the field. In this article, I describe a sequence of instructional activities designed to help teachers, either preservice or inservice, develop their knowledge of the nature of engineering. At the core of the instructional sequence is a set of stories that provide teachers with descriptions of authentic engineering work. Surrounding the stories are activities that help teachers draw accurate conclusions about the nature of engineering and draw out the implications of those conclusions for instructional decision-making. I provide an overview of the instructional sequence and also share details from my own work with teachers, including transcripts of classroom conversations and the impact of instruction on teachers’ knowledge.
Studies have shown that teacher candidates enrolled in teacher preparation programs, particularly those in early childhood and elementary certification tracks, do not feel comfortable with science content or feel confident in their ability to teach science effectively as they enter student teaching. The Periodic Tile Project is an interdisciplinary project and performance assessment that takes an essential component of the chemistry curriculum that is often treated as a static tool to be memorized and brings the dynamic facets of the elements to life through the integration of science and art. Integrating science and art in performance-based assessments has been shown to increase engagement, self-motivation, and sense of ownership and enhance expression and communication skills in K–12 students. It can provide the same benefits to science teacher candidates. This article describes the use of the Periodic Tile Project with teacher candidates to explore the elements in a fun, meaningful, and memorable way.
In this article, we discuss a novel approach to course-based undergraduate research experiences (CURE) by exploring the impact of a near-peer configuration within three courses: the Elementary Science Education and Secondary Science Methods courses for education students and the Dimensions of Biodiversity course for students in the biological sciences. We were interested in understanding how students from education would benefit from partnering with students from the sciences and vice versa. We discuss our approach to designing and implementing the near-peer approach along with extended details regarding the process for research groups. We used a modified Undergraduate Research Student Self-Assessment (URSSA) to understand how science and science education majors influence one another in developing researcher identity, including scientific literacy and communication skills, after engaging in a near-peer structured CURE. Our results show that most science education students reported increased interest in conducting research in the future and some biology students reported an increased interest in teaching science. Logistical and interpersonal relationships were noted as the primary adverse challenges to implementation. Future programming and research efforts should expand to include other scientific disciplines and pay close attention to interpersonal dynamics, especially during the matchmaking phase.
We implemented a remote collaborative inquiry project with elementary preservice teachers who were enrolled in their science methods course during the 2020–2021 academic year. The courses were taught in one of three modalities: (1) fully online and asynchronous (graduate students seeking initial licensure), (2) fully online with synchronous and asynchronous components (undergraduate students), and (3) blended with face-to-face and asynchronous online components (undergraduate students). During the project, groups of two to four preservice teachers engaged remotely in collaborative, hands-on inquiry projects and documented their communication throughout the process. The remote collaborative inquiry projects were adapted from existing course assignments that had previously been used in face-to-face settings. We found that despite encountering some unexpected challenges with implementation, most participants recognized the value of group work for learning science. However, many preservice teachers, especially undergraduate students, focused on completing a quality end product rather than the learning that occurred throughout the process of collaboration and inquiry. It was also clear that many did not differentiate between collaborative and cooperative learning and often utilized a divide-and-conquer cooperative strategy. Future implementations of the project should intentionally provide opportunities for preservice teachers to discuss the differences between collaboration and cooperation and how these strategies impact learning in addition to the completion of a final product.
In a time when the United States is faced with continued racism and social unrest, it is more important than ever to prepare teachers who can advocate for marginalized students and social justice. This article describes the evolution of a seminar course called Theory and Reality: Practicum in Math and Science Teaching in High-Need Schools within the context of a predominately White teacher-preparation program. Guided by scholars of culturally relevant education and our professional and personal journeys as equity-focused teacher educators, we sought to design experiences to prepare preservice science and mathematics teachers to teach in high-poverty or underfunded schools. Specifically, the course was intended to (1) develop an understanding of pedagogical practices and educational strategies for successful teaching in a high-need school setting, especially in mathematics and science classrooms, and (2) cultivate both cultural self-awareness and cross-cultural consciousness in one’s ability to adapt to the high-need environment in a culturally responsive way. We describe the evolutionary rationale for changes made to course assignments and readings to promote cultural competence and early advocacy skills for teacher candidates interested in teaching in schools facing poverty. We highlight preservice teachers’ reflections that evidence their early conceptualizations of teaching in a high-need school context and how assignments promoted their relationship-building and advocacy skills for marginalized students.
In this article, we describe an assignment that we have developed in our Engineering for Elementary Teachers course. The assignment was designed to address social justice within the engineering design process. In this course, preservice teachers (PSTs) develop an engineering project that integrates six criteria of engineering for social justice into their lesson plan as a way to make the social relevance of engineering more apparent. Beyond having teachers develop an engineering lesson plan, the goal is to increase awareness of the social justice dimension of engineering as a strategy for integrating culturally relevant pedagogies into engineering lessons. In this article, we share several lessons our PSTs have developed as well as insights that they gained about the relationship between engineering and social justice. We also share some of the challenges that the PSTs faced and the insights that we gained about integrating social justice criteria into engineering lessons.