courses are organized within a college physics department may influence how high school physics teachers organize coursework for their students. In recent years, some postsecondary institutions have been re-evaluating what (and how) content is taught to undergraduates; some institutions (e.g., Rothman and Narum, 2000) anticipate reforms in undergraduate education that may change the nature and quality of knowledge acquired by prospective teachers.4

Work experiences acquired by prospective school teachers may have also enriched and deepened their understanding of subjects they teach. This is especially true for mid-career professionals who leave laboratory or technical careers to enter teaching, but also may apply to younger teacher candidates who gain such experience through internships, summer employment, or other work and volunteer opportunities. Such “real world” experiences may provide them with valuable insights into the nature of science, mathematics, and technology.

Once enrolled in teacher preparation programs, prospective teachers are exposed to content and pedagogy through required subject matter courses and education courses.5 Due to the organi-

4  

Several groups have issued recommendations regarding undergraduate courses required of prospective teachers. Recommendations from the Mathematics Education of Teachers Project (Conference Board on Mathematical Sciences, 2000) address both the nature of required mathematics courses (e.g., that they develop deep understanding of the mathematics undergraduates will be expected to teach) and the extent of those mathematics courses (ranging from nine semester hours for elementary teachers to a major for high school mathematics teachers). The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA, 1998) has issued comparable recommendations regarding science coursework for prospective teachers of science. In addition, the NRC Committee on Science and Mathematics Teacher Preparation (NRC, 2000) specifically recommends that the higher education community “assume greater responsibility for offering college-level courses that provide teachers with strong exposure to appropriate content and that model the kinds of pedagogical approaches appropriate for teaching that content” (p. 111).

5  

There are currently a number of mechanisms that enable individuals to enter teaching without participating in a conventional teacher preparation program, often associated with recruitment efforts intended to address teacher shortages. Alternative certification routes often involve some level of introduction to pedagogy, ranging from several “crash courses” during the summer before the candidate starts teaching to professional development extending over the first several years of a teaching career.



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