Using a Science/Technology/Society Approach to Prepare Reform-Oriented Science Teachers: The Case of a Secondary Science Methods Course

Article excerpt

Recent science education reform efforts have focused on science instruction that enhances student understanding of the nature of science, enables them to critically analyze scientific information as well as to apply it in real-life situations, and sets them on a path of life-long learning in science. These aspects of science instruction are evident, for instance, in the goals that underlie the National Science Education Standards (NSES) and in the NSES identification of science and technology, science in personal and social perspective, and history and nature of science as science content standards (National Research Council, 1996, p. 13). In order to prepare teachers who can provide the kind of science instruction envisioned in NSES standards, professional preparation of science teachers must be substantially reformed. Reformed preparation of science teachers is indeed vital for the vision of science teaching reform to be accomplished (Raizen & Michelsohn, 1994).

Typically, a critical component of a preservice science teacher preparation program is the science teaching methods course. The usual intent of this course is to help preservice science students develop an understanding of various aspects of science instruction such as pedagogical approaches, management strategies, and assessment techniques. For the most part, these aspects are taught as separate instructional units or topics. Since the methods course is taken prior to student teaching and may not include a field component, preservice science students often do not get a simultaneous opportunity to experience how these different aspects interplay in the actual classroom context. Further, the separate topic approach does not mirror the kind of instruction necessary to accomplish the vision of the NSES. According to Kyle (1994), most new teachers are being prepared to conform to the traditional norms operating in schools, rather than to change school science instruction. In other words, traditional science teacher preparation, of which the methods course is a critical component, is hardly aimed at accomplishing reform in school science instruction. What is needed is an approach to connect the major aspects of science instruction within a context that helps preservice science students experience the vision of science education reform and develop an ability to accomplish that vision in their own classrooms.

In order to "reform" a secondary science teaching methods course, I implemented a Science/Technology/Society (STS) approach to engage the preservice science students in scientific explorations around issues, questions or problems drawn from real life situations. Thus, they experienced science learning in much the same way as their high school students ought to, for the reform vision to be accomplished. Various aspects of science instruction such as classroom management and assessment were addressed within the context of these scientific explorations. The semester-long methods course was organized around these explorations which provided my preservice science students with a hands-on/minds-on experience in science instruction that embodied the spirit of current reform in the teaching of science.

Why Use a Science/Technology/Society Approach in a Methods Course?

The Science/Technology/Society (STS) approach is defined by the National Science Teachers Association as the "teaching and learning of science and technology in the context of human experience" (National Science Teachers Association [NSTA], 1990-91). More specifically:

The bottom line in STS is the involvement of learners in experiences and issues which are directly related to their lives. STS develops students with skills which allow them to become active, responsible citizens by responding to issues which impact their lives. The experience of science education through STS strategies will create a scientifically literate citizenry for the twenty-first century. (p. 48)

Over the last three decades, Science/Technology/Society has been increasingly recognized as an approach to science teaching and learning that can effectively accomplish the vision of science education reform both in the USA and around the world (Harms, 1977; James, 1986; National Science Teachers Association, 1990-91; Yager, 1991, 1992, 1993a, 1996). …