Academic journal article Science Educator

Urban High School Teachers' Beliefs concerning Essential Science Teaching Dispositions

Academic journal article Science Educator

Urban High School Teachers' Beliefs concerning Essential Science Teaching Dispositions

Article excerpt

Abstract

This qualitative study addresses the link between urban high school science teachers' beliefs about essential teaching dispositions and student learning outcomes. The findings suggest that in order to help students to do well in science in urban school settings, science teachers should possess essential teaching dispositions which include professionalism, a passion for science and teaching, and a dedication to student learning. This study further illuminates how urban high school science teachers believe educators specifically exhibit these essential science teaching dispositions in urban classrooms. The implications of these findings are that certain teaching dispositions might play a major role in improving student science achievement in urban schools. Moreover, the findings of this study might help to further inform and guide policymakers in the transformation of educational policies that affect schools and science educators in urban settings.

Keywords: urban, dispositions, high school, science, beliefs, education

Introduction

Ever since the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act required states to adopt and administer a specific approach to testing science, the results of these assessments have been used to hold public schools and educators across our nation accountable for improving student science achievement and quality in science teaching, and to take direct action to improve poorly performing schools (Center on Educational Policy, 2002). Urban schools in the United States are further confronted by the same complex social and economic problems that afflict the communities that they serve (Ladson-Billings, 2008). Research has characterized urban schools as being under-resourced and largely populated by underachieving minority students who live in disadvantageous economic circumstances (Darling-Hammond, 2007; Ladson-Billings, 2006; Seiler, 2001). Research has also shown that significant science achievement gaps between minority and majority students have not narrowed from 1996 to 2005 (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2006). These gaps have been coupled with complex factors such as race, ethnicity, immigration patterns and socioeconomic status (Norman, Ault, Bentz & Meskimen, 2001). Given that urban schools have unique challenges that might demand special teaching characteristics, a study investigating quality in science teaching in such educational settings might hold a key to an understanding of how to bolster student science achievement among this population of students.

Quality in science teaching includes the areas of content knowledge, pedagogical skills, and teaching dispositions (Darling-Hammond, 1997). This study probes one aspect of quality in science teaching. Specifically, this study examines urban high school science teachers' beliefs about what constitutes essential teaching dispositions, with a view to determining how their beliefs might be linked to their students' learning outcomes. This study further investigates how science teachers might specifically exhibit these essential teaching dispositions in urban science classrooms.

The study is premised on the view that student learning outcomes are determined in large measure by the nature of their learning experiences. The study makes the assumption that the reasons for the underachievement seen among urban students are to be found, at least in part, in the nature of their science curricular experiences. It further assumes that an understanding of the curricular experiences that teachers provide for their students cannot be gained apart from an understanding of the beliefs that underpin teachers' teaching dispositions.

Theoretical Framework

This study specifically focused on teaching dispositions, which can be defined as values, commitments, or ethics that are internally held and exhibited (Cudahy, Finnan, Jaruszewicz, & McCarty, 2002). This study is grounded in a significant body of research which indicates that teaching dispositions are an essential component to raising student science achievement (DarlingHammond, 2000a) and can strongly influence student learning outcomes (Collinson, Killeavy, & Stephenson, 1999; Darling-Hammond, 2000b). …

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