Recommendations from the Profession and the Disciplines
Over the past decade, an increasing number of research studies have been devoted to understanding and documenting how best to educate teachers of science and mathematics. Recommendations based on this research, based on proposals articulated by numerous organizations, and based on the realities of today’s classrooms have been emerging since the early 1990s. Individual teaching professional associations, such as the National Science Teachers Association (1996, 1998), the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (1991, 2000), the National Association of Biology Teachers (1990), and the Association for the Education of Teachers of Science (1997), have offered a variety of recommendations related to teaching science generally or in specific disciplines. Broader-based groups, such as the National Center for Improving Science Education (Raizen and Michelsohn, 1994), the American Council on Education (1999), the National Research Council (1996a, 1999h), the National Science Foundation (1996), and the National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century (2000) have issued their own recommendations for improving teacher education.
In addition, since 1994, the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Project 2061 has conducted hundreds of workshops across the nation with thousands of teachers, administrators, and university faculty. The programs emphasize cross-grade and cross-disciplinary participation, as well as the use of clear and explicit benchmarks for learning and the alignment of curriculum, instruction, and assessment to those benchmarks.
The National Science Education Standards (NRC, 1996a) provided a synthesis of recommendations designed specifically for science teacher education
and professionalism (see also Appendix C and Appendix A, respectively). That effort followed extensive work on mathematics content and teaching standards by both the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM, 1989, 1991) and the Mathematical Sciences Education Board of the NRC (1989, 1990), including recommendations for the preparation of mathematics teachers (see also Appendix C).
Taken together, the visions and recommendations of all the above-mentioned organizations paint a picture of teacher education as a complex, career-long process that involves the continual intellectual growth and professionalism of teachers, both individually and collectively. Acknowledged is that teacher education can and does occur in a variety of ways and involves many different kinds of people, both inside and outside of college, and in school classrooms. Emphasized is the need for approaches to teacher education that employ methods of inquiry, classroom discourse, and other standards—recommended teaching strategies that both reflect and guide what teachers will be expected to use in the classroom with their own students. Understood is that learning to teach science, mathematics, and technology effectively very much depends on teachers mastering the content of these disciplines and having opportunities to practice their pedagogical content knowledge within school environments.
One of my previous ideas about inquiry was that it consisted mainly of doing laboratory activities. I discovered that, although labs can aid in the process of sense-making, they often don’t because they are either “cookbook” (they don’t allow the students to make choices or judgments) or “confirmatory” (they follow lectures or students’ reading). What I have realized is that the essence of inquiry does not lie in any elaborate, equipment-intensive laboratory exercise. It lies, rather, in the interactions between the student and the materials, as well as in the teacher-student and student-student interactions that occur dozens of times each and every class period.
Vignette of reflection from a high school physics teacher
National Research Council, 2000b, page 90
During the past decade, two nationally based organizations have been studying the competencies that should characterize accomplished teachers and teachers who have recently entered the profession. The National Board of Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), formed in the late 1980s, established five guiding principles for assessing the competence of experienced teachers (see Table 4-1). With these principles in place, the Council of Chief State School Officers then established the Interstate New Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (INTASC), which developed a parallel set of core standards for novice teachers, as discussed earlier (see Table 3-1). Currently, more than 30 states are members of INTASC, an organization compelled by the premise that “the complex art of teaching requires performance-based standards and assessment strategies that are capable of capturing teachers’ reasoned judgments and that evaluate what they can actually do in authentic teaching situations” (INTASC, 1999).
By establishing expectations for both accomplished and novice teachers, respectively, the recommendations from NBPTS and INTASC offer visions and guidance about how teachers of science and mathematics could be educated. A synthesis of the NBPTS and INTASC recommendations, as well as those of disciplinary societies and related organizations, suggest that teacher education programs in science and mathematics should exhibit the following characteristics:
Be collaborative endeavors developed and conducted by scientists, mathematicians, education faculty, and practicing K-12 teachers with assistance from members of professional organizations and science- and mathematics-rich businesses and industries;
Help prospective teachers to know well, understand deeply, and use effectively and creatively the fundamental content and concepts of the disciplines that they will teach. This includes understanding the disciplines from personal and social perspectives. It also includes being familiar with the disciplines’ history and nature, unifying concepts, and the processes of inquiry and design that practitioners of the disciplines use in discovering and applying new knowledge;
Unify, coordinate, and connect content courses in science, mathematics, or technology with methods courses and field experiences. They also should enhance teachers’ proficiency in teaching over time through continuous experiences that help them address varying student interests and backgrounds;
Teach content through the perspectives and methods of inquiry and prob-
TABLE 4-1 The “Five Principles of Accomplished Teaching” as Proposed by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards
1. Teachers are committed to students and their learning.
Accomplished teachers are dedicated to making knowledge accessible to all students. They act on the belief that all students can learn. They treat students equitably, recognizing the individual differences that distinguish one student from another and taking account of these differences in their practice. They adjust their practice based on observation and knowledge of their students’ interests, abilities, skills, knowledge, and family circumstances and peer relationships.
