Initiative 3: Teacher Knowledge Requirements

As in reading and mathematics, little attention has been given to the knowledge requirements to effectively teach science at any grade level or to effectively connect what is learned at one level with what has come before and what will come after. The avenue that we propose for exploring these questions is to investigate the knowledge requirements to effectively work with the curricula under study in a program of instruction.

The research and development programs discussed above that are currently operating in schools provide a rich resource in the form of teachers who can be studied. Each of these programs has made commitments to forms of professional development, and it would be highly informative to compare the different approaches. For example, some of them work with volunteer teachers from a wide geographical area, for example, across large school districts. Others work with every teacher in a participating school. It would be important to understand the relative advantages of working with a selective, presumably very committed group versus the potential synergies to be gained from working with an intact school staff. A variety of other professional development strategies are being used and studied in these programs, including teacher authoring, science learning workshops, study of student work, reading of articles and texts about science and science education, and analysis of discourse on classroom videotapes. Little serious comparative study has been conducted of the relative costs and benefits of such strategies in spite of the obvious importance of such information for policy makers and administrators.

As in the other domains, the work must provide an evidence base on the knowledge required and the knowledge that is typical of science teachers at different grade levels. The distinction between what teachers themselves know about science and what they know about how to teach science to a student will be as critical, as it is in mathematics. (The descriptions of research on teacher knowledge in the mathematics and reading chapters, as well as the physics section of this chapter, provide more detail regarding the nature of the questions to be examined and the approaches to teacher education that should be compared.)

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