Teachers Learning in Science


Professional development (PD) seems to be key to ensuring that preschool teachers are able to provide children with cognitively challenging early science learning experiences.

In order to maximize their capacity as young scientists, children need the support of curious, responsive, and knowledgeable adults who have the abilities to plan for, facilitate, and assess children’s inquiry-based science experiences.

Professional development (PD) seems to be key to ensuring that preschool teachers are able to provide children with cognitively challenging early science learning experiences. Effective PD in science integrates authentic early childhood curriculum, along with opportunities for teachers to develop their pedagogical content knowledge related to children’s early science learning (Shulman, 1987).

In Foundations of Science Literacy (FSL) teachers engage in their own inquiry-based science investigations,

and interact with colleagues on the topics of children’s conceptual development and how children learn science. They also have multiple opportunities to use and practice the new knowledge and skills they are learning over time as they teach science to children in their own classrooms.

FSL incorporates the idea that effective PD in science must also provide teachers with strategies for facilitating children’s communication practices, including their abilities to create and use representations and to participate in science conversations. Science conversations, because they occur in context of children’s own explorations, promote high-level language and vocabulary, and make science content and practices accessible to all children.

FSL incorporates instructional sessions, mentoring, and classroom-based assignments

Effective professional development in science for teachers incorporates a hybrid model. FSL combines professional development in science along with the Young Scientist series teacher guides in a way that supports teachers’ ability to use the guides effectively.

In order to do this, FSL incorporates instructional sessions, mentoring,

and classroom-based assignments. During instructional sessions, instructors engage teachers in their own inquiry-based explorations of water, structures, and nature. They introduce teachers to research-based information on how children learn, and, in particular, how children learn science concepts, processes, and practices in the context of these three topics:

  • Sessions provide teachers with multiple opportunities to observe and respond to video vignettes of real classroom practice, and to collaborate on planning and assessment as it relates to their own classrooms.
  • Classroom-based assignments provide teachers with opportunities to use and practice the new knowledge and skills they are learning by inviting them to implement topical explorations with children in their own classrooms and collect evidence of learning and inquiry.
  • Mentoring in between course sessions provides teachers with the support they need to translate theory to practice. FSL engages teachers in an on-going and parallel process of science learning and science teaching.

Effective professional development in science also provides teachers with strategies for facilitating children’s communication practices in science. FSL supports teachers’ abilities to facilitate science discussions that incorporate academically productive talk and to provide relevant means for children to represent their science observations and ideas.

References
Shulman, L. S. (1987). Knowledge and teaching: Foundations for the new reform. Harvard Educational Review, 57, 1-22.