«Conceptualizing Pedagogical Content Knowledge from the Perspective of Experienced Secondary Science Teachers Committee: Julie A. Luft, Supervisor ...»
After that, he took out a bulb from his drawer and put it into a microwave in front of students. He asked the students, “What would happen if I turn on this microwave?” The students responded, “You can’t put a light bulb in a microwave!” When I interviewed him after the lesson, he said that this type of question prompts students to think scientifically. According to Roger, scientific thinking is one of the goals that he want his students to gain in his class.(second interview, 5/14/04) He believes that students are able to understand how things work by scientific thinking, and he expects his students to learn how to think scientifically in his class (first interview, 4/30/05).
In addition, Roger tries to develop lessons aiming at “scientific literacy.” He
Science touches the lives of everybody without [them] even knowing it. You can’t go through life not knowing how things work. “Why does a light bulb light when the microwave’s power is on?” “Why does ice float?” Those are certain things that you’ve got
stuff. So, science is basically in every aspect of somebody’s life.
You can’t go through life not knowing about it. (second interview, 5/14/04) Roger’s component 2-b: knowledge of teaching strategies.
Roger recognizes “knowledge of teaching strategies” as a tool for conveying science knowledge and for achieving the goals of the lesson. This component consists of four elements: (1) an attention-getter; (2) various teaching methods; (3) selecting
Roger tries to use an attention-getter to engage his students in the lesson. He stated, “My strategy is to start the class off with an attention-getter. So I always try to come up with some demonstration or some current event” (second interview, 5/14/05).
When he sets specific lesson plans in the unit, he uses at least one attention-getter related to the topic for each lesson (first interview, 4/30/05).
He found that the lessons tend to be more successful when the attention-getter works. Since students may not respond as expected, he stated that a teacher should prepare various methods for teaching a lesson.
When asked about how he got to know a variety of teaching methods, he responded, “Trial and error. Going to workshops. Certainly getting my degree in Education gave me a lot of different ideas and gave us various methods on how to teach science” (first interview, 4/30/05). He also reported that he holds onto teaching
methods when they turn out to be effective. Roger said:
then it winds up getting pushed aside. And I try another thing. So, trial and error — and determining from that, which works best and which doesn’t [work] (first interview, 4/30/05).
According to Roger, given the different levels of students, a science teacher needs to know various teaching methods. He stated, “Everybody has different levels, so you have to have a lot of different modes and methods of doing that, so a large supply of resources and methods of transferring that information” (first interview, 4/30/04).
In addition to knowing a variety of teaching methods, science teachers need the ability to select an activity, which is another element within the “knowledge of teaching strategies.” He stated, “You [science teachers] should select what you are trying to convey and what activities you can do with it — either hands-on or visual.
So, you need to look at the whole spectrum of possibilities” (first interview, 4/30/04).
In the second interview (5/14/04), he also stated:
beginning to think that a science teacher really has to choose his or her labs wisely. Otherwise, the amounts of time they [students] consume versus the content that they [students] pick up are not efficient. And just because a science teacher is supposed to have forty percent lab time doesn’t mean that you are getting the best teaching out of that. I think it’s best to really look at the subject and then decide, “Is it going to be better with lab or just basic teaching methods: lecture, notes, and book work?” (second interview, 5/14/04) The last element within this component is flexibility. What this means is being able to adjust one’s lessons or activities according to students’ responses. Roger thinks that teaching practice is often different from lesson
planning, so he does not spend a lot of time setting up lesson plans. He stated:
writing out an entire week or month, I find that’s difficult to do. I do change plans and activities, even during the lesson. It depends on how my students respond or how are the supplies available. So, I think being flexible is very important to a science teacher (first
The sources from which Roger has acquired “knowledge of teaching strategies” are workshops and further education in an advanced degree. He also expands this knowledge by observing other teachers.
Roger’s component 3: knowledge of resources.
According to Roger, this component affects teaching strategies. This component includes four elements: (1) local facilities and organizations; (2) materials; (3) activities; and (4) science magazines.
He often visits nearby local facilities for field trip with his students. For
Next week, we’re going to Dos Rios Reclamation Facility, where
processes and coming out into the Medina River. So, they [students] will be seeing that. So, we are looking at wastewater.
And actually we’re in Meteorology, so we are studying what happens to the water that hits the ground, the runoff, and the water
Roger thinks that field trips allow his students to learn about the function of local facilities and organizations and make connections between what they learn and their real lives.
He also researches materials and activities for his science lessons and keeps collected materials and ideas about activities or lessons on his computer for future use.
As mentioned earlier, he uses current science news as an attention-getter. Therefore, he subscribes to several science magazines and collects articles for his lessons.
Roger’s component 4: knowledge of assessment strategies.
Roger’s main assessment strategies include quizzes and examinations because he believes that understanding basic concepts is required to achieve his goals for the class. This component includes: (1) benchmark tests, (2) questioning, (3) follow-up laboratories, (4) allowing students to grade their lab work (student self-assessment), and (5) immediate feedback.
Roger usually starts his class with a “benchmark test” to monitor students’ prior knowledge. This test helps him look at students’ weak areas. He also uses oral questions because this allows him to visualize what students understand in the lesson (first interview, 4/30/05).
