Academic journal article The American Biology Teacher

Growing or Wilting? Beginning Biology Teachers in an Induction Program for Science Teachers

Academic journal article The American Biology Teacher

Growing or Wilting? Beginning Biology Teachers in an Induction Program for Science Teachers

Article excerpt

In 1996, the National Science Education Standards (National Research Council) called for a change in the teaching of science. The use of "science as inquiry" during instruction received considerable attention in the Standards. This approach advocates science instruction that includes opportunities for students to identify questions, explore important concepts, design and conduct investigations, formulate explanations from data, and communicate findings to appropriate communities. Over the years, creating a science-as-inquiry environment has become more difficult for science teachers. Mandated state assessments often guide topics that are presented in science class, leaving little time for inquiry-based activities. In addition, alternative pathways to the teaching profession have increased the number of teachers with limited understanding of science as inquiry. However, most science teachers and science educators are still committed to some form of inquiry in the science classroom.

The task of learning how to create a science-as-inquiry environment can be difficult, and even more challenging for beginning teachers (Luft, 2001). New teachers are con strained by their lack of experience in the classroom and their limited knowledge of the discipline (Roehrig & Luft, 2004). While more robust field experiences can be provided during a pre-service program, the content coursework in biology can be problematic. Pre-service biology teachers are often encouraged to specialize in a sub-domain such as ecology, zoology, or microbiology, rather than acquire a general biology degree (Wandersee, Fisher & Moody, 2001). And because most middle and high school life science or biology classes focus on general concepts, new teachers might not have the necessary expertise to teach all areas.

One possible mechanism to assist beginning life science or biology teachers is an induction program that provides support in the areas of content knowledge and science as inquiry. Such a program can provide content and pedagogical assistance for teachers as they plan and enact lessons outside of their field of expertise. This study explores how beginning secondary biology or life science teachers did or did not modify their instruction when they participated in an induction program for secondary science teachers.

Background

The Alternative Support for Induction Science Teaching Program

The teachers in this study participated in an induction program designed to support beginning secondary science teachers in their first, second, or third year of teaching. The program, Alternative Support for Induction Science Teachers (A-SIST), was developed by university science educators, with the assistance of local school district administrators, in order to foster inquiry-based environments in secondary science classrooms. Any secondary science teacher in the region could participate in the program. Once enrolled, beginning teachers attended monthly Saturday workshops facilitated by a university science educator, mentor science teachers, and graduate assistants. They also participated in online communications, were visited in their class monthly by project staff, and attended a regional or national science education conference to acquire additional teaching resources. In order to support the use of science as inquiry in the classroom, scientists from the university and mentor teachers with different areas of content expertise answered content questions and made instructional suggestions. A comprehensive discussion of this program can be found in Luft and Patterson (2002).

Beginning Teachers in Biology

There are two areas of literature that inform this study. The first area relates to the support of beginning teachers. Induction programs are important for beginning teachers (Britton, Paine, Pimm & Raizen, 2003; Huling-Austin, 1990, 1992; Gold, 1996). Huling-Austin (1990), for example, concluded that beginning teachers who participate in induction programs can improve their teaching performance, stay longer in the profession, enhance their personal and professional well-being, and learn about the culture of the school system. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.