Learning to teach science: Personal epistemologies, teaching goals, and practices of teaching

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Text of Learning to teach science: Personal epistemologies, teaching goals, and practices of teaching

  • Teaching and Teacher Education 24



    tate U

    Received 18 April 2006; received in revised form 10 January 2007; accepted 15 January 2007

    Keywords: Science; Science teacher education; Preservice teacher; Epistemology; Beliefs; Teaching goal

    torted view of science and less opportunities toexperience science as inquiry (Gallagher, 1991).


    $Earlier version of this paper was presented at the 2005

    annual meeting of the American Educational Research Associa-

    tion, Montreal, Canada.

    Hence, the current teaching standards in the USAcall for teachers to embrace a social constructivist

    0742-051X/$ - see front matter Published by Elsevier Ltd.


    Tel.: +1 541 737 9891; fax: +1 541 737 1817.E-mail address: kangn@science.oregonstate.edu.1. Introduction

    Many nations around the world have called forreform in science education for more than a decade,sharing some common reform ideals (van Driel,Beijaard, & Verloop, 2001). In particular, the

    reform emphasizes teacher education by promotingsocial constructivist teaching approaches (Garm &Karlsen, 2004; Tobin, 1993). In the USA, nationalstandards for science teaching have been promotedfor successful reform (National Research Council[NRC], 1996). Traditionally, science has beenpresented as a rigid body of facts to be memorized,which consequently provides students with a dis-Abstract

    The purpose of this study was to understand what personal epistemologies and science teaching goals preservice

    secondary science teachers of a teacher education program in the USA bring with them to their learning to teach and how

    they translate such beliefs into actions. A set of essay questions, developed through a pilot study, was used to identify

    preservice teachers personal epistemologies and teaching goals at the beginning of science methods instruction. Classroom

    observation reports, video recorded teaching episodes, lesson plans and self-video reections were collected to identify

    connections between their epistemologies, teaching goals, and practice of teaching. Relational and ontological dimensions

    of epistemological beliefs were found to be useful for understanding preservice teachers personal epistemologies and

    teaching practices. The data suggests that the participants espoused teaching goals were relevant to their personal

    epistemologies when differentiating nave personal epistemologies from the sophisticated, and their emerging teaching

    practices demonstrated shifts in personal epistemologies and potential for further development in teaching practices.

    Findings indicate sources of how teaching practices are shaped. Implications for teacher education include needs for

    addressing ways to deal with teaching constraints for constructivist teaching approaches, collaboration with content course

    instructors, critical reection on eld experience, and developing induction programs that support continuing development

    of emerging teaching practices.

    Published by Elsevier Ltd.Learning to teach science: Pegoals, and pract


    Department of Science and Mathematics Education, Oregon S(2008) 478498

    nal epistemologies, teachings of teaching$


    niversity, 239 Weniger Hall, Corvallis, OR 97331-6508, USA


  • ARTICLE IN PRESSN.-H. Kang / Teaching and Teacher Education 24 (2008) 478498 479view of learning and teaching in which science isdescribed as a way of knowing about naturalphenomena and science teaching as facilitation ofstudent learning through science inquiry (NRC,1996).Learning about the current views of science and

    science learning and being able to meet the currentteaching standards are challenging projects forpreservice teachers. Preservice teachers themselvesare the products of traditional science education(Lortie, 1975; Wilson & Ball, 1996) that has failed toadequately describe the epistemic base and thenature of knowledge in science (e.g., Tobin &McRobbie, 1996). Research studies in the USAreport preservice science teachers epistemologicalbeliefs and beliefs about teaching (Lemberger,Hewson, & Park, 1999; Palmquist & Finley, 1997).According to these studies, preservice secondaryscience teachers begin their teacher educationprograms with a traditional view of science andscience learning and rarely come out of the initialteacher education program with the knowledge andbeliefs that reect the current views of science andscience learning promoted in recent science educa-tion reform.The term epistemological beliefs has been used

    widely to refer to personal beliefs about the natureof knowledge and how humans develop knowledge(Hofer & Pintrich, 2002). Although numerous termshave been used in research on epistemologicalbeliefs, the term personal epistemology is usedthroughout this paper to refer to individuals beliefsabout the nature of knowledge and knowing (seeSchraw and Olafson (2002) for further discussion onvarying terms and their meanings).Much has been studied about epistemological

