"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Who Can Teach Science?

Although studies on what future teachers in the sciences need are ample, countries like the Philippines need to address not just the future needs, but more importantly, the present needs of their basic education system. There are students now that need quality science instruction. These children cannot wait for future science teachers. To this end, it is important to find a solution that can alleviate the situation right now. Thus, a better question to ask is how can we help those who are currently teaching science.
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There are various indicators that may be used to measure how well a teacher can teach science. It is evident that poor science instruction at the elementary level comes from poor preparation of teachers in these fields. Teachers generally have received poor science preparation in teaching schools or colleges. Science instruction not only requires good pedagogical training but also strong content knowledge. Current interventions unfortunately usually focus on how to teach, and on how students learn, not so much on increasing the teacher's knowledge in the subject. It may seem obvious that teaching a chemistry teacher good chemistry may improve instruction. Ironically, workshops or professional development programs rarely tackle or improve teachers' content knowledge. A recent study published in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching shows that an intervention program that targets a teacher's content knowledge in the sciences works:


Abstract
Teacher knowledge of science content is an important but under-studied construct. A curricular and professional development intervention consisting of a fifth grade science curriculum, teacher workshops, and school site support was studied to determine its effect on teachers’ science content knowledge as measured by a science knowledge test, a questionnaire, and classroom observations. These three measures, along with college science courses taken, were then used to examine the effect of teachers’ science content knowledge on student achievement outcomes. The intervention had a significant effect on the treatment group teachers’ science knowledge test scores and questionnaire responses compared to the control group, but not on the classroom observation ratings. Teachers’ scores on the science knowledge test were found to be the largest significant teacher-level predictor of student achievement outcomes regardless of participation in the intervention.
# 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 51: 635–658, 2014
It should be noted that the paper above measures a teacher's science content knowledge through the following TEST:
Teacher Science Knowledge Test (TEST).The teacher science knowledge test consists of 24 multiple-choice and six short response items. Of the 30 items, 24 were taken from Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) or National Assessment of Educational Programs (NAEP) and six items were project-developed. Eleven of the NAEP and TIMSS items were administered to fourth grade and were rated as difficult content and high cognitive complexity for this grade level, while 12 items were administered to eighth grade. One NAEP item was for an unknown grade level. The items were selected to reflect state science content standards in life sciences, physical sciences, earth sciences, and nature of science at intermediate grades 3–5.
I guess it is only natural that teachers should take the tests their students take....




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