ERG SES E 03, ICT and Education
Science teachers’ knowledge is one of the factors that affect the quality of teaching (Shulman, 1987). According to Shulman, there are different types of teacher knowledge like content knowledge (CK) and pedagogical content knowledge (PCK). Previous research have been focused on teachers’ CK (Arzi & White, 2007) and PCK (Henze, van Driel & Verloop, 2008). However, teachers’ contextual knowledge (i.e., knowledge of educational context) have been mostly ignored although teaching is highly susceptible to the teaching context. Therefore, this study attempted to reveal teachers’ contextual knowledge affecting their teaching. Likewise, teachers’ PCK informs researchers about teachers’ strengths and weaknesses regarding components of teaching such as teachers’ use of instructional strategies and teachers’ assessment strategies (Magnusson, Borko & Krajcik, 1999). Because of this importance of PCK, current research focuses on teachers’ PCK too. Each topic is different from each other and different teaching strategies are used to teach these topics what makes PCK topic-specific (Abell, 2008). Thus, density topic which is difficult for learning and teaching because of its abstract nature, relationship with daily life, and requirements for mathematical knowledge was selected as specific topic in this PCK study.
Magnusson et al. (1999)’s PCK model was used as theoretical framework in this study. Accordingly, five components of PCK have been examined which are orientations towards science (OTS), knowledge of science curriculum (KOC), knowledge of student understandings in science (KOL), knowledge of assessment in science (KOA), and knowledge of instructional strategies (KOIS). OTS deals with teacher’s general philosophy for teaching science such as beliefs about goals of science teaching and nature of science. Teacher’s knowledge about objectives and teaching materials represents their KOC. In science topics; teacher knowledge about students’ difficulties, misconceptions and pre-requisite knowledge to learn selected topics refer teacher’s KOL. The way of assessing students, what and when teacher assesses in selected topic form teacher’s KOA. Lastly, KOIS is comprised of subject-specific instructional strategies like argumentation and topic-specific strategies including activities and representations.
On the other hand, theoretical framework for contextual knowledge was derived from Grossman (1990)’s study on teacher knowledge. Accordingly, Grossman (1990) revealed four different components forming contextual knowledge which are student, school, district, and community. In this study, we revised this framework by using following components which are teacher (e.g., teacher characteristics), student (e.g., students’ readiness level), school (e.g., available materials) and out of school factors (e.g., legal obligations such as teaching all objectives in limited time).
In line with this, current study mainly has two research questions:
1. What is middle school science teachers’ contextual knowledge in density topic?
2. What are the connections between middle school science teachers’ contextual knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge in density topic?
Methodology In this basic qualitative research, two middle school science teachers working in same public school participated in the study. Data were collected by use of semi-structured interviews and classroom observations. Semi-structured interview questions were prepared based on literature (Sample interview question: What are the factors affecting your teaching in density topic?). After preparing interview questions, a content expert provided feedback about questions to increase credibility. Twenty-five interview questions were asked to understand participants’ contextual knowledge, PCK and connections between these two knowledge types before teaching. Then, twelve hours of classroom observations were held to triangulate data coming from interviews. Classroom observations were video-recorded. Moreover, an observation checklist was prepared and used to reveal participants’ PCK. During data analysis process; interviews were transcribed and analyzed by two research assistants in science education through inductive and deductive coding that increased dependability of the study. Although inductive codes were new and derived from data (e.g., budget of students’ families), deductive codes were already available (e.g., mathematical knowledge as part of students’ maturity). Then, observations were transcribed and analyzed in same way. Next, interview data and observation data were triangulated to see similarities and differences. As a result of this process, findings formed.
Regarding contextual knowledge; science teachers claimed that their beliefs and experiences affects their teaching in density topic. Student component was another contextual knowledge because teachers claimed students’ individual differences and readiness level had impact on teaching. Likewise, teachers reported school related factors like available laboratory materials (e.g., equal arm scale) were important in their teaching. Although teachers thought that teacher, student and school related factors are important in their teaching about density, they did not provide specific examples regarding out of school factors. Findings revealed five main connections between middle school teachers’ contextual knowledge and PCK in density topic. Firstly, boundaries of PCK do not completely separate from contextual knowledge because some codes belonging to student component of contextual knowledge (e.g., readiness level) can also belong to KOL component of PCK. This intertwinement may blur the connection between this two knowledge. Secondly, this study suggested that contextual knowledge can feed teachers’ PCK. For example; teachers believed that density is a core topic in science (teacher component of contextual knowledge), so they connected density with other science topics as evidence to vertical and horizontal relations (KOC-PCK). Thirdly, it was found that teachers’ contextual knowledge alerted them to adjust their PCK. For example; there were lack of laboratory equipment that inhibit planned experiments. This deficiency alerted teachers and they replaced experiment with problem solving activity. Next, teachers could not compensate some weaknesses caused by contextual factors in some situations. For instance; if students did not have enough resource, teachers removed student-centered activities in teaching. Finally, observation results showed that even though teachers were not aware contextual factors, these factors still affected their PCK. For example; teachers did not report textbooks affect their teaching in interviews; however, observation reports showed that teachers enriched their planned activities (i.e., KOIS) which were borrowed from textbook.
References: Abell, S.K. (2008). Twenty years later: Does pedagogical content knowledge remain a useful idea? International Journal of Science Education, 30(10), 1405- 1416. Arzi, H. J., & White, R. T. (2007). Change in teachers’ knowledge of subject matter: A 17-year longitudinal study. Science Education, 92(2), 221- 251. Henze, I., van Driel, J. H. & Verloop, N. (2008). Development of experienced science teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge of models of the solar system and the universe. International Journal of Science Education, 30:10, 1321-1342. Grossman, P. L. (1990). The making of a teacher: Teacher knowledge and teacher education. New York: Teachers College Press. Magnusson, S.J., Borko, H. & Krajcik, J.S. (1999). Nature, source, and development of pedagogical content knowledge for science teaching. In J. Gess- Newsome & N. Lederman (Eds.), Examining Pedagogical Content Knowledge (pp.95-132). Boston, MA: Kluwer Press Shulman, L. (1987) Knowledge and Teaching: Foundations of the New Reform, Harvard Educational Review, 57(1): 1- 22
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