Integrating life science content & instructional methods in elementary teacher education


Elementaiy students need to have meaningful experiences with the life sciences in order to develop understanding of the natural world. However, they often possess alternative ideas about core life-science concepts that may not be scientifically accurate. There is a need for innovative science curriculum and instruction that is responsive to students' ideas, to help students develop a foundation of disciplinaiy knowledge that will ground their science learning in later grades. Formative assessment gives teachers an important toolkit to elicit, evaluate, and respond to students' ideas. Formative-assessment practices are discipline-specific, in that they require teachers to possess both disciplinary content knowledge and sufficient pedagogical content knowledge (PCK). Unfortunately, formative-assessment practices are not widely used in elementary classrooms; this may be due to elementaiy teachers' limited disciplinary knowledge and PCK of science topics. Teachers need support in learning how to effectively engage in formative-assessment practices and to integrate the strategies into science classrooms. To address this need, we designed an innovative new course for prospective elementaiy teachers that integrates life-science disciplinary knowledge with instiuctional methods - in particular, formative assessment. Here, we describe the course and highlight key findings from its first implementation.

Publication Title

American Biology Teacher