Menu of Opportunities
Audience Needs and Challenges
|About Future Teachers|
Considerations are dependent on the grade level that the pre-service educator will teach, their level of science preparation (e.g., education major or science major), and their access to resources and opportunities. The majority of pre-service educators are elementary education majors, who need to be prepared to bring hands-on science activities into the classroom, that meet grade-specific state-mandated science content standards. In general, the curriculum for elementary teacher preparation does not include extended study of science and many elementary teachers lack confidence in science.
Other pre-service teachers may specialize in a particular field of science as they prepare to teach middle school or high school science subjects. Throughout their science coursework, there is a significant chance that all future teachers will not be exposed to teaching models that reflect the best education practices or the standards-related content for which they will be responsible. In short, their own experience with science learning may include little authentic inquiry, broad, shallow coverage of far more content than they need to master, and models of teaching that falsely separate science and education. It is left to the teacher to integrate content and pedagogy, often after they enter the classroom where they are confronted with the realities of classroom management.
It also is important to understand that the majority of pre-service teachers, whether education or science undergraduate majors, do not participate in authentic scientific inquiry; true scientific research traditionally is not experienced until graduate school, even by science majors. Thus, entry-level teachers of science may not have a strong understanding of the process or nature of science. There is a disparity in the opportunities and resources available to pre-service teachers, dependent to some degree on the training institution. While some universities may have a plethora of faculty, classes, resources, and research opportunities (whether or not they are well-leveraged in the preparation of teachers), other institutions, such as minority serving institutions and community colleges, are unable to provide these resources for their students and faculty.
|About Education Faculty Involved in Teacher Preparation|
There is tremendous variability in the depth of understanding of science and the process of science among education faculty responsible for preparing pre-service teachers. Education faculty often include science education faculty who have received strong science content but that content may be restricted to a specific field in science, often biology, and may not include much exposure to Earth and space science. Many faculty have had limited exposure to authentic science experiences, either through coursework, internships, or research. Likewise, there is tremendous variability in the construct of courses about how to teach science. These courses model to different degrees teaching practices informed by educational research and current scientific content.
Many faculty identified a need for continued exposure to current science content, as their research focuses primarily on education issues. Faculty also noted a lack of access to, and funding for, varied professional development experiences. In addition, they often are not aware of current Earth and space science resources, and thus cannot prepare future teachers in the use of these resources to support the content and process skills that K-12 educators will teach in the classroom environment.
|About Science Faculty Involved in Teacher Preparation|
Most science faculty who instruct undergraduate students at 2- and 4-year colleges are helping to prepare future teachers, as many of their students will eventually become teachers. Despite the fact that these courses represent a significant component of a future teacher’s science background and capability to teach science, the traditional content and practices of introductory science courses do not align with content and pedagogy that the future teacher must employ in the classroom. Introductory courses often cover broad content through lecture that does not humanize science; classroom teaching requires standards-aligned content explored through hands-on, inquiry based learning experiences that illustrate science as a human endeavor. For a variety of reasons, science faculty face a variety of obstacles should they choose to seek professional development that focuses on teaching methodology.
Science faculty may need greater access to the broad range and interconnected nature of science to teach introductory courses that may be expected to cover all of physical science, for instance. They may be unaware of their students’ needs and abilities—such as misconceptions, some students’ fears of science, or a belief that science consists of memorizing facts. Some science faculty may have expertise in fields completely unrelated to the topic that they are responsible for covering.
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