The Progression of Prospective Teachers’ Conceptions of School Science Content

Abstract

The purpose of the present work is to describe the progression in the conceptions of prospective primary teachers about school science content while they were participating in three teacher education courses following the same constructivist oriented strategy. The participants’ written output was analyzed in various categories—selection of content, types of content and their relationships, levels of complexity, and presentation of content to pupils. There was evidence for some progress in their conceptions of the content from a traditional view to another that we termed intermediate since it did not reach the vision that we consider to be the most complex. Finally, we present a General Itinerary of Progression on school content that could serve as a referent for initial teacher education.

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Correspondence to Rosa Martín del Pozo.

Appendices

Appendix 1 Sequence of Activities of Teacher Education Proposal

I: What Ideas do the Pupils Have about Some of the School Science Content?

Activity 1.

Prepare a first draft of the questionnaire.

  • Following individual reflection, the teams draft a questionnaire to determine the pupils’ ideas on the chosen content, indicating the logic used. Two teams present their drafts for discussion in the large group. The teams start to improve their questionnaire.

Activity 2.

Read and discuss the contributions of educational research.

  • Analysis of their proposals. Presentation of examples of questionnaires and of pupils’ ideas on diverse content (changes of state, human reproduction, etc.). Analysis in the large group. The teams continue to improve their questionnaires. Individual reading of texts on pupils’ ideas and learning. Debate within each team about what changes to introduce in the questionnaire following this reading. General discussion of the reading. Team response to the script: How to prepare a questionnaire to determine the pupils’ ideas?

Activity 3.

Prepare and administer the final questionnaire.

  • The team prepares the final version, indicating the logic used and justifying the changes.

  • Two cases are presented for discussion in the large group. Conclusions on instruments for the detection of the pupils’ ideas. Administer the questionnaire to the group of Primary pupils.

Activity 4.

Conduct a pilot study.

  • The teams decide on a first version of the method of analysis, and apply it to 10 questionnaires. Two teams present their choice for discussion in the large group. The teams start to revise their method of analysis.

Activity 5.

Read and discuss the contributions of educational research.

  • Individual response to a questionnaire on some specific content (e.g., digestion).

  • In the team, classify according to levels of complexity examples of ideas of Primary pupils on that content. Describe the obstacles between levels. Do the same with their responses to the above questionnaire. Compare the pupils’ responses theirs. Debate on: school and spontaneous ideas, level of formulation, and obstacles. Presentation of examples of analysis of pupils’ ideas. Debate in the large group. The teams continue to improve their method.

  • Team response to the script: How to analyze the pupils’ ideas?

Activity 6.

Perform the complete study.

  • The teams decide on the final version of the method and apply it to the entire sample.

  • Two teams present their analysis and the results they are getting for discussion in the large group. The method of analysis is revised. Conclusions on the analytical method. Results and educational consequences.

II: What Specific Content Should be Programmed with the Pupils’ Ideas Taken into Account?

Activity 7.

Prepare the first content proposal.

  • Following individual reflection and taking the above results into account, each team drafts a content proposal for the chosen content topic. Two teams make a presentation to the large group. The content proposal begins to improve.

Activity 8.

Read and discuss the contributions of educational research.

  • Analysis of their proposals. Presentation of examples of content with a diversity of types, sources, organization, levels, and presentation to the pupils. Debate. The teams continue to improve their content proposal. Individual reading of texts on school content. Debate within each team what changes to introduce in the content following this reading. General discussion of the reading. Team response to the script: What content to teach? (Appendix 2)

Activity 9

Prepare the final content proposal.

  • The team prepares the final content proposal. Conclusions about the content (sources, types, organization, formulation, and presentation to the pupils).

III: What Sequence of Activities Might be Conducive to the Evolution of the Pupils’ Ideas?

Activity 10.

Draft the first version of the plan of activities.

  • Following individual reflection and taking into account the foregoing, draft the first version of the plan of activities. Two cases are presented to the large group, and analysis of the underlying methodological model. The plans of activities begin to be modified.

