«Conceptualizing Pedagogical Content Knowledge from the Perspective of Experienced Secondary Science Teachers Committee: Julie A. Luft, Supervisor ...»
The third group includes “knowledge of curriculum,” “knowledge of teaching strategies,” and “knowledge of resources.” The three components cannot be separated because they interact with each other. She thinks that the third group plays a role as the “process” for science teaching. In particular, this group of knowledge areas determines a teacher’s ability for designing “quality activities” for the students.
When asked to further explain the diagram, she stated, “All seven components are interrelated and influence each other, but some components are more strongly connected to each other. That is why I put them in a group” (Third interview, 3/11/05). She named this diagram “the knowledge components of a quality science teacher” because she thinks that this is compatible with the state’s statement of teachers’ quality.
Figure 10. Shawna’s conceptualization of PCK (The knowledge components of a quality science teacher)
Roger is the only male participant in the study. The “Teachers as Mentors” project director recommended him for the study, but he hesitated at first to participate because of his busy schedule. After several emails to encourage his participation, he finally decided to join the study. Despite his initial reluctance to be a participant, he was the most accessible teacher among the participants, with regard to scheduling interviews during the data collection period. When I had questions during data analysis, he readily answered by email to further explain what I wanted to know. The more I talked with him, the more I was convinced that he was very competent as a science teacher.
His personal interest in science motivated him to be a high school science teacher (third interview, 3/16/05). After working in the private sector for fifteen years, Roger decided to become a high school science teacher. Roger has a bachelor’s degree in Biology and has earned the Composite Science Certification. He also has a master’s degree in Education.
He has been working in the high school where he currently teaches for the past ten years, and that is also where he did his student teaching. Roger has been teaching Integrated Physics and Chemistry (IPC) and Geology, Meteorology, Oceanography (GMO) since he started teaching. He is a lead teacher in the Science Department of the high school. Roger has also worked as a TA for a teaching
it helps him to reflect on his teaching. He serves as a mentor teacher for a beginning science teacher who is working in the same school and also as a mentor for a student teacher. He believes that working with novice science teachers benefits him a great deal (third interview, 3/16/05).
science teacher’s knowledge is all encompassing (first interview, 4/30/04). Roger has been active in professional development such as a mentoring project and statewide workshops to learn new ideas about science teaching. He used the projects and workshops as opportunities to meet other science teachers and to share useful information with them.
Roger’s Teaching Context Roger teaches in an urban high school that consists mainly of students from lower income families. The size of the school is approximately 3,000 students. The student body is almost equally composed of Caucasian, Hispanic, and AfricanAmerican students. Roger has been teaching two courses: Integrated Physics and Chemistry (IPC) for ninth and tenth graders; and Geology, Meteorology, and Oceanography (GMO), an elective course for eleventh and twelfth graders. He teaches five IPC classes and one GMO class a day. He said that these two courses are quite different because of the different grade levels. He also talked about the difference even within the five IPC classes depending on the characteristics of the students in the class. Roger considers this difference as one of the main factors in making decisions for his lessons.
He rarely plans lesson plans ahead of time (as he did in the first years of teaching), but usually teaches “by the seat of his pants” (second interview, 5/14/04).
He feels that his class is unique because he allows students to behave freely and take initiative in class. While observing his class, I saw clearly that he had a good rapport with his students (field notes, 4/30/04). He said that he could relate easily to his students because he never grew up himself and this outlook helps him as a teacher (4/30/04, first interview).
His ultimate goal in teaching science is to get students to understand how things work in the world and to use that understanding in their lives. To achieve this goal, he encourages students to learn how to think scientifically in class. He also believes that the nature of science is “inquiry.” By his definition, “science as inquiry” means always “wanting to know and using science methods to find out the solutions” (third interview, 3/16/05). Roger wants students to be motivated by effective attention getters, for instance, an eye-catching demonstration or interesting current science event or news. After that, he asks scientific questions and allows students to find the solutions through group activities and discussion.
He believes that students engage in scientific inquiry by following the process, and they learn science as well as the scientific process and scientific thinking. He stated that the activities in his class mirror the real scientific process (first interview, 4/30/05). By allowing students to engage in the process, he anticipates that students will understand in their own way how things work, and will make connections between the science concepts and what they, the students, have done. In doing so, he said, his role is modeling the scientific process, so his students will follow him (third interview, 3/16/05).
While he seeks to use the inquiry process as a strategy for learning science, he constructs his lessons within the standards of the state and district and puts emphasis on knowing science concepts for students to be prepared for the TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) test, which is a Texas state standard test.
In the following sections, I will describe his seven components and the elements within each component to form science teachers’ PCK, as well as his conceptualization of PCK with regard to teaching science.
Roger’s Components of Knowledge for Teaching Science The components of PCK that emerged from Roger’s data are the same as those of other participants, with variations in the elements within each component.
Roger’s component 1-a: knowledge of science.
Roger mentioned that “knowledge of science” is the most important
knowledge for science teaching. This component includes four elements as follows:
(1) science concept knowledge; (2) common sense related to science; (3) scientific process; and (4) current event and issues in science.
