Experienced Science Teachers' Learning in the Context of Educational Innovation

Mar. 27, 2009

Source: Journal of Teacher Education, Volume 60 Number 2, March/April 2009. p. 184-199
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In the context of educational innovation, it is important to examine how in-service teachers learn and adapt their knowledge to changing professional circumstances. The authors examined the informal learning of a small number of experienced science teachers in their first few years of teaching a new science syllabus in secondary education in the Netherlands.

Research Questions

To answer the general research question (In what ways did experienced teachers in physics, chemistry, and biology learn in the workplace, in the context of the implementation of a new syllabus on public understanding of science?), the authors formulated three specific research questions to be answered first:
1) From what combinations of professional learning activities did teachers of public understanding of science learn in the workplace in their first 5 or 6 years of teaching PUSc.? 
2) How can the course of teachers’ development be typified, that is, how did the combination of activities, and the frequency with which these activities occurred, change over this period of time? 

3) How can the changes in teachers’ competences (i.e., professional knowledge and teaching skills) be described, that is, how did competences with respect to the new syllabus of public understanding of science change over this period of time?

Participants in the Study

8 male PUSc.( public understanding of science) teachers working at 5 different schools.
They all used the same teaching method (“AntWoord”), in which the educational aims of the new syllabus are well represented. The participants varied with regard to their backgrounds, years of teaching experience, and original disciplines. Among the participants were 3 teachers of physics, 2 teachers of chemistry, and 3 teachers of biology.
Their teaching experience ranged from 11 to 29 years at the time of the study. They were all
among the first PUSc. teachers at their schools.
Before they started to teach PUSc., in the years 1998-1999, all participants took part in an in-service training course (“Introductory Course”) to become qualified to teach the new science subject.

The storyline method was used to elicit the teachers’ perceptions of their learning from experiences at work. The authors focused on three aspects of learning, namely, teachers' learning activities, courses of development, and changed competences.
From the results, two qualitatively different ways of learning were identified. Type I represents a revolutionary course of development in a teacher’s engagement in mainly individual activities in the working context. Type II symbolizes an evolutionary development in a teacher's participation in both individual and collaborative activities. Implications for
professional development initiatives are discussed, as are suggestions for initial teacher education.

Updated: Mar. 26, 2009