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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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Students choose a reaction. Then, I will give them a very simple

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then attach it to the sodium place; they have to hang two labels that shows the elements, sodium, two labels that show the chlorine elements, and then one label that shows sodium chloride. The labels are the ingredients labels found on products at the store. This activity gives them real-world applications of reactions and compounds and elements that are used in their everyday lives

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Wendy believed that this was a good activity because it reviewed all five reactions, showed the students real life examples, and directed them to start reading labels. She also believes that her students can make better choices in real life as they now know what chemicals are harmful and which are not, which also benefits them.

Wendy’s component 2-b: knowledge of students.

Wendy gave equal value to “knowledge of goals” and “knowledge of students”. She reported that these two components are the determinants of both what to teach and how to teach. From Wendy’s viewpoint, the knowledge of students embraces (1) students’ prior knowledge, (2) variations in students’ learning, (3) learning difficulties, (4) students’ real life experiences, and (5) the home situation.

While the first three elements are already discussed in the previous studies in the literature (Magnusson et al., 1999), the remaining two elements seem to be new elements within “the knowledge of students” components. Therefore, I will focus on

these two new elements. Wendy provided an example of how she used students’ reallife experiences to help them better understand scientific concepts:

I used to put a lot of real-life situations that students are likely to experience in their daily life. For instance, you are driving in a car and you are making a curve and your glasses go flying off the dash, “What law does that relate to, and why?” (first interview, 12/01/03).

She also linkedth is element to her use of assessments. Instead of multiple choice questions to evaluate her students’ understanding, she develops short answer questions about science concept related to real-life situations.

For Wendy, knowing the home situation of the student is another element of “knowledge of students”. When she assigned a project, she usually encouraged students to work on it with their family members, discussing the topics related to the project. Wendy felt that involving the family helped students to enjoy and be fully engaged in the project.

Wendy’s component 3-a: knowledge of teaching strategies.

This component of PCK refers to the knowledge and skills of “how you are getting there” according to Wendy’s definition (third interview, 3/10/05). The elements within “the knowledge of teaching strategies” are: (1) effective attention getters; (2) a variety of lab activities (for instance, demonstrations, simulations, etc.);

(3) useful analogies; (4) students’ discussions; and (5) a variety of projects.

Wendy tries to make connections between what students learn in her class and their daily lives by using attention getters that represent the real world. For example, in the lesson about the difference between a mixture and a compound, she used the

cereal Total® as an attention getter:

I start out and ask them “What did you eat this morning?” And someone will say “cereal.” And I will ask, “What was in it?”, “Milk.” “What else was in it chemically?” “I don’t know.” I said, “Don’t you mind what you don’t know you know?” And I talk to them about, the cereal Total®. And I usually have a box here at that

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a magnet and I run it across and all the little iron fillings come up.

Students say “Wow.”. And I said to make it Total®, the only way

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Wendy believes that an effective attention-getter engages students in the lesson and makes the lesson successful. She usually spends a lot of time coming up with an idea for an effective attention getter while planning her lessons (third interview 3/10/05).

When it comes to her teaching strategies, Wendy reported that she makes an

effort to design laboratory activities to be student-centered:

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She reported that she was able to determine “what works” and “what has worked” throughout her years as a high school science teacher. She also stated that, though “things worked in the past, they don’t necessarily work in the future. It depends on the kids because the kids do change” (first interview, 12/01/03). Another teaching strategy that she uses for students’ better understanding of science is to let them discuss the conclusion after a lab activity. She believes that discussing their findings with supporting evidence with other students is one of the characteristics of scientists, as well as a better way to understand the concept in a solid manner (third interview, 3/10/05).

Wendy assigns her two projects every semester to her students to provide personal learning opportunities. She reported that this strategy was more successful

than she had expected:

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science I am going to let the students do some labs and research on their project. Even a lot of parents said that they learned a lot because they were looking for stuff, too. A student would say “I need something with barium nitrate,” so they are even learning. It is kind of extended out even more than I thought (second interview, 5/18/04) Wendy stated that she has acquired new ideas for student projects while participating in science teaching focused workshops.

Wendy’s component 3-b: knowledge of curriculum organization.

Wendy believes that the knowledge of curriculum organization is closely aligned with the knowledge of teaching strategies and knowledge of resources.

Interpreting her perspective on this component, I found that she views this component as a required skill for being a good science teacher. The elements within this component includes: (1) state standards of science (Texas Essentials of Knowledge and Skills [TEKS]); (2) state standardized test (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills [TAKS]); (3) skills to select what to teach; (4) skills to make connections between the units; (4) skills to organize the lesson in a specific order; and (5) flexibility.

Wendy’s definition of “curriculum” was “what a teacher needs to bring out” to the class. She stated that the knowledge of curriculum is not only the curriculum itself, but also the skills to organize the curriculum (third interview, 3.10/05). To make a decision of “what to teach,” she referred to the state standard of science, that is, TEKS (first interview 12/01/03). She also reported that TAKS is another reference to guide the curriculum because this state standardized test is very important especially in high schools (third interview 3/10/05). In explaining the reason for referring to the standards, she said, “We have to look at the TEKS and TAKS because we have to cover them all, so that’s a major portion of my planning” (first interview, 12/01/04). In addition to these standards, in Wendy’s perspective, a science teacher needs the ability to select “what to teach”. This decision should be made by a teacher because, she believes, the standard does not provide a holistic blueprint of school curriculum.

