Exploring the Role of Identity in Elementary Preservice Teachers who Plan to Specialize in Science Teaching

January 2017

Source: Teaching and Teacher Education, Volume 61 (2017) 199-210
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The authors want to understand how preservice teachers, who enrolled in elementary science concentration, negotiate a science teacher identity to support their motivations and goals to teach elementary science.
Specifically, the authors explore how preservice elementary teachers identify with the coursework and reformed-based practices exemplified in the elementary science concentration (ESC), and how these courses position them to become future elementary specialists.

The participants were 20 preservice teachers, participated in four discipline-specific science teaching methods courses to become elementary science specialists.
Nineteen were females and one male.
All participants had completed one undergraduate science course outside of the College of Education prior to their enrollment in the elementary science concentration (ESC).
Data were collected through semi-structured interviews.

The authors argue that when elementary preservice teachers joined the concentration, they held preconceptions of effective and ineffective ways to teach science that was facilitated by initial influences within previous experiences. The participants also shared how these influences led them to the decision to join the concentration.
Results suggest that when elementary preservice teachers learned science through hands-on, constructivist practices, they negotiated norms about how they believed that science could be taught and compared it to their own previous experiences. In early experiences with constructivist practices, participants described learning science as fun and innovative.
Participants who had completed one class discussed their developing content knowledge and their developing pedagogical knowledge separately, indicating that they were still negotiating learning and teaching science.

The authors found by introducing elementary preservice teachers to a variety of resources showed participants that planning for and teaching science is complex that goes beyond the use of a textbook.
The participants developed the dispositions of reformed elementary science teachers as they used models, planned and carried out investigations, and saw the cross cutting concepts between sciences and how science and engineering practices were used in each of the disciplines. By experiencing these scientific practices in a multitude of ways and within each specific discipline, participants were able to distinguish between the differences and commonalities of these science domain cultures. These results indicate that developing discipline-specific scientific dispositions is a critical step in the negotiation of an elementary science teacher identity.
Elementary preservice teachers who completed three or four classes saw themselves as a possible teacher of science as well as a learner of science. The authors found that incorporating informal methods into courses as well as having a separate informal methods course essential to developing ESPTs science teacher identity. The participants discussed taking nature walks themselves for “fun” and inviting friends to visit science museums. They were excited about incorporating informal learning into the curriculum, and valued experiences working with families and students outside of the classroom, similar to preservice teachers in other effective science methods courses.
In addition to interest and usefulness of science teaching and learning, preservice teachers who completed three and four courses also valued the importance of learning science and teaching science well to elementary students.

The elementary preservice teachers, who completed the elementary science concentration, narrated and demonstrated dispositions of an influential and effective elementary science teacher. The participants, who gained experiences in reformed based teaching through multiple discipline specific courses, developed competence in discipline specific science knowledge and teaching, performed the action and skills necessary to teach discipline specific science, and recognized themselves and each other as elementary science teacher leaders.

The authors conclude that providing elementary preservice teachers with individual courses that focus on the standards and expectations of elementary students in a particular domain influences the progression from learner to teacher in content and in practice. 

Updated: Apr. 24, 2018