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Keywords:

  • biology;
  • science teacher education;
  • inquiry

Abstract

Inscriptions are central to the practice of science. Previous studies showed, however, that preservice teachers even those with undergraduate degrees in science, generally do not spontaneously produce inscriptions that economically summarize large amounts of data. This study was designed to investigate the production of inscription while a group of 15 graduate-level preservice science teachers engaged in a 15-week course of scientific observation and guided inquiry of two organisms. The course emphasized the production of inscriptions as a way of convincingly supporting claims when the students presented their results. With continuing emphasis on inscriptional representations, we observed a significant increase in the number and type of representations made as the course unfolded. The number of concrete, text-based inscriptions decreased as the number of graphs, tables and other sorts of complex inscriptions increased. As the students moved from purely observational activities to guided inquiry, they made many more transformations of their data into complex and abstract forms, such as graphs and concept maps. The participants' competencies to cross-reference ultimate transformations to initial research questions improved slightly. Our study has implications for the traditional methods by which preservice science teachers are taught in their science classes. © 2007 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 44: 538–564, 2007.