Research in Science Education

, Volume 48, Issue 6, pp 1387–1408 | Cite as

Developing Elementary Science PCK for Teacher Education: Lessons Learned from a Second Grade Partnership

  • Leslie U. BradburyEmail author
  • Rachel E. Wilson
  • Laura E. Brookshire


In this self-study, two science educators partnered with two elementary teachers to plan, implement, and reflect on a unit taught in second grade classrooms that integrated science and language arts. The researchers hoped to increase their pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) for elementary science teaching so that they might use their experiences working in an elementary context to modify their practices in their elementary science method instruction. The research question guiding the study was: What aspects of our PCK for elementary science teaching do we as science educators develop by co-planning, co-teaching, and reflecting with second grade teachers? Data include transcripts of planning meetings, oral reflections about the experience, and videos of the unit being enacted. Findings indicate that managing resources for science teaching, organizing students for science learning, and reflecting on science teaching were themes prevalent in the data. These themes were linked to the model of PCK developed by Park and Oliver (Research in Science Education, 38, 261–284, 2008) and demonstrate that we developed PCK for elementary science teaching in several areas. In our discussion, we include several proposed changes for our elementary science methods course based on the outcomes of the study.


Pedagogical content knowledge Elementary science education University faculty elementary teacher collaboration 



The authors wish to thank the Reich College of Education at Appalachian State University which supplied classroom materials for this project through a Partnership Mini-Grant which encourages collaborations between public school teachers and university teacher educators. We also wish to thank our elementary partners in this project.


