Pedagogy, Environmental Education, and Context: Promoting Knowledge Through Concept Mapping

  • Barbara Austin
  • Nina Schmidt


Secondary science methods courses provide preservice science teachers with the opportunity to learn content the way that science should be taught. A strategy for science teacher educators is to incorporate content that is unfamiliar to the students so that learning is authentic. In this chapter, we describe how to use regional environmental questions to model concept mapping for content learning and collaborative learning. We selected environmental questions that were familiar to students and relevant to their daily lives. We challenged our preservice teachers to apply their science content knowledge as we asked them to develop a concept map to include interdisciplinary science content to address our questions. This project promoted learning of the interdisciplinary nature of science, used concept mapping to develop a secondary science teacher education curriculum that promoted environmental education, and took advantage of concept mapping activities for collaborative learning while integrating discipline-specific content standards.

Secondary teaching is a complex act that requires expertise in several different knowledge bases. Content knowledge, time, materials, and equipment management, learning and motivation theory, interpersonal relations, and educational policy and law are a few areas that great teachers know. Logically, one or two science content methods courses are inadequate to completely prepare science teachers to be effective for the real world of teaching. Science methods course instructors face the difficult task of selecting content and learning experiences that will provide the most value in producing master teachers. We are fortunate at our university to have two secondary science methods courses; the course described in this book chapter is not only focused primarily on lab-based science teaching but also includes safety, formative assessment, and field-based science teaching. It is also the only course in which students have significant exposure to educational technology. The primary goal for this course is to promote theory- and research-based science teaching practice.

A continuous concern expressed in the literature about teacher education is the gap between recommended or research-based teaching methods and practice (e.g., Broekkamp and van Hout-Wolters 2007; Brouwer and Korthagen 2005; Zeichner and Tabachnick 1981). Science methods classes provide an ideal setting for addressing this gap. Science teacher educators have developed several strategies for trying to narrow this gap in science methods classes by producing teachers who will utilize highly effective teaching strategies rather than regressing to the unproven but familiar traditional pedagogy of transmitting information. These strategies include modeling effective practice (Hubbard and Abell 2005), demonstration lessons (Luft and Pizzini 1998), and including intensive field experiences (Penick and Yager 1988). In this chapter, we present another instructional approach of effective science teaching in the 21st century. We describe a project we have developed to make lessons learned in science methods courses more meaningful and more educative with regard to both how to teach (pedagogy) and what to teach (content). In this chapter, we present our rationale for initiating this project, the implementation with our secondary students, and some student outcomes and what we learned.


Preservice Teacher Science Teacher Concept Mapping Collaborative Learning Pedagogical Content Knowledge 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Science Teaching and LearningNorthern Arizona UniversityFlagstaffUSA
  2. 2.Environmental Health SpecialistFlagstaffUSA

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