Asia-Pacific Forum on Science Learning and Teaching, Volume 1, Issue 1, Article 1 (July, 2000)
John Loughran
Teaching about Science Teaching and Learning:research should inform practice
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Learning Science: the importance of challenge
Through the Teaching and Learning in School Science (TLSS, Baird et al., 1989) project, Baird and Penna (1996) explored the notion of 'challenge' in great detail and concluded that:

The findings demonstrate that much of science learning and teaching fails to challenge students and teachers as it might. The causes for limited extent of challenge are multiple, and dependent on particulars of various pedagogical, curricular, personal and interpersonal, and contextual factors that are operating in a given classroom... Notwithstanding this complexity, however, the notion of challenge and of specific factors that influence it does suggest a way of acting to improve the quality of classroom practices. (P. 268)  


Increasing the 'challenge' in science teaching and learning is important. Examples of this are evidenced in studies by Hand and Peterson (1995) who developed, trialed and evaluated a constructivist learning approach in their pre-service science teacher education programs in order to enhance their student-teachers' confidence and attitudes toward science teaching. Also, Peterson and Treagust (1995) attempted to develop their student-teachers' pedagogical reasoning and were successful as demonstrated by one of the student-teachers, Jane, such that, "the process that I went through, I believe was beneficial in developing my understanding of both the concepts being taught and learnt as well as the experience of actually teaching the concepts. This side was useful and made me aware of the needs for clear explanations, demonstrations, activities etc. in science lessons (Jane, Journal - 1/21)" (p. 304). Clearly then, if understanding challenge, and teaching in ways that enhance the sense of challenge can be developed in science teacher education programs, the same must be possible in schools.


This can be demonstrated on a larger scale by the work of Hoban (1997). He extensively studied his eighty-five pre-service elementary science teachers throughout his thirteen week science methods course. He aimed to help his student-teachers develop a self-awareness about how they did (or did not) learn science, and to consider how this impacted on the way they taught science.


Through his weekly practical classes (laboratory, hands on sessions) he challenged his student-teachers' knowledge and approach to science teaching and learning and collected data through student journals and interviews. He concluded that:  

Teachers have been labelled as 'transmissive' when they attempt to deliver facts to students as passive learners... Yet how different is it when teacher educators attempt to deliver educational theory to trainee teachers as passive learners in teacher education courses?... The challenge for teacher educators, I believe, is to bring theory to life and engage pre-service teachers as reflective thinkers in the knowledge-generating process... The written reports showed that 95 per cent (81/85) of the pre-service teachers believed that they developed a self-awareness about their learning and 93 per cent (79/85) commented on how this self analysis informed their views about teaching elementary science... the pre-service teachers described twenty-two ways that helped them to learn in my course. These included four individual influences (prior knowledge, personal motivation, personal feelings, and personal confidence) and eight social influences - four from myself as the instructor (teacher explanations, modelling of instructional techniques, relationship with the teacher, and teacher enthusiasm) and four from other students (group work, class discussions, type of activities, watching other students)...[for the teacher educator] you are getting a weekly evaluation of not only what you are teaching but also how you are teaching. Hoban, 1997; pp. 145 - 147)


This growing body of knowledge about science teaching and learning has been informing the way in which science teacher educators in Australia consider their roles as teachers, researchers and learners in their respective teacher education programs. Hence, another important aspect of this work is related to how student-teachers respond to the opportunities to 'experiment' with their science teaching in the real world setting of the school as they are clearly the next generation of science teachers and their practice is important to understand if science teaching and learning is to be enhanced. It is also crucial in the influence that these beginning teachers might have both with their students when they become teachers and their colleagues with whom they will teach in schools. Clearly then, the relationship between student-teachers/beginning teachers and their colleagues is important in influencing the nature of change in science teaching and learning in schools. This perhaps begins in the practicum experiences during student-teaching.



Copyright (C) 2000 HKIEd APFSLT. Volume 1, Issue 1, Article 1 (July, 2000)