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«Conceptualizing Pedagogical Content Knowledge from the Perspective of Experienced Secondary Science Teachers Committee: Julie A. Luft, Supervisor ...»

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Meanwhile, in the attempt to understand and portray science teachers’ PCK with CoRe (Content Representation) and PaP-eRs (Professional and Pedagogical experience Repertoire) approaches, Loughran, Mulhall, Berry (2004) considered five aspects of PCK: (1) approaches to the framing of ideas and effective sequencing; (2) knowledge of students; (3) insightful ways of testing for understanding; (4) knowledge of difficulties and limitations connected with teaching; and (5) knowledge of alternative conceptions. Including these components, Loughran et al. (2004) developed the CoRe matrix of eight questions which include those five components of PCK to codify teachers’ PCK related to a specific content. The

eight questions used to visualize teachers’ PCK were as follows:

1. What do you intend for the students to learn about this idea?

2. Why it is important for students to know this?

3. What else do you know about this idea that you do not intend

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4. What difficulties/limitations are connected with teaching this idea?

5. What knowledge about students’ thinking influences your teaching

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Loughran et al.’s (2004) CoRe questions were adapted for the second interview in the present study. This method was suggested as “a way of collecting science teachers’ PCK and portraying it in an articulable and documentable form” (p.

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Although there is prolific research on PCK, it is interesting to note that there is no universally accepted conceptualization of it. In an effort to make sense of this complexity by reviewing the literature on PCK, I have identified four components of PCK that are commonly found in various conceptualizations of PCK. Most researchers recognize the following four components as essential parts of PCK: the knowledge of students’ understanding, instructional strategies and representations, curriculum, and purposes. Are these four categories, defined in common by researchers in this discipline, the same ones which science teachers perceive to be their unique professional knowledge domains? The goal of this study is to examine what components emerge from experienced secondary science teachers’ perspectives and how those teachers conceptualize those components in a construct for representing science teachers’ PCK. I will compare the common four components of PCK with the components which emerged from this study, and discuss in-depth the implications of the findings in Chapter 4.

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Discovery has been the aim of science since the dawn of the Renaissance. But how those discoveries are made has varied with the nature of the materials being studied and the times… Although we are studying object more worldly than, yet often just as elusive as, the sun and the stars, we, like Galileo, believe that we have an effective methods for discovery. (Strauss & Corbin, 1998, p. 1)

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This chapter will discuss the methods of inquiry, data collection and analysis for this qualitative research study. Case study design was adopted in order to reveal the perception of PCK of secondary science teachers while grounded theory was utilized as the analytic framework. As the qualitative researcher is “the primary instrument” for data collection and analysis (Merriam, 1998), I have also included a description of my background as researcher in this study. Purposeful sampling was used to select participants for the study and the criteria and process for selecting the five participants will be discussed. The data collection process and the primary data sources, including interviews and classroom observations, will be discussed in detail.

The data analysis will be described including the process and explanation of the use of NVivo 2.0 as an analytic tool. Finally, the design of the research will be compared to established criteria relating to validity.

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A case study method is utilized to conduct an in-depth investigation of how mentor science teachers perceive pedagogical content knowledge and how they conceptualize their own PCK with regard to their teaching practice. According to Merriam (1998), this research method is the best vehicle for providing “intensive descriptions and analyses of a single unit or bounded system such as an individual, program, or group” (p. 19). By employing case study methods, I intended to present an in-depth understanding of the situation and meaning for those involved.

Merriam (1998) states that the case study is particularistic. “Particularistic” is defined as focusing on “on a particular situation, event, program, or phenomenon” (p.29). This research is particularistic, in that the participants were selected from a mentoring program called “Teachers as Mentors,” hosted by Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, Texas. Within the context of mentoring, participating teachers are asked to reveal their own particular understanding of PCK.

Research on the roles that mentor teachers play demonstrates why these teachers are good subjects for understanding PCK. Mentor teachers are expected to have a deeper understanding of the subject matter as well as how it is taught in real teaching situations (Feiman-Nemser & Parker, 1990; Huling-Austin, 1992). It is reasonable to expect mentor teachers to be able to impact that knowledge to diverse student populations in the classroom (Kennedy, 1991b). They should have a broader knowledge of diverse student populations and greater skills in observing and interpreting how well they are learning as well as assisting novice teachers to teach according to national mathematics and sciences teaching standards (Austin & FraserAbder, 1995; Wang & Odell, 2002). Therefore, it seemed appropriate to select mentor teachers for articulating teachers’ perspectives of PCK. They have more opportunities to develop, elaborate, and reflect on their own expertise particularly PCK throughout the mentoring process than those who are not mentors. They may have their own ways of representing PCK that they have developed and accumulated due to many years of teaching experience.





Another characteristic of the case study is to be descriptive because a case study pursues “a rich and thick description of the phenomenon under study” (Merriam, 1998, p.29). Given the descriptive characteristic of the case study, I will enclose a general description of each participant’s background and teaching context in the following chapter, in which I will also discuss the findings of this study. I will also illuminate, in detail, specific categories and subcategories which have emerged from the interviews and class observations for each participating teacher, linking each to their teaching experience and environment. This effort will allow me to share with the reader a rich description of the components that emerged from data of each participant prior to offering their conceptualizations of it.

