Possibilities and Limits of Integrating Science and Diversity Education in Preservice Elementary Teacher Preparation

Aug. 01, 2014

Source: Journal of Science Teacher Education, Volume 25, Issue 5, (August 2014), 601-619
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In this article, the authors investigate if preservice teachers that experienced the CFSEP model in their science methods course and teaching practicum demonstrate stronger beliefs and practices in culturally responsive science pedagogy than a comparison group of preservice teachers.

The participants were 65 teacher candidates in the intervention group, who received a science methods course and teaching practicum experience that provided guidance in teaching science in culturally and linguistically responsive ways.
The authors compare changes between a control group of 45 preservice teachers and those involved in the intervention.

The authors used two researcher-created instruments to capture the impact of the intervention on novice teachers: the Science and Diversity Pedagogy Survey, which gauges teacher beliefs, in particular how they value certain pedagogies; and the Dialogic Activity in Science Instruction (DAISI) Observation Protocol, which is a classroom observation instrument designed to capture the range of teaching practices in the classroom related to science teaching using the Center for Research on Education Diversity and Excellence (CREDE), referred to as the CREDE Five Standards for Effective Pedagogy (CFSEP).


The findings reveal that preservice teachers in both groups held strong beliefs about the efficacy of all the practices at the onset of the intervention. Preservice teachers in the study agreed that the practices enhance and are important for science learning.
Observations of these preservice teachers during their teaching practicum revealed differences in favor of the intervention group in:
(a) Implementing science instruction that addressed the language and literacy involved in science
The intervention group increased more than the control group in their beliefs about the efficacy of this practice, which includes teacher’s use of purposeful grouping and sharing authority with students during science investigations.
The findings also reveal that coherence between experiences in the science methods course and teacher candidates’ placement was a contributing factor for preservice teachers in the intervention group being able to more successfully implement Language and Literacy Development, Instructional Conversation, and Challenging Activities teaching practices into their science teaching than the comparison group.

(b) Using questions that elicited higher order thinking
Science instructors in the intervention group exemplified this practice through not only
what they taught (e.g., readings about cooperative learning in science) but also how they taught the course (e.g., students working in small groups on in class investigations). They revisited this practice constantly because they found it most aligned with their vision of science education.

(c) Providing scaffolds (e.g., purposeful feedback, probing student background knowledge) when confronting abstract scientific concepts
The results indicate that science methods instructors and the master teachers used a common language in their presentation and feedback provided to the intervention teacher candidates. Such alignment allowed participants to hear a unified voice about how to enact science instruction that supported the learning of the culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) students in their class.
Master teachers honed in on providing feedback on practices that supported the academic language development as well as science understandings given that large numbers of their students were English learners and speakers of non-standard English. Teacher candidates in turn ensured the science lessons they taught, more directly addressed practices that would sharpen students’ academic language and science understandings.

Implications for Pre-Service Teacher Education

The authors argue that preservice teachers strengthen their beliefs about diversity pedagogy in science when these practices are explicitly labeled, modeled and they receive feedback on their enactment of these practices. Hence, science teacher educators who plan to enhance the manner in which they address the needs of CLD students in their courses must be observant of the need of this level of detail in unpacking these practices, and to craft experiences for preservice teachers that revisit these practices. To facilitate this process, considerations regarding the natural convergence between science and diversity education requires more attention. This may offer science methods instructors approaches to enact the diversity pedagogy in ways that are aligned with the scientific enterprise.

Furthermore, the notion of coherence between what preservice teachers experience in their teacher preparation program and their clinical experience, also shows potential for assisting preservice teachers in enacting practices that support the science learning of CLD students. More conversations between methods instructors and master teachers can create a more lucid experience for preservice teachers. These conversations could help avoid confusions that arise from hearing different language used to explain the same practice. Integrating diversity pedagogy as defined by the CFSEP and science education with guidance from science methods instructors and support from master teachers shows promise in assisting preservice teachers to enhance their science teaching by considering the cultural and linguistic resources that are present among the students they work with in schools.

Updated: Nov. 30, 2016