Perspectives on learning, learning to teach and teaching elementary science

Research output: ThesisThesis defended at external organisation, UG (co)promotor, external graduate (EDEP)

Abstract

The framework that characterizes this work is that of elementaryteachers' learning and development. Specifically, the ways in whichprospective and beginning teachers' develop pedagogical contentknowledge for teaching science in light of current recommendations forreform emphasizing teaching and learning science as inquiry areexplored. Within this theme, the focus is on three core areas: (a) theuse of technology tools (i.e., web-based portfolios) in support oflearning to teach science at the elementary level; (b) beginningteachers' specialized knowledge for giving priority to evidence inscience teaching; and (c) the applications of perspectives associatedwith elementary teachers' learning to teach science in Cyprus, where Iwas born and raised. The first manuscript describes a study aimed atexploring the influence of web-based portfolios and a specific task insupport of learning to teach science within the context of aProfessional Development School program. The task required prospectiveteachers to articulate their personal philosophies about teaching andlearning science in the form of claims, evidence and justifications in aweb-based forum. The findings of this qualitative case study revealedthe participants' developing understandings about learning and teachingscience, which included emphasizing a student-centered approach,connecting physical engagement of children with conceptual aspects oflearning, becoming attentive to what teachers can do to supportchildren's learning, and focusing on teaching science as inquiry. Theway the task was organized and the fact that the web-based forumprovided the ability to keep multiple versions of their philosophiesgave prospective teachers the advantage of examining how theirphilosophies were changing over time, which supported a continuousengagement in metacognition, self-reflection and self-evaluation. Thepurpose of the study reported in the second manuscript was to examinethe nature of a first-year elementary teacher's specialized knowledgeand practices for giving priority to evidence in science teaching. Thefindings of this study indicated that Jean not only articulated, butalso enacted, a student-centered approach to teaching science, whichemphasized giving priority to evidence in the construction of scientificexplanations. It also became evident through data analysis that Jean'spractices were for the most part consistent with her knowledge andbeliefs. This contradicts the findings of previous studies that indicatea mismatch between beginning teachers' knowledge and practices.Furthermore, the findings of this study illustrated that criticalexperiences during teacher preparation and specific universitycoursework acted as sources through which this aspect of pedagogicalcontent knowledge was generated. The third manuscript proposes newdirections for teaching science in elementary schools in Cyprus andmakes recommendations to improve the current teacher preparation programin light of the need for a reform. This manuscript is built uponcontemporary perspectives of learning and cognition, and is informed bycurrent trends in science education in the United States and UnitedKingdom. Issues of teaching and learning science as inquiry, engaging inscientific argumentation, and the use of software scaffolds in supportof learning and learning to teach science are discussed with specialattention to the unique educational setting of Cyprus.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Pennsylvania State University
Award date1-Aug-2003
Publisher
Print ISBNs9780542371899
Publication statusPublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes

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