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The Practice of Constructivism in Science Education

By Kenneth Tobin | Go to book overview

17
Collaborating to Reconstruct Teaching: The Influence of Researcher Beliefs

Peter C. S. Taylor

Recently, I participated in a collaborative research study which investigated the prospects of reconstructing the established belief system that underpinned a didactic, teacher-centered, "transmission-type" pedagogy of a colleague, an experienced high school teacher of science who was teaching "out of field." Ray was teaching grade 12 mathematics for the first time and had completed the first of four 10-week terms that comprise the school year in Western Australia. Apart from incidental encounters with mathematics in his science teaching, Ray's previous formal experiences with mathematics had been as an undergraduate student, about 20 years ago.

Ray's interest in professional development led him to enroll, on a part-time basis, in a postgraduate science education degree program at the university in which I was teaching. We established a collaborative research partnership with the intention of addressing his concern about the underachievement of his Grade 12 class. Ray believed that his teaching practice might be partly responsible for a series of generally poor student test results and wanted to investigate ways of improving his teaching effectiveness. Ray committed himself to a collaborative research agenda that included the improvement of his teaching practice, interpretation and documentation of data, and reporting of our study.

My main research interest was to investigate the prospects of facilitating Ray's development of a constructivist pedagogy. In particular, I was interested in assessing the viability of a theory of pedagogical change that, I believed, might facilitate the development of "constructivist-related" pedagogical reform amongst teachers of high school science and mathematics. The theory of pedagogical change, discussed below, was based on constructivist-related theories of student conceptual change in science education and theories of teacher cognition.

The pedagogical change methodology was intended to engage Ray in a process of self-critical inquiry from a constructivist perspective. The main aim was to facilitate Ray's development of a constructivist perceptual "lens" that would enable him to newly interpret his classroom teaching experiences,

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