A Mile Wide or an Inch Deep? Improving Elementary Preservice Teachers’ Science Content Knowledge Within the Context of a Science Methods Course

Abstract

Since the beginning of the reform movement in science education, there has been concern that elementary teachers lack the science content knowledge (SCK) needed to engage students in authentic scientific inquiry. This study included 19 preservice elementary teachers and examined the development of their SCK within the context of a uniquely designed elementary science methods course. A project-developed science knowledge test was administered at the beginning and the end of the science methods course, before and after science content was covered concurrent with modeled pedagogy. The preservice elementary teachers had adequate knowledge of low difficulty science content on the pretest, but demonstrated improvement on moderate and difficult science content, especially on topics emphasized in the methods course. Data analyses conducted on change in SCK using analysis of variance were statistically significant and demonstrated a large effect size. Details are discussed, along with large-scale implications and recommendations for elementary science teacher education.

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Correspondence to Alexandra O. Santau.

Appendix

Appendix

Question 4

A population of mice, some with light-colored fur and some with dark-colored fur, is introduced into a field with dark soil. A few generations later, the majority of the mice have dark-colored fur. Which hypothesis is the most consistent with the observed changes in the physical appearances of the mice?

  1. A.

    Light-colored mice can run faster.

  2. B.

    Dark-colored mice have fewer offspring.

  3. C.

    Light-colored mice have changed color over generations.

  4. D.

    Dark-colored mice are better able to hide from their predators.*

Question 17

Which description best describes this circuit?

  1. A.

    Electric current is running through this series circuit.

  2. B.

    Electric current is not running through this series circuit.*

  3. C.

    Electric current is running through this parallel circuit.

  4. D.

    Electric current is not running through this parallel circuit.

Question 21

  • Each diagram below shows the same front view of a human heart. Which diagram has arrows that correctly show the path of blood flow through the heart and the blood vessels leading to and from the heart?

Question 29

A hover fly looks like a honey bee. Which statement best explains how this adaptation helps the hover fly survive?

  1. A.

    Looking like a honey bee keeps other animals away from the hover fly’s food.

  2. B.

    Looking like a honey bee allows the hover fly to collect more pollen.

  3. C.

    Looking like a honey bee allows the hover fly to blend with its environment.

  4. D.

    Looking like a honey bee keeps some predators from trying to eat the hover fly.*

* Indicates the correct answer.

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Santau, A.O., Maerten-Rivera, J.L., Bovis, S. et al. A Mile Wide or an Inch Deep? Improving Elementary Preservice Teachers’ Science Content Knowledge Within the Context of a Science Methods Course. J Sci Teacher Educ 25, 953–976 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10972-014-9402-3

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Keywords

  • Science content knowledge
  • Science methods course
  • Preservice elementary teachers
  • Elementary teacher preparation programs