Date: 12 Apr 2012

EXPLORING TEACHERS’ KNOWLEDGE AND PERCEPTIONS ACROSS MATHEMATICS AND SCIENCE THROUGH CONTENT-RICH LEARNING EXPERIENCES IN A PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT SETTING

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ABSTRACT

This paper examines upper elementary and middle school teachers’ learning of mathematics and science content, how their perceptions of their disciplines and learning of that discipline developed through content-rich learning experiences, and the differences and commonalities of the teachers’ learning experiences relative to content domain. This work was situated within a larger professional development (PD) program that had multiple, long-term components. Participants’ growth occurred in 4 primary areas: knowledge of content, perceptions of the discipline, perceptions about the learning of the discipline, and perceptions regarding how students learn content. Findings suggest that when embedded within an effective professional development context, content can be a critical vehicle through which change can be made in teachers’ understandings and perceptions of mathematics and science. When participants in our study were able to move beyond their internal conflicts and misunderstandings, they could expand their knowledge and perceptions of content and finally bridge to re-conceptualize how to teach that content. These findings further indicate that although teachers involved in both mathematics and science can benefit from similar overall PD structures, there are some unique challenges that need to be addressed for each particular discipline group. This study contributes to what we understand about teacher learning and change, as well as commonalities and differences between teachers’ learning of mathematics and science.