    beliefs in education to examine the assumption thatepistemological beliefs are closely related to howstudents learn. A body of research has accumu-lated evidence of numerous links between episte-mological beliefs and student learning in thatstudents epistemological beliefs are connected tolearning approaches and outcomes (Hammer, 1994;Hofer & Pintrich, 1997; Songer & Linn, 1991;Windschitl & Andre, 1998). On the other hand,teachers epistemological beliefs and their connec-tion to teaching practices are understudied (Hofer,2001; Schraw & Olafson, 2002). Given the connec-tions between epistemological beliefs and learningoutcomes, and the current reform emphasis onsocial constructivist teaching approaches, it is

    essential to understand how teachers epistemologi-cal beliefs are related to various aspects of teachingpractices.Research on teachers epistemological beliefs has

    compared the epistemological perspectives con-veyed in traditional teaching approaches with thosein constructivist approaches (Hashweh, 1996;Schoenfeld, 1998; Tobin & McRobbie, 1996). Thesestudies present possible connections between tea-chers personal epistemologies and teaching prac-tices. In particular, a few studies demonstrate thatteachers epistemological beliefs are related to theirteaching goals in that the goal of preparing studentsfor tests or mastery of factual knowledge convey tostudents epistemological beliefs that could impedemeaningful learning and gaining adequate views ofscience (Kang & Wallace, 2005; Schoenfeld, 1988).Findings indicate that teachers different goals forteaching orient their thinking about teaching andinstructional actions (Grossman, 1990; Kang &Wallace, 2005). In particular, Kang and Wallace(2005) found that teachers epistemological beliefswere closely connected to their pedagogical ap-proaches to achieve different teaching goals. Giventhe initial ndings about connections betweenteachers epistemological beliefs and teaching goalsand practices, it is essential to understand howteachers develop personal epistemologies through-out their professional development from initialtraining in the university to continuing professionaldevelopment on the job.This study, therefore, focused on identifying

    possible connections among teaching goals, episte-mological beliefs, and teaching actions during theinitial teacher training. The purpose of this studywas to understand what personal epistemologiesand science teaching goals preservice secondaryscience teachers of a teacher education program inthe USA bring with them to their learning to teachand how they translate such beliefs into actions.Results of this study would offer ways to assistpreservice teachers in developing reform-based ideasabout science teaching and learning as well asteaching practices.

    2. Personal epistemology

    Perrys (1970/1998) seminal work on collegestudents epistemic development introduces a seriesof different epistemological perspectives. His re-search team interviewed students of Harvard Uni-versity throughout their college years and identied

    that the college students moved through some

  • ARTICLE IN PRESSN.-H. Kang / Teaching and Teacher Education 24 (2008) 478498480sequences in their ideas about knowledge andknowing. Perrys initial work identied nine posi-tions of epistemic development that were subse-quently categorized into four major perspectives:dualism, multiplism, relativism, and commitmentwithin relativism (Moore, 2002). A dualist has themost nave beliefs seeing knowledge as right orwrong and truth as knowable. Dualists in Perrysstudy eventually modied their beliefs into multip-lism, as they went through college education, byacknowledging possibilities of uncertainty andmultiple perspectives or truths. Relativists, on theother hand, not only recognized multiple viewpoints, but also saw conicting views as equallyvalid, and the concept of truth became meaningless.Some students developed further from relativism bycommitting themselves to a certain viewpoint asthey recognized some views were better than othersin context.Perrys scheme is in alignment with the discussion

    in the philosophy of science that addresses theepistemology of science. Modern philosophers ofscience challenge the traditional view of science, i.e.,science is based on facts that are directly establishedby unprejudiced use of senses rather than opinions(Chalmers, 1999; Kuhn, 1996; Lakatos &Musgrave,1970; Losee, 1972). The traditional view of sciencepromotes dualism in Perrys scheme in that scienceis depicted as a body of knowledge that reects thenature as it is and hence, is accepted as truth.Through careful examinations of scientists at work,mode