Elementary student teachers' science content representations

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Abstract

This purpose of this study was to examine the ways in which three prospective teachers who had early opportunities to teach science would approach representing science content within the context of their student teaching experiences. The study is framed in the literature on pedagogical content knowledge and learning to teach. A situated perspective on cognition is applied to better understand the influence of context and the role of the cooperating teacher. The three participants were enrolled in an experimental teacher preparation program designed to enhance the teaching of science at the elementary level. Qualitative case study design guided the collection, organization, and analysis of data. Multiple forms of data associated with student teachers' content representations were collected, including audiotaped planning and reflection interviews, written lesson plans and reflections, and videotaped teaching experiences. Broad analysis categories were developed and refined around the subconstructs of content representation (i.e., knowledge of instructional strategies that promote learning and knowledge of students and their requirements for meaningful science learning). Findings suggest that when prospective teachers are provided with opportunities to apply and reflect substantively on their developing considerations for supporting children's science learning, they are able to maintain a subject matter emphasis. However, in the absence of such opportunities, student teachers abandon their subject matter emphasis, even when they have had extensive background and experiences addressing subject-specific considerations for teaching and learning. © 2002 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 39: 443–463, 2002

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