Supporting Newly Hired Science Teachers: Using Research to Inform Practice

By Luft, Julie A.; Nixon, Ryan S. et al. | The Science Teacher, September 2014 | Go to article overview

Supporting Newly Hired Science Teachers: Using Research to Inform Practice


Luft, Julie A., Nixon, Ryan S., Dubois, Shannon L., Campbell, Benjamin K., The Science Teacher


New teachers are common in the teaching workforce (Ingersoll and Merrill 2012). All new teachers will learn about the school curriculum and school policies in their first years. New science teachers, however, need to attend to the Next Generation of Science Standards (NGSS Lead States 2013) as they build their instruction and knowledge of teaching.

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For newly hired science teachers to succeed in the classroom, they need well-conceived support from administrators and other teachers. This support should draw upon what is known about science teacher development and should be attentive to teaching science. Unfortunately, most of the support given is not specific to science teaching nor is it crafted around what is known about new science teachers (Luft 2007). This article, sharing findings from over 30 years of research on beginning science teachers, addresses new teachers' needs and suggests ways their more experienced colleagues can help them.

Standards to guide teachers

A useful framework for supporting science teachers is the Interstate Teacher Assessment and Support Consortium (InTASC) Core Teaching Standards (Council of Chief State School Officers [CCSSO] 2011). Education professionals from various states developed the standards, which consist of these areas: The Learner and Learning, Content Knowledge, Instructional Practice, and Professional Responsibility (Figure 1).

These standards are useful for presenting research findings about new science teachers. In addition, the areas in these standards are often found in the assessments of teachers in initial certification programs, of new science teachers as they move beyond their provisional licensure, and of experienced teachers reviewed annually.

Connecting research to practice

In our review of articles, we identified and synthesized rigorous studies about beginning, middle, and high school science teachers and reached several conclusions. Here we cite just two studies for each conclusion. For a complete list of related studies and a description of our process, see "On the web."

Area: The Learner and Learning

Student learning is at the core of teaching. Studies about new science teachers and their understanding of the learner and the learning process are not common, but those we found suggest:

* Newly hired science teachers who purposefully study their classroom practice and student learning can develop their knowledge about students and student learning (e.g., Mitchener and Jackson 2012; Peters 2010).

* Over time, new science teachers can better understand and draw upon student ideas and alter their instruction (e.g., Lee et al. 2007; Meyer 2004).

These studies emphasize that new teachers are just beginning to understand how their students know and learn science and that purposeful explorations of classroom practice and student learning will enhance that understanding. This process takes more than just a few weeks.

Action research and purposeful reflection are two ways in which newly hired science teachers can expedite their understanding of their students. Action research often involves studying one's classroom. For new teachers, this form of study should connect instruction to student learning. Purposeful reflection is less formal and involves analyzing classroom instruction as it pertains to student learning. In both of these methods, explanations about the effectiveness of the instruction should be based on classroom data, and new teachers should explain what they observe about student learning.

The new teacher's interpretation of the data may differ from an experienced teacher's interpretation, but discussion of the data can lead to mutual understanding. For instance, both teachers can contemplate and construct their knowledge about the students' prevailing misconceptions, topics that are difficult for students, the prior knowledge of the students, or how students in the same class have different conceptual understandings. …

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