A Case Study of Beginning Science Teachers’ Subject Matter (SMK) and Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) of Teaching Chemical Reaction in Turkey

Nov. 01, 2011

Source: European Journal of Teacher Education; Vol. 34 Issue 4, p407-429. (Nov., 2011)
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study aimed to evaluate subject matter knowledge (SMK), pedagogical content knowledge (PCK), concerning chemical reactions for science teaching of beginning student teachers in Turkey.

Research question, method and sample

The following research questions formed the framework of this study:
* What is the SMK of beginning student teachers in this study’s sample concerning selected
aspects of a basic understanding of chemical reactions? And
* What do the student teachers from this sample think concerning the teaching of chemical reactions in initial science lessons at the lower secondary level?

Data was collected through a multiple choice test combined with open-ended explanations and semi-structured individual interviews.

Thirty participants answered the test concerning the subject matter knowledge (SMK).
The participants were freshman science student teachers enrolled in the Elementary Science Teacher Training Programme at a university in southeast Turkey. The participants were 14 female and 16 male. The average age of the students was 20.

Interviews concerning PCK were conducted with eight randomly-selected student teachers (three females and five males) from this sample.

Findings and Discussion

The results revealed that a high proportion of the student teachers were able to correctly apply the very basic concepts of Conservation of Mass and Conservation of Atoms. Nevertheless, at least half of the students showed essential problems in their SMK concerning these very essential aspects of chemical reactions.

However, only one quarter of the students brought a sufficient understanding with them from secondary school to correctly answer the more difficult problems regarding chemical reaction equations, stoichiometry, or limiting reagent problems.
Hence, the majority of the participants were not able to even solve the given tasks, nor to provide a scientifically correct explanation for their answer.

It was also found that the participants held traditional, naïve and teacher-centered beliefs
when it comes to their pupils’ understanding, their own instructional strategies, and assessment strategies concerning chemical reactions.

These teachers' beliefs are in contrast to the modern view of education that includes student-centered methods, an orientation towards learning processes and general educational goals, as well as a focus on the constructivist understanding of learning.

The authors suggest two major directions to approach the problems arise from these results.
First, the results of this study would suggest that the courses in university teacher education could embody a new style of teaching and learning, because this practice would also exert a large influence on the teaching practices in school, if they are intended to affect a future change toward classes which practices most probably selected and applied by student teachers later in their professional lives (Geddis and Roberts 1998).

The authors also suggest to make them explicitly known to the students, and compare them to modern and accepted forms of educational theory and pedagogy. This could lead to a cognitive conflict and conceptual change.

Geddis, A.N., and D.A. Roberts. 1998. As science students become science teachers: A perspective on learning orientation. Journal of Science Teacher Education 9: 271–92.

Updated: Nov. 28, 2012