Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Retraining Public Secondary Science Teachers by Upgrading Their Content Knowledge and Pedagogical Skills

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Retraining Public Secondary Science Teachers by Upgrading Their Content Knowledge and Pedagogical Skills

Article excerpt

With funding from the National Science Foundation, an urban, historically Black university and a large, diverse public school system encompassing urban, suburban, and rural areas assumed leadership roles in designing unique professional development courses for secondary science teachers. Rather than traditional college-level science courses, university faculty offered professional development courses that integrated science content with pedagogy. Public school teachers received three graduate credits for each successfully completed course. Descriptive data on the impact of the courses were collected from surveys, while journals and electronic portfolios of constructivist teaching activities provided qualitative data. Analyses of these data confirm that the courses not only augmented teachers' content knowledge but also provided teachers with pedagogical skills to transfer that knowledge into the classroom.

The perception that America's students are inadequately prepared for the global economy has evoked a national effort to establish goals that would enhance the performance of this country's educational system (National Educational Goals Panel, 1992). Most experts agree that U.S. minorities are underprepared and underserved in science and mathematics (National Center for Education Statistics, 1990; Oakes, 1990; Shakhashiri, 1990; Suter, 1992). African American and Hispanic American students in particular have been shown to take fewer mathematics and science courses in high school and have lower grades in those courses than their European American or Asian American counterparts (National Center for Educational Statistics, 1990; Orfield, 1989; Suter, 1992). The influx of new technology in the workplace increases the demand for higher levels of minority student participation and achievement in science and mathematics (Johnston & Packer 1987; Oakes, 1990). Thus, for both ethical and practical reasons, it is incumbent upon the nation's educational systems to focus on developing the science and mathematics potential of these currently untapped populations.

The National Educational Goals Panel (1992) recommended strengthening the nation's science and mathematics education systems by expanding the number of teachers who have the requisite background in these disciplines. Specifically, Allen (1991) noted, the lack of minority representation in the teaching profession, especially in science, must be rectified. The particularly limited presence of African Americans in the teaching profession overall continues to be a serious problem. According to Nettles and Pema (1997), African Americans comprise 5.6% of all science teachers while Whites comprise 89.7%. A report by the Urban Teacher Collaborative (UTC) further underscored the serious demand for minority teachers in urban areas (Recruiting New Teachers & Council of the Great City Schools, 1999). The UTC report claimed that nearly three-quarters, or 73%, of urban school districts responding to a 1996 survey indicated that they had insufficient numbers of teachers of color on their payrolls. It further indicated that minorities make up only about 36% of the teaching force that serves a student population that is 69% minority. It is therefore imperative that the nation's science education system be restructured to encourage minorities to consider teaching in the sciences as a career choice. In the interim, professional development programs designed to enhance both the content knowledge and the pedagogical skills of current science teachers should be established (Carnegie Commission on Science, Technology, and Government, 1991; Cooper, 1999; Committee on Education and Human Resources, 1994; U.S. Department of Labor, 1992; Van Zee, 1998). Educating all students requires that teachers gain new knowledge and skills, along with a K.eater ability to reflect on their students' current knowledge, and an awareness of how to expand that knowledge (Darling-Hammond, Wise, & Klein, 1995). …

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