Accomplished teachers understand how students develop and learn. They incorporate the prevailing theories of cognition and intelligence in their practice. They are aware of the influence of context and culture on behavior. They develop students’ cognitive capacity and their respect for learning. Equally important, they foster students’ self-esteem, motivation, character, civic responsibility and their respect for individual, cultural, religious and racial differences.
2. Teachers know the subjects they teach and how to teach those subjects to students.
Accomplished teachers have a rich understanding of the subject(s) they teach and appreciate how knowledge in their subject is created, organized, linked to other disciplines and applied to real-world settings. While faithfully representing the collective wisdom of our culture and upholding the value of disciplinary knowledge, they also develop the critical and analytical capacities of their students.
Accomplished teachers command specialized knowledge of how to convey and reveal subject matter to students. They are aware of the preconceptions and background knowledge that students typically bring to each subject and of strategies and instructional materials that can be of assistance. They understand where difficulties are likely to arise and modify their practice accordingly. Their instructional repertoire allows them to create multiple paths to the subjects they teach, and they are adept at teaching students how to pose and solve their own problems.
3. Teachers are responsible for managing and monitoring student learning.
Accomplished teachers create, enrich, maintain and alter instructional settings to capture and sustain the interest of their students and to make the most effective use of time. They also are adept at engaging students and adults to assist their teaching and at enlisting their colleagues’ knowledge and expertise to complement their own.
Accomplished teachers command a range of generic instructional techniques, know when each is appropriate and can implement them as needed. They are as aware of ineffectual or damaging practice as they are devoted to elegant practice.
They know how to engage groups of students to ensure a disciplined learning environment, and how to organize instruction to allow the schools’ goals for students to be met. They are adept at setting norms for social interaction among students and between students and teachers. They understand how to motivate students to learn and how to maintain their interest even in the face of temporary failure. Accomplished
teachers can assess the progress of individual students as well as that of the class as a whole. They employ multiple methods for measuring student growth and understanding and can clearly explain student performance to parents.
4. Teachers think systematically about their practice and learn from experience.
Accomplished teachers are models of educated persons, exemplifying the virtues they seek to inspire in students—curiosity, tolerance, honesty, fairness, respect for diversity and appreciation of cultural differences—and the capacities that are prerequisites for intellectual growth: the ability to reason and take multiple perspectives, to be creative and take risks, and to adopt an experimental and problem-solving orientation.
Accomplished teachers draw on their knowledge of human development, subject matter and instruction, and their understanding of their students to make principled judgments about sound practice. Their decisions are not only grounded in the literature, but also in their experience. They engage in lifelong learning, which they seek to encourage in their students.
Striving to strengthen their teaching, accomplished teachers critically examine their practice, seek to expand their repertoire, deepen their knowledge, sharpen their judgment and adapt their teaching to new findings, ideas and theories.
5. Teachers are members of learning communities.
Accomplished teachers contribute to the effectiveness of the school by working collaboratively with other professionals on instructional policy, curriculum development and staff development. They can evaluate school progress and the allocation of school resources in light of their understanding of state and local educational objectives. They are knowledgeable about specialized school and community resources that can be engaged for their students’ benefit, and are skilled at employing such resources as needed.
Accomplished teachers find ways to work collaboratively and creatively with parents, engaging them productively in the work of the school.
Source: Council of Chief State School Officers. See <http://www.nbpts.org/nbpts/standards/intro.html>
lem solving, as well as illustrate and model in content courses, methods courses, and school-based field experiences a wide variety of effective teaching and assessment strategies that are consistent with the national education standards for science, mathematics, and technology;
Present content in ways that allow students to appreciate the applications of science, mathematics, and technology, such as collecting, processing, and communicating information and statistical analysis and interpretation of data;
Provide learning experiences in which science, mathematics, and tech-
nology are related to and integrated with students’ interests, community concerns, and societal issues, as well as provide opportunities for collaborative learning experiences where students work in teams or groups and also to have significant and substantial involvement in scientific research;
Integrate education theory with actual teaching practice, and knowledge from science and mathematics teaching experience with research on how people learn science and mathematics;
Provide opportunities for prospective teachers to learn about and practice teaching in a variety of school contexts and with diverse groups of children, as well as provide opportunities for these teachers to practice and apply what they are learning in supportive environments that offer continual feedback, modeling of quality teaching practices, and individual coaching from faculty, practitioners, mentors, and peers;
Encourage reflective inquiry into teaching through individual and collaborative study, discussion, assessment, experimentation, analysis, classroom-based research, and practice; and
Welcome students into the professional community of educators and promote a professional vision of teaching by providing opportunities for experienced and future teachers to assume new roles and leadership positions, generate and apply new knowledge, and facilitate improvement efforts.
Given this wealth of reports and recommendations during the past decade, have institutions of higher education, individual schools, and school districts heeded these recommendations and actually instituted changes in their programs for teacher preparation and professional development? Is teacher education better now as a result of these calls for reform? These questions are addressed more fully in the next chapter.