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Grounded theory methodology is used as the analytic framework for this study.

The primary goal of grounded theory is to generate theory inductively from collected data (Glaser and Strauss, 1967). I drew upon the techniques and procedures developed by Strauss and Corbin (1998) to develop the grounded theory analytic framework for this study. In the discussion of grounded theory methods, it may be helpful to first define theory. Strauss and Corbin (1998) define theory in the following way: “Theory denotes a set of well-developed categories (e.g., themes, concepts) that are systematically interrelated through statements of relationship to form a theoretical framework that explains some relevant social, psychological, education, nursing, or other phenomenon” (p.22). In accordance with this definition, the main goal of this study is to identify themes that indicate the domains of PCK defined by participating science teachers, and to build a theory that represents a conceptualization of PCK from the perspective of these science teachers.

In grounded theory, three types of coding are involved in the process of data

analysis (Strauss and Corbin, 1998):

• Open coding: the analytic process through which concepts are identified and their properties and dimensions are discovered in data

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• Axial coding: the process of relating categories to their subcategories, termed “axial” because coding occurs around the axis of a category, linking categories at the level of properties and dimensions (p. 123);

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procedures for finding a theory, as defined earlier in this section. Detailed descriptions of the specific processes will be provided in the data analysis section of this chapter. The categories and theories that emerged from this study will be discussed at length in Chapter 4.

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In attempting to articulate the teacher’s perspective of PCK, of course, it is inevitable that I, as a researcher should bring to the study my own perspective. This perspective derived from my own experience of teaching as well as theoretical sources generated the basic assumption that guided the study. That basic assumption, of course, is simply that practical knowledge of teachers exists, and this knowledge is experientially acquired. The characteristics and criteria of this knowledge can thus be defined through a direct examination of the thinking of teachers at work. This statement implies both a particular way of speaking about teachers’ knowledge and a methodological commitment to a particular way of studying that knowledge.

For a significant part of my professional career, I taught middle school science and high school earth science in an urban area in Korea. As a middle school teacher, I taught general science and biology to seventh through ninth grade students for four years. As a high school teacher, I taught earth science and general science to tenth through twelfth grade students in an urban school with a population of approximately 2000 students. During my years of teaching, I struggled with being a good science teacher. Since I double-majored in Geology and Science Education at college, I was pretty confident with my knowledge of science content. However, I learned over the years of teaching both in middle school and high school that teaching science was different from knowing science. Following a desire to be more knowledgeable in science education and to be a science teacher educator, I decided to pursue graduate work in the United States, which led me to The University of Texas at Austin.

A considerable amount of my work in graduate school has been with the Texas Regional Collaboratives for Excellence in Science Teaching (TRC). This program is a statewide network of K-16 partnerships that provides sustained and high intensity professional development to K-12 teachers of science. My role in this program has involved both evaluation and research. I was responsible for collecting and analyzing data pertaining to the impact of the program on the practices of participating teachers. My research interest emerged from work in TRC as a graduate research assistant. During one of our meetings, a teacher asked me about pedagogical content knowledge (PCK). We spoke about this concept, and I ultimately decided this would be an area worth deeper investigation. Two years ago I began a study of the PCK of mentor teachers.

A significant amount of my time in the last year has been devoted to conceptualizing PCK from the perspective of experienced secondary science teachers.

The concept of PCK is difficult to describe because there appears to be no particular best practice in science teaching. Thus, I believe that this study would be valuable in

–  –  –

The participants in this study were recruited from a mentoring program hosted by Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio. “Teachers as Mentors” is an inservice teacher professional development program designed to enhance beginning teachers’ PCK and skills through the mentoring process. The purpose of the Teachers as Mentors program is to train master science teachers to be mentors and thus provide support to induction year teachers. This mentoring program includes a cohort of 30 teachers who will serve as mentors for 90 novice teachers during their induction year for South Central Texas school district. Through this mentoring program, experienced mentor teachers play a role in facilitating beginning teachers’ development as professionals, and they also have a chance to revitalize themselves by enhancing their own teaching and leadership skills.

Mentor teachers and program personnel in the “Teachers as Mentors” program were invited to participate voluntarily in this study via electronic mail. Mentor science teachers in the “Teachers as Mentors” program — who must have more than ten years of teaching experience and more than three years of mentoring experience— were eligible for this study. Participation was open to all eligible teachers in the program regardless of age, gender, and ethnicity.

Initially, I asked the project director to identify a list of eligible teachers in the program and I contacted them individually via email. After many email exchanges encouraging participation, five secondary science teachers (with more than ten years of teaching experience and three years of mentor experience) were finally selected for semi-structured, one-on-one interviews and classroom observations (Table 3). The

following is a brief description of each participant’s background:

1. Wendy has 28 years of teaching experience in high school and is currently teaching Chemistry, Physics, and advanced placement Biology. She has a bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology and Biology and a master’s in Biology and Integrated Science. She is actively engaged in this mentoring program and participating enthusiastically in many workshops for science teachers.

2. Shawna has 32 years of teaching experience and is currently teaching sixth grade science in a public school. As an undergraduate, she earned a degree in Elementary Education and returned to college for Certification in Secondary Science teaching. She also has a master’s degree in Education Administration.

She serves as a mentor of the mentor teachers in the program.



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