Elementary teachers' pedagogical content knowledge for teaching the nature of science

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Abstract

Although teacher educators have achieved some success in improving teachers' understanding of the nature of science (NOS), helping teachers teach NOS has proved a much greater challenge. Currently, there are few examples in the literature of teachers who effectively teach NOS, and fewer still that rely on student outcomes as a measure of teachers' effectiveness. Much remains to be understood regarding the sources, nature, and development of teachers' pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) in regard to NOS. Using S. Magnusson, J. Krajcik, and H. Borko's (1999) framework, we examined the PCK for NOS of three elementary teachers who have been successful in improving their students' understanding of NOS. We relied on interviews, questionnaires, classroom observations, and classroom artifacts collected over a 3-year period to characterize their PCK for NOS. Although each had robust knowledge of instructional strategies for teaching NOS, teachers lacked the requisite knowledge of assessment that would provide a feedback loop to support continued development of their knowledge of learners and lead to improvement in their teaching of NOS. Our findings highlight a need for professional development that focuses on developing aspects of PCK for NOS such as teachers' knowledge of assessment as well as educative curriculum materials to support continued development of teachers' PCK for NOS in practice. © 2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Sci Ed95: 145–167, 2011

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