When it comes to “science concept knowledge,” Roger’s belief is that a science teacher should have an expertise in science and understand the concept in
depth. He stated:
field of expertise. Then, he can convey so that [knowledge] younger kids could understand it. I also think a teacher needs in-depth knowledge of the subject. What I mean is if you are teaching IPC, then as a science teacher you should know more about the subject than what you are teaching. For example, if the concept of the day is Newton’s law, then as a teacher you should know all there is to know about force (third interview, 3/15/05).
Roger also stresses the “knowledge of common sense related to science” for
science teaching. He explained:
A science teacher needs common sense about science. That’s a big thing because that tells me why a top spins, why a magnet attracts certain metals, why a light turns on. So it starts from very basic concepts and it builds upon that, so you need common sense to understand basic science concepts and real-life situations. It is a beginning and then from that it’s all-encompassing (first interview, 4/30/04).
By his definition, “common sense about science” means the understanding of “how
things work” in real-life situations. He further explained:
The common sense is very basic, but if you don’t have that, then you have a hard time understanding scientific knowledge. For example, levers. Common sense will tell you that if you want to balance a lever then you have to have the same distance for the same mass on one side versus the other. If you don’t understand that then I think you’d have a hard time understanding the other principles in Physics. So, common sense first and then you can build on that for Physics (first interview, 4/30/04).
He thinks that science teachers should have specialized knowledge in the subject and also be knowledgeable in the several different areas that they teach.
Roger believes that there is a scientific process and that a science teacher should have an understanding of the scientific process. For example, “questioning,” “doing research,” and “testing” are included in the scientific process (third interview, 3/15/05). According to his description, the scientific process is equivalent to the scientific method. Each is a logical process for finding the answer to a question or
problem. Roger further explained:
You start with the problem, research for possible answers, try out the possibilities that might answer or correct the problem, make observations to determine if problem is solved. If so, that’s great. If not, try another possible solution. It is as simple as trial and error sometimes, and it is as close to inquiry as it gets (third interview, 3/15/05).
He tries to “mirror” the process when he encourages students to do laboratories or activities. Before an experiment, Roger asks students to use their prior knowledge to formulate a hypothesis first, and then to engage in the experiment according to scientific process. He believes that his students learn the science process by being engaging in the experiment to verify their hypotheses.
Another element in this component is to be aware of news and current events in science. One of his strategies is to use the recent scientific event or current news as an attention-getter. He thinks that it is mostly successful. During the classroom observation (5/14/04), he used “electromagnetic rail gun” news from a science journal to draw his students’ interest. In an effort to keep up with new development in science, Roger subscribes to several science journals. He believes that this effort helps him to be “a quality science teacher” (second interview, 5/14/04).
Roger’s component 1-b: knowledge of students.
Roger ranked the “knowledge of students” component high on his list of relative importance to science teaching. This knowledge helps him to understand how his student learn, which is how he is able to decide how to teach (third interview, 3/15/05). This component includes a variety of elements: (1) students’ interest; (2) students’ weaknesses and learning difficulties; (3) students’ misconceptions; (4) students’ different levels; and (5) students’ different ways of learning.
When he considers his students’ interests, the lessons and activities he teaches are more likely to be successful. Therefore, he tries to establish a good rapport with his students in order to understand their interests better. Roger said, “When I see an interest in the students, the lesson tends to make it easier to teach” (second interview, 5/14/05). He also assesses his students’ understanding from their responses during the lesson. When he gets the feeling that the students are having difficulty understanding specific science concepts, he tries to modify his lesson. This process happens during his teaching, which is why he does not spend long hours planning lessons ahead of time.
He recognized from years of teaching experience that students’ weaknesses and misconceptions about specific units are repeated every year. He often considers those misconceptions prior to his lesson and tries to explain the concepts, if necessary (second interview, 5/14/04). Another element that he emphasizes is to “considering of students’ different levels.” It is necessary to have different modes and methods for dealing with different levels of student ability (first interview, 4/30/04). Finally, in his lesson planning process and during his lesson, Roger considers the different ways
that students learn. When asked to further explain why, he stated:
You can’t talk in terms that you learn in college to the students, so a teacher should know the different ways that students learn. It’s not just getting up there and lecturing all period long. You’ve got to have some pictures of them. (first interview, 4/30/04).
Roger’s component 2-a: knowledge of goals.
According to Roger, this component is “what I want my student to gain” in class (third interview, 3/15/05). This component is composed of four elements: (1) applying scientific concepts to everyday life; (2) students’ scientific thinking; (3) understanding how things work; and (4) scientific literacy.
He believes that teaching is most effective when students relate what they learn to their own knowledge and experience, and vice versa (second interview, 5/14/04). To incorporate this belief into his class, he usually uses materials that are
easily found in daily life. For example, Roger started the “electricity” unit as follows:
R: Electricity has a very large influence on our lives, but it is not well understood by many people. Electricity is used to power many
examples on your own. Since we can’t think of living without electricity, you need to know something about it. So, this unit will introduce you to some of basic facts about electricity and electromagnetism (observation, 5/14/04).