  1. Abell, S.K. (2008). Twenty years later: Does pedagogical content knowledge remain a useful idea? International Journal of Science Education, 30(10), 1405–1416.Google Scholar
  2. Abell, S. K., Park Rogers, M. A., Hanuscin, D. L., Lee, M. H., & Gagnon, M. J. (2009). Preparing the next generation of science teacher educators: a model for developing PCK for teaching science teachers. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 20, 77–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Akerson, V., & Young, T. A. (2008). Why research on interdisciplinary language arts and science instruction. Interdisciplinary language arts and science instruction in elementary classrooms: applying research to practice (pp. 3–11). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  4. Akerson, V. L., Pongsanon, K., Weiland, I. S., & Nargund-Joshi, V. (2014). Developing a professional identity as an elementary teacher of nature of science: a self-study of becoming an elementary teacher. International Journal of Science Education, 36(12), 2055–2082.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Appleton, K. (2006). Science pedagogical content knowledge and elementary school teachers. In K. Appleton (Ed.), Elementary science teacher education: international perspectives on contemporary issues and practice (pp. 31–54). Mahweh, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  6. Baker, L. (1991). Metacognition, reading, and science education. In: Santa, C. M., & Alvermann, D.E., Science Learning Processing and Applications (pp 2–13).Google Scholar
  7. Berry, A., & Van Driel, J. H. (2012). Teaching about teaching science: aims, strategies, and backgrounds of science teacher educators. Journal of Teacher Education, 64(2), 117–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Black, P., & Wiliam, D. (1998). Assessment and classroom learning. Assessment in education:Principles, policies, and practices, 5(1), 7–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bradbury, L. U. (2014). Linking science and language arts: a review of the literature which compares integrated versus non-integrated approaches. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 25(6), 465–488.Google Scholar
  10. Borko, H., & Putnam, R. T. (1996). Learning to teach. In D. C. Berliner & R. C. Calfee (Eds.). Handbook of educational psychology (pp. 673–708). New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  11. Bullough Jr., R. V., & Pinnegar, S. (2001). Guidelines for quality in autobiographical forms of self-study-research. Educational Researcher, 30(3), 13–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bybee, R.W., Taylor, J.A., Gardner, A., Van Scotter, P., Powell, J.C., Westbrook, A., & Landes, N. (2006). The BSCS 5E instructional model: origins and effectiveness. Retrieved from:
  13. Carle, E. (1990). The very quiet cricket. New York: Philomel Books.Google Scholar
  14. Cervetti, G. N., Pearson, P. D., Bravo, M. A., & Barber, J. (2006). Reading and writing in the service of inquiry-based science. In R. Douglas, M. P. Klentschy, & K. Worth (Eds.), Linking science and literacy in the k-8 classroom (pp. 221–244). Arlington, VA: NSTA Press.Google Scholar
  15. Corbin, J., & Strauss, A. (2008). Basics of qualitative research: techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dias, M., Eick, C. J., & Brantley-Dias, L. (2011). Practicing what we teach: a self-study in implementing an inquiry-based curriculum in a middle grades classroom. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 22(1), 53–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Dinkelman, T. (2003). Self-study in teacher education: a means for promoting reflective teaching. Journal of Teacher Education, 54(1), 6–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Ertmer, P. A., & Newby, T. J. (1996). The expert learner: strategic, self-regulated, and reflective. Instructional Science, 24, 1–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Faikhamta, C., & Clarke, A. (2013). A self-study of a Thai teacher educator developing a better understanding of PCK for teaching about science. Research in Science Education, 43, 955–979.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Feldman, A. (2003). Validity and quality in self-study. Educational Researcher, 32(3), 26–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Ford, D. J. (2006). Representations of science within children’s trade books. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 43(2), 214–235.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gibbons, P. (2015). Scaffolding language, scaffolding learning: teaching English language learners in the mainstream classroom (2nd ed.). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.Google Scholar
  23. Grossman, P. (1990). The making of a teacher: teacher knowledge and teacher education. New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  24. Johnston, A., & Settlage, J. (2008). Framing the professional development of members of the science teacher education community. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 19(6), 513–521.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. LaBoskey, V. K. (2004). The methodology of self-study and its theoretical underpinnings. In J. J. Loughran, M. L. Hamilton, V. K. LaBoskey, & T. Russell (Eds.), International handbook of self-study of teaching and teacher education practices (pp. 817–869). Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lead States, N. G. S. S. (2013). Next generation science standards: for states by states. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.Google Scholar
  27. Lederman, N. G., Kuerbis, P. J., Loving, C. C., Ramey-Gassert, L., Roychoudhury, A., & Spector, B.S. (1997). Professional knowledge standards for science teacher educators. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 8(4), 233–240.Google Scholar
  28. Lott, K. (2013). Reestablishing the role of the university professor in the laboratory school: retooling in an elementary classroom. In M. Dias, C. J. Eick, & L. Brantley-Dias (Eds.), Science teacher educators as K-12 teachers: practicing what we teach (pp. 243–251). New York, NY: Springer.Google Scholar
  29. Loughran, J. (2007). Researching teacher education practices: responding to the challenges, demands, and expectations of self-study. Journal of Teacher Education, 58(1), 12–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Loughran, J. (2014). Professionally developing as a teacher educator. Journal of Teacher Education, 65(4), 271–283.Google Scholar
  31. Lunenberg, M., Korthagen, F., & Swennen, A. (2007). The teacher educator as a role model. Teaching and Teacher Education, 23, 586–601.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Magnusson, S., Krajick, J., & Borko, H. (1999). Nature, sources, and development of edagogical content knowledge for science teaching. In J. Gess-Newsome & N. G. Lederman (Eds.), Examining pedagogical content knowledge (pp. 95–120). Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishing.Google Scholar
  33. Mulholland, J., & Wallace, J. (2001). Teacher induction and elementary science teaching: enhancing self-efficacy. Teaching and Teacher Education, 17, 243–261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Mulholland, J., & Wallace, J. (2005). Growing the tree of teacher knowledge: ten years of learning to teach elementary science. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 42(7), 767–790.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Munby, H., & Russell, T. (1994). The authority of experience in learning to teach: messages from a physics methods class. Journal of Teacher Education, 45(2), 86–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. National Research Council (2012). A framework for K-12 science education: practices, crosscutting concepts, and core ideas. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.Google Scholar
  37. Nilsson, P. (2008). Teaching for understanding: the complex nature of pedagogical content knowledge in pre-service education. International Journal of Science Education, 30(10), 1281–1299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Osmond, P., & Goodnough, K. (2011). Adopting just-in-time teaching in the context of an elementary science education methodology course. Studying Teacher Education, 7(1), 77–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Padilla, M. J., Muth, D., & Padilla, R. K. (1991). Science and reading: many process skills in common? In C. M. Santa & D. E. Alvermann (Eds.), Science learning: processing and applications (pp. 14–19). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.Google Scholar
  40. Park, S., & Oliver, J. S. (2008). Revisiting the conceptualization for pedagogical content knowledge (PCK): PCK as a conceptual tool to understand teachers as professionals. Research in Science Education, 38, 261–284.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Patrick, H., Mantzicopoulos, P., & Samarapungavan, A. (2009). Motivation for learning science in kindergarten: is there a gender gap and does integrated inquiry and literacy instruction make a difference. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 46(2), 166–191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Patten, M. L. (2009). Understanding research methods. Glendale, CA: Pyrczak Publishing.Google Scholar
  43. Pearson, P., Moje, E., & Greenleaf, C. (2010). Literacy and science: each in the Service of the Other. Science, 328(5977), 459–463.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Romance, N. R., & Vitale, M. R. (2001). Implementing an in-depth expanded science model in elementary schools: multi-year findings, research issues, and policy implications. International Journal of Science Education, 23(4), 373–404.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Schön, D. A. (1983). The reflective practitioner: how professionals think in action. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  46. Shulman, L. S. (1986). Those who understand: knowledge growth in teaching. Educational Researcher, 15(2), 4–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Shulman, L. S. (1987). Knowledge and teaching: foundations of a new reform. Harvard Educational Review, 57(1), 1–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Tamir, P. (1988). Subject matter and related pedagogical knowledge in teacher education. Teaching and Teacher Education, 4(2), 99–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Varelas, M., Pieper, L., Arsenault, A., Pappas, C. C., & Keblawe-Shamah (2014). How science texts and hands-on explorations facilitate meaning making: learning from Latina/o third graders. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 51(10), 1246–1274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Wiebke, H., & Rogers, M. P. (2014). Transition to science teacher educator: tensions experienced while learning to teach lesson sequencing. Studying Teacher Education, 10(3), 222–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Zeichner, K. (2007). Accumulating knowledge across self-studies in teacher education. Journal of Teacher Education, 58(1), 36–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leslie U. Bradbury
    • 1
    Email author
  • Rachel E. Wilson
    • 1
  • Laura E. Brookshire
    • 1
  1. 1.Appalachian State University, ASUBooneUSA

Personalised recommendations