Pedagogies of Practice in Science Teacher Preparation: Supporting Preservice Teachers' Capacity to Attend to the Substance of Students' Ideas and Reasoning to Adapt Instruction

Germundson-Sneed, Amy, Education - Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Tomlinson, Carol, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Chiu, Jennifer, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

A vision of science education guiding reform efforts in the United States is intended to guide substantial change in K-12 teaching practices and, in parallel, university pedagogies that prepare the next generation of science teachers to make high standards of disciplinary learning both accessible and achievable to diverse student populations (NRC, 2012). Distinct from past standards of learning that separated entities of content and process skills (e.g., AAAS, 1993; NRC, 1996), a contemporary vision of science education positions students as legitimate participants in the conceptual, epistemic, and social processes of science to build and refine increasingly sophisticated explanatory ideas and models of the world around them (NRC, 2012). In teacher preparation, this means that prospective science teachers learn to orchestrate learning around the “big ideas” of science that afford students great capacity to access, build, and explain a coherent storyline of the world around them. They learn to elicit, attend to, and make visible students’ evolving ideas and reasoning about scientific phenomena as the terrain for co-constructing, negotiating, and refining explanatory ideas and models over time. And they learn to continually monitor and adjust instruction in response to what students do.

With a deliberate orientation to achieving ambitious learning goals for all students, a growing number of policymakers, scholars, and educators have advocated for practice-centered approaches to preservice teacher education, focusing directly on the interactive and relational work of responsive teaching as the content and context for novice teacher learning (Ball & Cohen, 1999; Levine, 2006; Grossman, Compton, et al., 2009; National Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation [NCATE], 2010). Accordingly, this qualitative embedded single-case study explored preservice science teacher participation in practice-centered pedagogies, grounded in tool-supported analyses of student work, to enact one of four high-leverage practices identified as central to supporting student learning in science: attending to the substance of students’ emerging ideas and reasoning to adapt instruction (NRC, 2007; 2012, Windschitl et al., 2012; Thompson et al., 2013). More specifically, informed by a situative perspective, this study traced three preservice science teachers’ (a) repertoires of practice as related to attending to, interpreting, and responding to student work; and (b) stances toward science, toward student learning, and toward teaching over time and in interactions with peers, with pedagogical tools, and with classroom artifacts of practice (e.g., researcher-generated student work, student work generated in prospective teachers’ secondary science classrooms during student teaching, case studies).

Positively, situating preservice teacher learning in the interactive and relational work of teaching (i.e., recurrent cycles of analyzing and responding to student work), coupled with representations of “what is possible” (i.e., case studies), helped all prospective science teachers attend to dimensionality in students’ ideas and their ways of thinking and reasoning about these ideas. Two influential features of these practice-oriented learning experiences that supported preservice teacher learning included: (1) cultivating preservice teacher learning within a discourse community; and (2) disciplinary-specific protocols, consistent with a vision of science-as-practice (NRC, 2012), that mediated student work analyses and collegial conversation.

However, while promising, preservice teachers’ developing readiness to interpret and respond to student work in increasingly sophisticated ways was closely related to their stances toward science, toward student learning, and toward teaching. Notably, one teacher started to access a more problematized representation of science, student learning, and science teaching (i.e., science as a theory-building endeavor anchored in student pursuit of explanatory accounts of the world around them). Likewise, this teacher made sense-of and positioned the disciplinary substance of students’ ideas in a shared space between the teacher and students – a resource for adapting instruction in ways that built on and fostered continued student participation in disciplinary activity. Further, “problems of practice” were framed in terms of hypothesizing differing pedagogical possibilities that afforded students opportunities to revisit and refine their tentative explanations over time. In contrast, preservice teachers that maintained unproblematized representations of science, student learning, and teaching science (i.e., didactic approaches to teaching science centered on the accumulation of knowledge and skills) positioned student thinking a space between a student and teacher only – an evaluative check on student learning outcomes. Moreover, “problems of practice” were framed as “problems with students.” Insights from this study inform the design of science teacher learning trajectories within systems of teacher preparation.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
science teacher learning, science teacher preparation, preservice teacher education, practice-based pedagogies, high-leverage teaching practices, core practices, responsive teaching, science education, situative perspective, analyzing student work
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