Beginning Science Teachers’ Subject Matter Knowledge, Misconceptions, and Emerging Inquiry-based Teaching Practices

  • NSF Noyce Award # 1540797
  • First Name Elizabeth
  • Last Name Lewis
  • Email elewis3@unl.edu
  • Discipline Other:: Science teacher education
  • Co-PI(s)

    Daniel Claes, UNL, dclaes@unl.edu
    ; David Harwood, UNL, dharwood1@unl.edu
    ; Tiffany Heng-Moss, UNL, thengmoss2@unl.edu

  • Presenters

    Elizabeth B. Lewis
    , University of Nebraska-Lincoln
    , elewis3@unl.edu
    Co-authors: Ana M. Rivero, Aaron A. Musson, Lyrica L. Lucas, and Amy Tankersley
    , University of Nebraska-Lincoln
    , Seattle University

Need

The landscape of teacher preparation is complex and from a research perspective presents itself as a multilevel, multivariable puzzle. For decades, federal and state policy-makers, teacher education institutions, educational researchers, school districts, administrators, and other stakeholders have tried to determine and measure the key, malleable factors that result in effective teaching. While all U.S. states regulate science teacher certification, there has been no empirically derived minimum levels of subject matter knowledge available to inform such policies. Thus, problematically even when minimal SMK state certification requirements are met teachers may still hold persistent misconceptions. Our research of our two teacher preparation programs contribute a reliable design for producing highly-qualified teachers who can provide active, engaging, constructivist learning opportunities for diverse students while addressing rigorous national science education standards.

Goals

There are few comprehensive studies of beginning science teachers that correlate aspects of teacher preparation programs (TPPs) with enacted teaching practices (NRC, 2010). Our work addresses this research gap. The two TPPs we studied focused on developing preservice teachers’ inquiry-based science instruction, classroom discourse, knowledge of student diversity, and curriculum development in accordance with reform-based science education standards and practices. We compare the undergraduate program to the graduate program, which is more rigorous in terms of requiring more science and more education coursework. We explored how program factors, including subject matter knowledge and pedagogical knowledge, affected beginning science teachers? instruction. By studying how individual aspects of teacher qualifications and teaching interact, we can better understand how to prepare teacher candidates during the induction period to reduce attrition and accelerate professional growth.

Approach

We used a longitudinal, multi-method approach to investigating beginning science teachers’ SMK, science misconceptions, self-efficacy, and instructional practices in two TPPs. Teachers’ SMK was examined through an analysis of Misconceptions-Oriented Standards-Based Assessment Resources for Teachers (MOSART) test scores and transcript analysis. We used the Teacher Sense of Efficacy Scale, a 24-item survey instrument with a five-point scale developed by Tschannon-Moran and Hoy (2001), to investigate teachers’ self-efficacy. We conducted a 4-year longitudinal study undergraduate and master’s level science TPP graduates (Lewis, Rivero, Musson, Lu, & Lucas, 2016). We coded and analyzed science lessons to describe teachers’ enacted practices. We coded the lessons using two instruments, the EQUIP instrument (Marshall, Horton, Smart, & Llewellyn, 2008) and the Discourse in Inquiry Science Classrooms (DiISC) (Baker, et al, 2009) to measure the quality of inquiry-based instruction.

Outcomes

When we investigated the relationship of science subject matter knowledge with subsequent inquiry-based instruction, we found on average that over the induction period the MAT teachers taught lessons using more inquiry-based instruction at twice the rate of the average teacher prepared in the undergraduate program without an undergraduate degree in science. Specifically, new science teachers from the MAT program with an undergraduate degree in chemistry were better prepared to use an inquiry-based approach to teaching chemistry. Our research of our two teacher preparation programs contribute a reliable design for producing highly-qualified teachers who can provide active, engaging, constructivist learning opportunities for diverse students while addressing rigorous national science education standards.

Broader Impacts

Our work has provided evidence that factors such as science content area credit hours, science GPA, and test scores are indicative of teachers? content knowledge and possible misconceptions. Policy makers can look at these and other findings to refine state guidelines for teacher certification to ensure that teachers are strongly prepared. For secondary science teachers, state departments of education that set teacher certification policy should consider making a careful distinction among specific science disciplines, as all sciences are not the same in their learning progressions, degree of linear accumulation of knowledge, and diversity of topics. The project has informed other TPP designs and the findings have been presented at various stages at NARST and ASTE conferences with a new book chapter in press (2018).

Posted on July 4, 2018