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Department of Teacher Education

Teacher Education

Exploring the effects of research experience on pre-service secondary science teacher science ideas and science teaching practice

Researcher: Amy M Lark (doctoral student)

Advisor: Gail Richmond

Purpose and audience: The purpose of this study is to determine whether there is a relationship between science research experience (for example, in a research lab or at a field station) on teacher candidate ideas about science (particularly, the process of science/inquiry; the nature of evidence; and the definitions of certain scientific terms; e.g., ‘theory’) and on science teaching practice, particularly the practice of planning at the unit and lesson levels. The intended audiences are science education researchers interested in understanding better the role of research on scientific understanding and science educators wishing to identify ways to prepare secondary science teachers to teach in reform-oriented ways, specifically by emphasizing inquiry and application in the classroom.

Proposed research subjects: For this study I plan to examine secondary science interns in the fifth year of our teacher preparation program. These students are familiar with the goals of our program, including the emphasis on inquiry and application in secondary science teaching. Subjects will be recruited by asking for volunteers from TE 802/804 section 017 instructed by Andy Anderson, Gail Richmond, Hosun Kang, and Takumi Sato.

Data collection: All interns enrolled in TE 802/804 sec 017 will be asked to complete a survey (attached), and will also be asked for permission to access any unit plans and other materials that they have produced for the course. The survey is composed of two parts. Part I asks questions designed to elicit interns’ ideas about science. Part II asks for demographic information and details on research experience. The second half of the survey will be used to identify a pool of candidates with research experience; a sample of four interns will be selected from volunteers to take part in two interviews. The initial interview will follow up on participants’ responses to the survey questions and about details of their research experiences. During the second interview, participants’ will be asked to bring a lesson plan of their choosing that they have developed that illustrates a time that they used inquiry or application in their classroom; this, along with the corresponding unit plan, will be the artifact around which the interview is based. Questions are designed to elicit ideas about content knowledge, science and science teaching. Comparisons of unit plans will be made across interns with and without research experience in an attempt to find any salient patterns.

Potential implications for the TE Program: This study may reveal interesting information regarding the effect of research experiences on science teaching practice. Depending on the outcome, I hope to make recommendations to the TE program with regard to how best prepare our teacher candidates to be effective and reform-oriented secondary science teachers.

I have formulated the proposed project with my advisor and consulted with several other members of the science education faculty: Alicia Alonzo, who is on my practicum committee; as well as Joyce Parker and Amelia Gotwals, with whom I am teaching this year.