Preservice Science Teachers’ Uses of Inscriptions in Science Teaching

Feb. 15, 2013

Source: Journal of Science Teacher Education, 24(7), p. 1103-1132, 2013.

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study investigated preservice science teachers’ use of inscriptions in their peer teaching lessons.

Seven preservice science teachers (three females and four males) participated in the study, all of whom are in a program leading to secondary teaching certification in diverse scientific fields.
They participated in a secondary science teaching methods course in a large mid-Atlantic university’s teacher education program.
Video recordings of seven preservice teachers’ lessons were analyzed for inscriptional use.


The results indicate that they used different kinds of inscriptions for a wide range of purposes, both pedagogical and normative, and the level of abstractness of inscriptions used varied across different science sub-disciplines.
Inscriptions were used pedagogically to bridge the students’ everyday concepts to more scientific concepts and did not represent inscriptional practices that scientists would use as part of practicing science.
Preservice teachers also used inscriptions normatively, the way a scientist would use them as part of their scientific practice, either to help a scientist understand and visualize their own thinking or to communicate scientific knowledge within their community.

The finding demonstrated that preservice teachers have multiple purposes when using inscriptions and that their purposes differ from scientists’ purposes.
Preservice teachers use inscriptions to help students conceptually understand science and to communicate students’ understanding of science for themselves and others.
Preservice teachers, in many respects, are asking their students to use inscriptions as scientist would.
They ask students to create inscriptions to help students make sense of their own thinking
In addition to these purposes, preservice teachers also used inscriptions as formative assessment, to engage students in the lesson and to review at the end of a lesson.

This study indicates that inscriptions and their relation to the discourse and practices of science are critically important as an area of emphasis in preparing preservice teachers.
However, the types and purposes of inscriptions and inscriptional practices are different in science and teaching science.
Therefore, preservice teachers should be encouraged to use inscriptions in a way that leads to K-12 students collecting data and creating inscriptions from data followed with interpretations of inscriptions to construct explanations and make arguments.

Updated: Sep. 26, 2016