Academic journal article Education

Stories of Collaboration: A Middle School Science Teacher and a Physics Professor

Academic journal article Education

Stories of Collaboration: A Middle School Science Teacher and a Physics Professor

Article excerpt


The National Science Education Standards (NSES) provide guidelines for how science should be taught in K-12 schools where the process of achieving science literacy in all Americans begins (National Research Council [NRC], 1996). To support this process of building scientific ways of thinking in an informed citizenry, the science taught in college courses must align with the goals of the NSES. The post secondary courses are all science courses, not just those taught to science majors, but also those taught as general science courses to nonscience majors and especially those courses taught to preservice science teachers (Siebert & McIntosh, 2001). According to Collins (1997), college instructors have compelling reasons to consider the NSES when designing and implementing their courses. First, K-12 teachers of science learn what they will eventually teach in college classes. Second, the NSES set the vision for scientific literacy for all learners including those in postsecondary settings.

The lecture method, dominant in college science courses, is ineffective in bringing about deep understanding (Angelo, 1990; Lord, 1994). Students in lecture-delivered science courses are passive receivers, expending little mental energy thinking about what is being discussed. In the words of Arons (1977),

   If we (university teachers of content
   courses) do nothing but lecture at
   our preservice teachers, they will
   lecture in their own classrooms,
   regardless of the indoctrination that
   they may have been given ... in their
   'methods' courses in departments of
   education (p. 369).

Interactive, experiential learning activities give students opportunities to internalize the concepts being presented (Leonard, 1997). Class activities that investigate and analyze science questions rather than activities that verify science content should guide the instruction (Costa, 1993; Freedman, 1994).

Inadequate understanding of science among both adults, including preservice teachers and children is particularly prevalent in astronomy topics (Comins, 2001; Durant, Evans, & Thomas, 1989; Schneps & Sadler, 1987). "College science faculty ... must design courses that are heavily based on investigations, where ... future teachers have direct contact with phenomena, gather and interpret data using appropriate technology, and are in groups working on real, open-ended problems" (NRC, 1996, p. 61).


Many college science professors are unaware of the mandates of state and national groups for teacher preparation. Working together with college of education professors, arts and sciences professors gain insights into their responsibility for educating future teachers. The next step is a partnership that includes inservice teachers in course development activities. To the development of post secondary science courses for preservice teachers inservice science teachers can bring their knowledge of the NSES, curriculum development, content of K-12 science, and authentic assessment.

Partnerships of universities and schools take many forms, such as a cooperation, a consortium, or a collaboration, that vary in their degrees of connectedness. A collaboration is "a cooperative undertaking between two or more parties, typically involving coordination of actions and sharing of resources to achieve the same or similar goals" (Bazigos, 1995, p. 176). Guidelines for establishing partnerships and for sustaining them through the successful completion of their missions abound (Clift, Veal, Holland, Johnson, & McCarthy, 1995; Gomez, Bissell, Danziger, & Casselman, 1990; Van de Water, 1989; Sirottnik, & Goodlad, 1988). Collaboration between schools and universities can take on many purposes, such as preparing new teachers, reducing the at-risk status of students, conducting research, serving families, and empowering in-service teacher-leaders (Magolda, 2001; Poetter, Badiali, & Hammond, 2000; Evans, Cicchelli, Cohen, & Shapiro, 1995; Sirotnik, & Goodlad, 1988). …

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