Opportunities for Teacher Learning During Enactment of Inquiry Science Curriculum Materials: Exploring the Potential for Teacher Educative Materials
Source: Journal of Science Teacher Education, Volume 24, Issue 2, March 2013, p. 323-346.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
The purpose of this study was to investigate the challenges and opportunities teachers face when enacting materials intended to support their learning.
The work of this study examines the process of interacting with materials and students while thinking about teaching in order to guide curriculum material designers’ thinking about when and how materials might be helpful for teachers.
Specifically, three questions guided the research:
(1) What aspects of planning and teaching are opportunities for teacher learning while enacting inquiry materials over time?
(2) What aspects of PCK are opportunities for teacher learning while enacting inquiry materials over time?, and
(3) What types of guidance in materials would enhance teachers’ learning from these opportunities?
This study was conducted in a midsized, working class, suburban middle school.
Ms. Hawthorne was certified as an elementary teacher with a focus on science and had 5 years teaching experience, all in science.
She enacted five inquiry-based science units with all 5 of her seventh-grade science classes over a 2-year period.
Teacher journals, interviews, and classroom videotape were collected.
Analysis focused on engagement in planning and teaching, pedagogical content knowledge, and the match to teacher learning needs.
The findings in this study describe one teacher’s interactions with materials written to support teachers learning to teach inquiry science.
Findings indicate that this teacher’s ideas developed as she interacted with materials and her students.
Information about student ideas, task and idea-specific support, and model teacher language was most helpful.
Opportunities for Teacher Learning
Opportunities for teacher learning were abundant and nearly always in conjunction with the work of planning, teaching, and reflecting.
This teacher looked for information that would help her, help her students.
In this study, the opportunities for teacher learning were embedded in the act of thinking about and interacting with her students.
The opportunities for teacher learning were also associated with the tasks intended for students.
The findings also show that learning opportunities occurred when the materials offered the support she needed to try a new strategy with her students such as model teacher language to read aloud.
It was important that students had the opportunity to demonstrate their ideas and skills in order to create an opportunity for the teacher to reconsider her ideas about teaching and learning.
The findings also support and refine the idea that materials are situated to support teachers’ developing pedagogical content knowledge.
The opportunities where materials might have supported learning, shifted from broader ideas and encouraging first attempts to refining ideas and negotiating the teacher’s role in the classroom.
Ideas for Educative Materials
For materials to become educative, it will be important to consider teachers’ ideas and learning needs.
Questions and scenarios in a ready-to-read-aloud format may help teachers make initial attempts with discussions and other activities.
Hence, developers need to make efforts to anticipate teachers’ prior experiences with students and describe lessons accordingly.
Teacher Educator’s PCK
The description of this teacher’s ideas indicates that it is important to take into consideration teachers’ probable ideas and to make efforts to engage their thinking.
This knowledge would include teachers’ probable ideas about how students learn, ideas teachers find challenging, powerful representations and strategies to help teachers learn, appropriate levels of teacher understanding, a knowledge of the goals for teachers as learners, and an orientation to prepare teachers as professionals.
Teacher educator’s PCK would also include understanding how teachers’ learning progresses over time.
To write materials as educative for teachers means to carefully consider the content and the strategy of the support for teacher learning.
This means presenting information teachers need at times when this information is most helpful and in ways that direct and guide teacher thinking.
This also means focusing on the intents and purposes of teaching as much as the actions of students.
Therefore, writers will need to select appropriate short- and long-term goals for science teacher learning.