Making connections is another important skill required for all science teachers.

Wendy believes that the students learn better when a teacher makes connections among science concepts and other subjects (second interview, 5/18/04). To do so, a teacher also needs to be skilled at organizing the units or lessons in a specific order.

Wendy said:

Generally the curriculum itself is pretty well set. If you have to teach the TEKS, I would think I’d try to go, especially like in chemistry when things build upon each other. I need to go in the correct order. I can’t start off with them writing compounds if we haven’t even talked about symbols or ions or charges. Obviously we can’t do that, so it has to be in a specific order whether they [the students] can keep building upon it (first interview, 12/01/03).

Another element that is included in the knowledge of curriculum is “flexibility”.

Wendy emphasized that a science teacher should be flexible, because a science teacher can have unpredictable situations or limited materials during the laboratories or activities (second interview, 5/18/04).

Wendy’s component 3-c: knowledge of resources.

Wendy reported that this component of PCK is the complementary knowledge area of two components previously discussed “knowledge of teaching strategies” and “knowledge of curriculum organization” (third interview, 3/10/05). Although she reported that science content knowledge is an essential component of teaching science, she also stated that the science knowledge of science teachers tends to be general rather than specific (first interview, 12/01/03). For this reason, she stated it is necessary for a science teacher to be aware of available resources to find the answers.

In her viewpoint, the knowledge of resources refers to (1) the knowledge of materials including worksheets, hand-on activities and lab activities; and (2) knowledge of media and technology.

Wendy’s component 4: knowledge of assessment strategies.

Wendy ranked this component of PCK is lowest, because it is usually considered to be subordinate to “teaching practice”. She usually applies this knowledge area to readjust her lessons and teaching strategies. She stated how she

determined whether or not students understood by the questions from students:

I think I judge whether my lesson successful or not by questions the

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if they got it or not. And then obviously, when we do post-lab, the questions that are asked, I can tell if it went the right direction or not (first interview, 12/01/03).

She also uses short answer tests after every unit. All questions in a short answer test are developed based on real world situations, so her students can utilize what they have learned in her class. The students should explain why it happens or how it works in order to answer the questions properly. She believes that this is a good assessment method for understanding how students make connections between the lessons and the real-world situations.

Another strategy for assessment is that she urges her students to develop a rubric for a project or a lab activity. She believes that the students can clearly capture the objectives and the concepts related to the project or lab activity in the process of rubric development (third interview, 3/10/05). She thinks that the students also benefit from training in self-assessment, which helps them determine what they need to do. She reported that she uses her students’ rubrics in thirty percent of her assessments and usually the rubrics developed by her students are harder than the rubrics she develops.

Reflecting upon her assessment strategies, the purpose of her assessment seems to be one of “formative assessment” (NRC, 2001), in that the teacher uses assessment to assist students’ learning.

Wendy’s Conceptualization of Seven PCK Components Wendy agreed that the seven components are essential knowledge areas for science teaching, and that these components are interrelated and interact in the lesson plannin, as well as in teaching practice (third interview, 3/10/05). Figure 9 shows g how she conceptualizes PCK with the seven components. Wendy and I coconstructed the diagram during the third interview. We then modified it several times through exchanges of emails. During the modification process, I encouraged her to further develop the construct by adding linking words and explaining the relationships among the components. The diagram was initially created by a combination method of “card sort tasks” and “concept mapping” (Baxter and Leaderman, 1999). I showed her the components and elements that emerged from her data and asked her to weigh them according to their importance and explain. After that, I asked Wendy to make connections among the components to show how they are interrelated within the notion of teaching science. After getting a manuallycreated concept map, I converted it into an electronic version and sent it to Wendy.

Wendy was asked to check it and to modify it if necessary.

She stated that “knowledge of science” sets the goals and should fit the students. Her ultimate goal is to affect the students. The teaching strategies and curriculum organization are determined by the goals and bythe students. She believes that knowledge of curriculum organization (what to teach) and the knowledge of teaching strategies interact with each other. When they interact, knowledge of resources determines what to teach and how to teach.

Wendy believes that the seven components are interwoven and influence each other in teaching science. For example, the knowledge of science is strongly related to the knowledge of the goals. The knowledge of the goals determines the teaching

strategies:

I think, especially in science, there are so many things that haven’t

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are never going to find them out. We have to have people that have inquiring minds. You will have the students do a lab and they will go and have questions. “What if ?” or “Can I now do this?” That’s what we need. We need more minds like that. Otherwise we are going to stop inventing new things and finding new vaccines and stuff. So, I think it’s a big deal. And if we don’t try to get them into the inquiring mood here, where is it going to come from if we don’t do it in school? (first interview, 12/03/03).

When she was asked to name the group of knowledge components, Wendy titled it, “Essential knowledge areas for science teaching.” She believes that these essential knowledge areas are developed over years of teaching experience. She also thinks that participating in workshops helps science teachers enhance their knowledge and learn new strategies for science teaching. (third interview, 3/10/05).



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