Crossing the Border from Science Student to Science Teacher: Preservice Teachers’ Views and Experiences Learning to Teach Inquiry

From Section:
Professional Development
Apr. 02, 2013

Source: Journal of Science Teacher Education, Vol. 24, Issue 3, April 2013, p. 427-447.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study investigated preservice science teachers’ successes and struggles in moving back and forth across the cultural border between science student and inquiry-oriented science teacher.

The authors posed two research questions:
(1) During the toxicology investigation, when and where did explicit instances of border crossing between science student and science teacher emerge?
(2) How did these instances of border crossing compare in structure and substance to instances where preservice teachers shared their understanding of inquiry as science students and as beginning science teachers?

The participants were eight preservice science teacher participants were enrolled in a small, post-baccalaureate teacher education program in Southern California.
The eight constituted the teacher education program’s entire secondary science cohort for the 2006–2007 academic year.

Research Design and Methods
The authors used an ethnographic perspective to inform their decisions about data collection and analysis.
To investigate border crossing among preservice science teachers, they collected four types of data.
One, they videotaped a total of 14.5 h of small group and whole class interactions over eight class sessions.
Two, they collected preservice teachers’ drafts, final reports, and peer reviews from their toxicology investigation (a total of 48 documents).
Inquiry lesson plans (one from each of four lesson plan pairs) constituted a third type of data.

Finally, as their fourth type of data, pairs of preservice teachers (grouped by investigation partners) were interviewed about their understanding of inquiry and ways they might incorporate inquiry into their secondary science classrooms.


The authors conducted two types of qualitative analyses.
One, they drew from Costa (Sci Educ 79: 313–333, 1995) to group their preservice teacher participants into one of four types of potential science teachers.
Two, they identified successes and struggles in preservice teachers’ attempts to negotiate the cultural border between veteran student and beginning teacher.
They found that preservice teachers were willing and interested in teaching science as inquiry.

The authors offer three implications of their study.
One possible interpretation of their results is that more subtle fractures existed in preservice teachers’ understanding of and experiences with inquiry—fractures their two analyses missed.
The authors suggest research on teacher education could be strengthened by exploring the ‘‘messy’’ notion of border crossing, particularly in studies of preservice teachers’ successes and struggles in learning to teach science as inquiry.

A second implication of this study is that beginning teachers’ willingness to and ease in implementing inquiry may hinge on their capacity to assess and adapt instruction to their students’ abilities and understandings.
A third implication is the need for science teacher educators to provide more guidance and more practice in participating in the peer review process.

In conclusion, the authors suggest teacher educators and preservice teachers could both benefit from explicit opportunities to navigate the border between learning and teaching science.
As a result, preservice teachers could deepen their conceptions of inquiry beyond those exclusively fashioned as either student or teacher.

Costa, V. B. (1995). When science is ‘‘another world’’: Relationships between worlds of family, friends, school, and science. Science Education, 79, 313–333.

Updated: Jul. 24, 2018
Active learning | Inquiry | Lesson plans | Preservice teachers | Science instruction | Science teachers | Student experience