Another part of Roger’s assessment strategy is the “follow-up laboratory,” which means having students do laboratory activities that apply what they have learned (third interview, 3/15/05). Since these are open activities, his students have to come up with the ideas, do the experiments, and draw conclusions by themselves.
Roger also allows his students to develop their own criteria for grading their lab work.
He thinks that the students are able to grasp the core ideas while developing their own grading rubric.
Given that the purpose of assessment is to help students’ learning, Roger said, a science teacher needs to give immediate feedback on students’ work. He believes that this skill is required to be a good science teacher (third interview, 3/15/05).
Roger’s component 5: knowledge of curriculum organization.
The last component that emerged from Roger’s data is “knowledge of curriculum organization.” He stated that a solid “knowledge of science” supports this knowledge area. He reported that the level of his knowledge is not as proficient as he would like because he does not spend a lot of time setting lesson plans. He usually follows his instinct and makes a decision what to teach in the subsequent lessons based on how students respond to a particular lesson. This component includes five elements: (1) TEKS; (2) TAKS; (3) district standards; (4) expanding on a concept;
and (5) making connections between concepts.
Roger decides “what students need to know” based on TEKS and TAKS,
period of time. So, it’s very important that we pick out just exactly what we need and try and teach it (first interview, 4/30/05).
He also relies upon the district standards to organize curriculum because they are
more specific. He reported:
District standards are given to us and that pretty much outlines what
benchmark tests that come up at particular time frames. It is TEKSrelated. It’s a test to allow the teacher to see if they are meeting the standards put out by the district and where their weak areas are as far as the teacher just by looking at whether the students were having success or no success (first interview, 4/30/05).
Additionally, he reported that participating in professional development workshop is important because he often gains the ability to make a decision about what to teach and how to select from among them(second interview, 5/13/04).
Roger reported that he usually starts to get students to understand simple concepts and then move to more complex concepts in order to expand upon those basic concepts. For example, he said, “They really get an idea how the magnetic field leaves one end and then rotated to the other side. And then, I talk about earth’s magnetic field” (second interview, 5/14/04). Given that there are a lot of interrelationships among different science concepts, Roger also thinks that a science teacher needs to know how to make connections between the lessons (second interview, 5/14/04).
Roger’s Conceptualization of Seven PCK Components The seven components and elements that emerged from the analysis of Roger’s data, were reviewed and modified several times — due to the discussion between Roger and me — and he added a couple of elements to some components during the final interview. After this process, Roger agreed that these seven components form a science teacher’s knowledge for teaching science. He then drew a diagram showing how the seven components are interrelated within the practice of teaching science. His conceptualization of PCK is shown in Figure 11.
Roger stated that having solid science knowledge is the most essential part of teaching science. He thinks that this component of knowledge is a driving force behind teaching science. Along with “knowledge of science,” he reported that his understanding of students is the other important part of teaching science. These two components determine “what his class is aiming at” (goals), “what to teach” (curriculum organization), and “where to look for activities and information” (resources). He put these three components in a group because all are determined by the “knowledge of science” and “knowledge of students.” Of these three components, “curriculum organization” is influenced by “goals,” as well as by“resources.” The three components mentioned above, as a group, produce “how to teach” He reported that his teaching strategies rely heavily upon “resources.” He also thinks that “knowledge of teaching strategies” is linked to “knowledge of assessment strategies,” because he usually develops his assessment methods based on how he taught the lesson. In doing so, he also often comes up with an idea of “how to teach.” Therefore, he thinks that these two components are tied to each other. He also addressed the needs for readjusting teaching strategies according to students’ responses.
When asked to title the diagram, he named it “science teachers’ knowledge flow chart.” He usually finds that this routine happens in his science teaching practice, regardless of the specific topic being addressed.
Emily is the fourth participant in this study. The “Teachers as Mentors” project director has worked with Emily in a couple of projects for more than five years. She identified Emily as an exemplary and student-centered middle school science teacher and recommended her for this study. Emily was very busy, due to her being a participant in several projects for professional development. She was also serving as a teaching assistant for an instructor of a Chemistry course at the university.
The course instructor, who serves as one of the instructors for the “Teachers as Mentors” project, also recommended Emily for the study. This Chemistry course was one of the required courses for completing the master’s degree in Integrated Science at the university. She has earned her master’s in this program and she is currently assisting in experiments and activities in this course.
As the study progressed, she moved from middle school to high school, which kept her busier and unable to reply to my emails. Although she readily gave me her consent to be a participant in the study, it was really difficult to set an interview schedule and the interviews were mostly conducted after school in her classroom or before her class at the university.
Emily had been seeking a degree in the Accounting program for two years at college, but she did not finish. After that, she got a job as a special education paraprofessional at another middle school. While working in the middle school, she decided to go back to college and get her degree to teach science at the age of thirty years. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Biology and Chemistry and was certified in Biology and Chemistry for high school. She also took the Examination for the Certification of Educators in Texas (ExCET) in Life and Earth Science. She then earned her Master’s degree in Integrated Science at the same university. As the study started, she was teaching in a middle school, but has now moved to a high school.