Source: Journal of Science Teacher Education, Vol. 24, No. 8, December 2013, p. 1357-1379.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
In this article, the authors investigated how the informal science education (ISE) innovations
in the elementary teacher education program affected the participants as they began their professional lives as classroom teachers of science.
The participants were two first-year elementary classroom teachers.
Both had stated that they had negative prior experience in their own science learning, a common barrier to successful science teaching.
The two teachers differed in their cultural backgrounds: one teacher is African American, who accepted a placement in a third grade class in a large suburban school district, with broad ethnic diversity. The other teacher is Caucasian and began her teaching career in a mid-Atlantic city school system that draws mainly from an African American population.
Data collection methods included interviews, electronic communications, and drawing prompts.
The authors found that the two participants referenced as important the ISE experiences in their development of classroom science identities that included resilience, excitement and engagement in science teaching and learning–qualities that are emphasized in ISE contexts. Specifically, the affective benefits derived from the infusion of ISE contributed to developing how they came to see and enact reform-oriented science teaching practices.
These two case studies provide examples of how the persistence to teach science is in part due to how they learned to think of themselves while engaging in ISE activities, especially lacking a larger variety of other science teaching examples during the NCLB years.
This research suggests that the ISE internship contributed, in a way that the authors found discernible, to the direction it took in our interns during the time we studied them, which was positive. Certainly, in the context of the NCLB in which USA classroom science education has diminished and when it does occur is typically more direct instruction in style than investigative, the ISE provided our interns a strikingly different model of science education to attempt to include in their science teaching in formal contexts.
In addition, the focus on ISE in this project appears to have had a part in the development of the two case participant teachers’ confidence and enthusiasm to teach elementary classroom science. Both teachers began their elementary teaching programs with a stated fear of teaching science, attributed to their own negative school experiences.
One teacher convinced the authors that she was now a confident and enthusiastic science learning advocate. The other teacher is more hesitant at the term ‘‘science teacher,’’ admitting that she was a work in progress. How much of this difference is the term itself or the result of many different, and perhaps confounding variables, remains a question for further investigation.
The authors found that the first year of elementary classroom science teaching was challenging to the two case participant teachers.
In conclusion, the authors believe the empirical study adds to the growing evidence that the inclusion of ISE experiences in elementary teacher preparation contributes memorably to new teachers’ classroom science teacher identity for the twenty-first Century.