Newly Qualified Teachers' Visions of Science Learning and Teaching

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This study investigated newly qualified teachers' visions of science learning and teaching. The study also documented their preparation in an elementary science methods course. The research questions were: What educational and professional experiences influenced the instructor's visions of science learning and teaching? What visions of science learning and teaching were promoted in the participants' science methods course? What visions of science learning and teaching did these newly qualified teachers bring with them as they graduated from their teacher preparation program? How did these visions compare with those advocated by reform documents?

Data sources included participants' assignments, weekly reflections, and multi-media portfolio finals.  Semi-structured interviews provided the emic voice of participants, after graduation but before they had begun to teach.  These data were interpreted via a combination of qualitative methodologies. Vignettes described class activities.  Assertions supported by excerpts from participants' writings emerged from repeated review of their assignments.  A case study of a typical participant characterized weekly reflections and final multi-media portfolio.  Four strands of science proficiency articulated in a national reform document provided a framework for interpreting activities, assignments, and interview responses.

Prior experiences that influenced design of the methods course included an inquiry-based undergraduate physics course, participation in a reform-based teacher preparation program, undergraduate and graduate inquiry-based science teaching methods courses, participation in a teacher research group, continued connection to the university as a beginning teacher, teaching in diverse Title 1 schools, service as the county and state elementary science specialist, participation in the Carnegie Academy for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, service on a National Research Council committee, and experience teaching a science methods course.  The methods course studied here emphasized reform-based practices, science as inquiry, culturally responsive teaching, scientific discourse, and integration of science with technology and other disciplines. Participants' writings and interview responses articulated visions of science learning and teaching that included aspects of reform-based practices.  Some participants intentionally incorporated and implemented reform-based strategies in field placements during the methods course and student teaching. The strands of scientific proficiency were evident in activities, assignments and participants' interviews in varying degrees.