Activity 11.

Read and discuss the contributions of educational research.

  • Analysis of their proposals. Presentation of examples of activities, sequences, methodological models, etc. The plans of activities continue to improve. Individual reading of texts on methodology. Debate within each team about what changes to introduce in the plan of activities following the reading. General discussion of the reading. Team response to the script: What plan of activities to prepare?

Activity 12.

Draft the final plan of activities.

  • Draft the final version. Two cases are presented to the large group. General conclusions on teaching methods (activity, sequence of activities, methodological models, etc.).

Appendix 2: Educational Activity Documents

Document 7.

Prepare a first draft of the content.

  1. (a)

    Taking into account the results of the study on the ideas of your pupils and without consulting any reference material, draw up, first individually and then as a team, an initial proposal of the content that you believe appropriate to approach with them.

  2. (b)

    Explain in detail all the steps that as a team you took in drawing up this proposal.

Document 8.

Reflection Script II: What content to teach?

Note: Each “case study” will use the examples that the instructor/researcher deems appropriate.

  1. (1).

    Are there different kinds of content? If so, what kinds do you know? Give two examples of each.

  2. (2).

    Imagine a primary class and another in the Biology Faculty. Both are dealing with “respiration”. Will there be differences in their content? If so, what kind of differences?

  3. (3).

    Imagine two pupils in the same primary class. One of them (child A) considers that “respiration is taking in and expelling air”, and the other (child B) that “respiration is a pulmonary process by which oxygen in the air reaches the blood and carbon dioxide is expelled to the exterior”. The teacher, meanwhile, has planned to explain what happens in the cells due to the oxygen that the blood has transported to them, and the formation of carbon dioxide (cellular respiration), skipping everything else.

Assume that child A is fully attentive during class. Is there likely to be meaningful learning in child A? Why? It is very important that you give detailed arguments for your answers.

What do you consider to be the specific learning needs of child A with respect to this topic of the content? Why?

Are these needs suitably addressed by the teacher’s programming of the content? Why?

Assume now that child B is fully attentive during class. Is there likely to be meaningful learning in child B? Why? It is very important that you give detailed arguments for your answers.

What do you consider to be the specific learning needs of child B with respect to this topic of the content? Why?

Are these needs suitably addressed by the teacher’s programming of the content? Why?

In designing and programming content, would certain conditions have to be met that would be conducive to good learning? If so, what would those conditions be? Why do you believe that they would help to achieve good learning?

  1. (4).

    Typically, content is generally organized and presented to the pupils as lists of topics. From your point of view, how should the content be organized, and why? (Explain the reasons in detail.)

Similarly, how should it be presented to the pupils, and why? (Explain the reasons in detail).

  1. (5).

    Typically, school science content is a simplified version of some important concepts of the discipline (Geography, Mathematics, Biology, History, etc.). From your point of view, do there exist other types of knowledge as well as that of the discipline itself which should influence how the content is selected and prepared? If so, what are they? And why do you believe that they should have that influence?

Document 9.

Prepare the second draft of the content.

  1. (a)

    Taking into account the conclusions of the previous activity, and using any information that you consider necessary, draw up a second proposal of the content that you as a team consider appropriate to approach with the pupils in order to achieve good learning.

  2. (b)

    Explain in detail the basic steps that you took to improve the first draught.

  3. (c)

    Explain with the support of arguments the changes that were made (what was eliminated, what was added, what was kept, and what was modified).

  4. (d)

    Draw up a set of educational principles that reflect the team’s opinion about programming the content, and that content’s role in the teaching–learning process.

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Martín del Pozo, R., Porlán, R. & Rivero, A. The Progression of Prospective Teachers’ Conceptions of School Science Content. J Sci Teacher Educ 22, 291 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10972-011-9233-4

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Keywords

  • Teachers’ conceptions
  • Professional knowledge
  • School science content