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Knowledge - Background to all other K Units

Abstract

This is the first of 17 web-based subject resources designed to support science education tutors working in primary and secondary science teacher education.

As with all the other materials in this site the main aim is to facilitate the processes of teaching/learning between the science education tutor and the trainee/intending science teachers with a focus on “teachers’ science subject knowledge and understanding”. This general introduction provides a more detailed statement about personal and professional knowledge and understanding.

A few primary teachers will have completed some post 16 study or even have a degree in science, and few of the secondary science teachers will have a degree which covers science in any breadth. That means that a substantial number of trainee teachers of both primary and secondary phases will have an understanding of aspects of science equivalent only to a grade C at GCSE. The aim of these 16 science subject knowledge units is to provide support for these trainees (via their tutors) so that they can either teach to GCSE level (secondary teachers), or acquire an understanding at that level so they have the confidence to teach at primary school (primary teachers). The emphasis is on the conceptual changes needed by learners (tutors, teachers and their pupils) to come to an understanding of ideas and issues in science.

The other 16 units provide help in actually running sessions where the tutor is addressing subject knowledge, and this introductory unit summarises the philosophy behind them all.

This unit does not specifically address Q standards although its contents should support the requirements for critical reflection and creativity. Q7 & Q8.

Key words: ITT, Student, Teacher learning, Critical reflection, Philosophy.

Contents

1.0 Introduction
2.0 Rationale
3.0 Children's ideas about the world
4.0 Do trainees have misconceptions?
5.0 The subject knowledge pages

1.0 Introduction

This is the first of 17 web-based subject resources designed to support science education tutors working in primary and secondary science teacher education. As with all the other materials in this site the main aim is to facilitate the processes of teaching/learning between the science education tutor and the trainee/intending science teachers with a focus on "teachers' science subject knowledge and understanding". This general introduction provides a more detailed statement about personal and professional knowledge and understanding. The other science knowledge units provided are as follows:

A few primary teachers will have completed some post 16 study or even have a degree in science, and few of the secondary science teachers will have a degree which covers science in any breadth. That means that a substantial number of trainee teachers of both primary and secondary phases will have an understanding of aspects of science equivalent only to a grade C at GCSE. The aim of these 16 science subject knowledge units is to provide support for these trainees (via their tutors) so that they can either teach to GCSE level (secondary teachers), or acquire an understanding at that level so they have the confidence to teach at primary school (primary teachers). The emphasis is on the conceptual changes needed by learners (tutors, teachers and their pupils) to come to an understanding of important ideas and aspects of science.

The other 16 units (listed above) provide help in actually running sessions where the tutor is addressing subject knowledge, and this introductory unit summarises the philosophy behind them all.

2.0 Outline reasoning behind all 16 subject knowledge units

Clearly teachers' own knowledge and understanding of, and enthusiasm for, science are important for their students' engagement with science learning. A short paper that has been used to encourage student teachers to value learning in science - rather than merely knowing it - is given in download k0.1_2.1a 'Wonder and the teaching and learning of science.'

During their training year(s) we hope that trainees will develop their personal understanding of science and hence be able to understand how to approach the teaching of the topic. The 16 units cover the National curriculum in science for England and fofcus on the progression and development of children's ideas as they begin to make sense of the world around them. Again, the growth of trainees' personal knowledge of science is important, but it is the confidence to engage in learning with their pupils and to encourage help pupils to make sense and ask questions in science - and to evaluate critically the information they receive. The download K0.1(2.2) ‘Engagement Communication and Uncertainty in Science Education' may help to stimulate discussion in this area.

3.0 The ideas children hold about the world around them

A key text is Making Sense of Secondary Science (Driver et al 1994), both for primary and secondary. This resource summarises research into the ideas children hold about the world around them. Many of these ideas are contrary to scientific belief and therefore act as barriers to their learning. Many trainee teachers, including secondary, also hold these 'alternative ideas' or 'misconceptions', and we need to remember that the personal understandings of all of us, both trainees and trainers will never fully agree - we all continue to learn and our ideas undergo change and sometimes revolution as our lives progress.

4.0 Do trainees have misconceptions?

It is not the details, facts nor nomenclature that we need to share with trainees, but their deep understanding of the basic scientific ideas. Most ITT courses will audit students' subject knowledge by testing for these misconceptions. There is currently an ESCalate project to provide some electronic audit questions and Keogh and Naylor's Concept Cartoons are also useful in exploring science conceptions (this resource is intended for pupils but can be used with great effect with ITT students). Unless we rigorously search out and challenge these deep-seated misconceptions in ourselves and our trainees there is little hope that they can do the same with their pupils. This topic is covered in the professional issues unit [P4.1 Misconceptions and naïve ideas of children - how we learn science]. Such a ‘challenging' agenda will also continue to develop the conceptions of tutors and mentors.

A CDrom has been made which addresses these misconceptions and sets the science in an everyday context (of climate change and everyday life). See article 5.0 for details or go to the CD's web page.

5.0 The Subject Knowledge Pages

Each of the topics on this website begins with a review of the conceptual barriers that learners (and that can include trainee teachers and their mentors and trainers!) need to face and overcome, in order to understand the concept. As tutors we need not only to be fully aware of these barriers ourselves, but we need to ensure that they are understood by our trainees. It is sometimes more difficult for a trainee with strong subject knowledge to realise that there is a conceptual problem in their specialist subject that lesser mortals find conceptually difficult.The key stage 3 strategy for science identified 5 key ideas that underpin an understanding in science, [Cells, Interdependence, Particles,Forces and Energy] which are all considered under the topic headings in the content section of this Subject knowledge section. Although there is now a general 'strategy' for secondary school, incorporating the original strategies for English, Match and Science, the original materials are useful and still available from the standards site. Following this review of conceptual barriers, each topic will normally have a section entitled "Giving Practical experiences" suggesting experiences trainees should be given during their ITE year(s).

6.0 References

www.escalate.ac.uk/1141

Driver, R., Squires, A.,Rushworth, P. and Wood-Robinson, V. (1994) Making sense of Secondary Science: Research Into Children's Ideas, London: Routledge

Naylor, S and Keogh, B (1998) 'Concept Cartoons in science education' Sandbach: Millgate House Publishers.

Published: 06 Jul 2007, Last Updated: 10 Sep 2008