Introducing Future Teachers to Science Beyond the Classroom
Informal science education institutions (ISEIs), such as museums, aquariums, and nature centers, offer more to teachers than just field trip destinations—they have the potential to provide ideas for pedagogy, as well as support deeper development of teachers’ science knowledge. Although there is extensive literature related to teacher/museum interactions within the context of the school field trip, there is limited research that examines other ways that such institutions might support classroom teachers. A growing number of studies, however, examine how incorporating such ideas of connections of ISEIs to pre-service teacher education might improve teacher perceptions and awareness. Pre-service elementary teachers enrolled in a science methods class participated in a semester-long assignment which required participation in their choice of activities and events (workshops, field trips, family day activities) conducted at local ISEIs. Students generally saw this embedded assignment as beneficial, despite the additional out-of-class time required for completion. Comparison of pre-/post-class responses suggested that teachers shifted their perceptions of ISEIs as first and foremost as places for field trips or hands-on experiences, to institutions that can help teachers with classroom science instruction. Although basic awareness of the existence of such opportunities was frequently cited, teachers also recognized these sites as places that could enhance their teaching, either by providing materials/resources for the classroom or by helping them learn (content and pedagogy) as teachers. Implications for practice, including the role of ISEIs in teacher preparation and indication, are also discussed.