From beginning teacher education to professional teaching: A study of the thinking of Hong Kong primary science teachers

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<ul><li><p>Teaching and Teacher Education 21</p><p>atg K</p><p>, D</p><p>f Edu</p><p>, Ho</p><p>ong,</p><p>Hong Kong SAR, Hong Kong, China</p><p>cultural inuences in teaching and learning (Ste-venson &amp; Stigler, 1992; Stigler &amp; Hiebert, 1999;</p><p>ARTICLE IN PRESS</p><p>Corresponding author. Tel.: +852 2948 7656;fax: +852 2948 7676.Watkins &amp; Biggs, 1996, 2001). The presentresearch intends to ll the gaps identied in</p><p>0742-051X/$ - see front matter r 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.</p><p>doi:10.1016/j.tate.2005.03.003</p><p>E-mail addresses: (W.W.M. So),</p><p> (D.A. Watkins).Keywords: Teacher thinking; Conceptions; Science teaching; Planning; Constructivist teaching; Reection</p><p>1. Introduction</p><p>The area of teacher thinking has been a majorfocus of research for about 20 years now.However, most of this previous research hastended to focus narrowly on discrete and isolatedcomponents of teacher thinking processes (Calder-head, 1987, 1996; Clark &amp; Peterson, 1986; Clark &amp;</p><p>Yinger, 1987; Halkes &amp; Olson, 1984; Moallem &amp;Earle, 1998; Pope, 1993). There is also evidencethat the emphasis of earlier studies on teachersthought processes had little reference to subjectmatter knowledge (Fischler, 1999). Shulman(1986, p. 6) referred to this as the missingparadigm in the study of teaching. Moreover,there has been little research in a non-Westerncontext although research has indicated signicantAbstract</p><p>This is a longitudinal study of the thinking about teaching science of beginning Hong Kong primary teachers. The</p><p>research explores how their thinking changed from pre-service teacher education through to their rst year as classroom</p><p>teachers. It takes a more holistic view of teacher thinking than typical in the literature considering the nature,</p><p>interrelationships, and changes over time of four major aspects: conceptions, planning, teaching, and reection. Positive</p><p>ndings were that the majority of participants became more constructivist in terms of their conceptions and practice of</p><p>teaching, but they also tended to become more simplistic in planning and less coherent in thinking as they progressed</p><p>from pre-service teacher education to beginning teachers in schools.</p><p>r 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.From beginning teacher educA study of the thinking of Hon</p><p>Winnie W.M. Soa,</p><p>aDepartment of Science, The Hong Kong Institute o</p><p>Hong Kong SARbFaculty of Education, The University of Hong K(2005) 525541</p><p>ion to professional teaching:ong primary science teachers</p><p>avid A. Watkinsb</p><p>cation, 10, Lo Ping Road, Tai Po, New Territories,</p><p>ng Kong, China</p><p>Rm 415 Runme Shaw Building, Pokfulam Road,</p><p></p></li><li><p>emerging image of teachers as thoughtful profes-</p><p>ARTICLE IN PRESS</p><p>andsionals who inspire and facilitate higher orderlearning in students (Peterson, 1988), many Wes-tern studies now focus on teachers cognition andthinking as well as their behaviour. A systematicstudy of teachers thinking is a move towards abetter understanding of teaching and learning.Halkes and Olson (1984, p. 1) spelt out the</p><p>fundamental aim of many researchers of teacherthinking: Looking from a teacher thinkingperspective at teaching and learning, one is notso much striving for the disclosure of the effectiveteacher, but for the explanation and understandingof the teaching processes as they are. The modelof teachers thought and action developed byClark and Peterson (1986) helps to visualize howprevious studies by having a subject-focus, byconsidering mutually interactive aspects of think-ing, and by studying Hong Kong Chinese teachereducation students.To accomplish the goal of having a more holistic</p><p>view of teacher thinking, this research focuses onfour aspects embedded in the study of teacherthinking: (1) conceptions of teaching and learningscience; (2) planning; (3) teaching; and (4) reec-tions. The possible change in each aspect, theinterrelationships of the four aspects and changesin these interrelationships from pre-service teachereducation to beginning teaching are the mainfocuses of this longitudinal study.</p><p>2. Teacher thinking</p><p>Recently, research on teaching and learning hasshifted from a unidirectional emphasis on correlatesof observable teacher behaviour with studentachievement to a focus on teachers thinking,beliefs, planning and decision-making processes(Calderhead, 1996; Fang, 1996). Clark and Peterson(1986) argued that these latter four aspects con-stitute a large part of the psychological context ofteaching. An understanding of the characteristics ofteachers professional thinking is thus an essentialcomponent in providing a more complete accountof teachers actions, their antecedents and theirconsequences (Floden &amp; Klinzing, 1990). With an</p><p>W.W.M. So, D.A. Watkins / Teaching526research on teacher thought processes comple-ments the larger body of research on teaching.Their model depicted and differentiated twodomains in the process of teaching: (a) unobser-vable teachers thought processes, and (b) tea-chers actions and their observable effects. Thismodel was elaborated by Clark and Yinger (1987)who stated that the beliefs, values and norms thatteachers come to have faith in and use mostfrequently to guide their practice are thoseconsistent with predictions that have workedin the complex and demanding classroom arena.According to Calderhead (1987), the contribu-</p><p>tions of research on teacher thinking at that timeincluded the recognition of the complexity of theprofessional domain in which teachers work, therole of teacher thinking in curriculum innovationsand the conceptualization of the process ofprofessional development and how pre-serviceand in-service education could enhance it. Calder-head then edited a collection of work by research-ers relating teacher thinking to the understandingof teacher professional development in 1993.These later studies showed a shift of the researchfrom mainly focusing on descriptions of teacherthinking to a focus on improving teaching. Webelieve that research on teacher thinking canindeed generate valuable ndings that will providepractical implications for improving teaching andteacher education.</p><p>2.1. Conceptions of teaching and learning</p><p>Investigations of teachers and student tea-chers conceptions about teaching and learning areembedded in a research paradigm, that, under thenotion of teachers thinking aims at identifyingteachers cognition in the context of teaching(Fischler, 1999, p. 174). In a review of researchinto cross-cultural perspectives of good teaching,Watkins (1997) attempted to compare conceptionsof teaching in the Western and non-Westerncultures. He found that some conceptions ofteaching, such as the knowledge transmissionconception, were found in both Western andEastern cultures. However, some other concep-tions of teaching, like the fostering of good moralconduct were common in Eastern but not as</p><p>Teacher Education 21 (2005) 525541common in Western cultures. Since conceptions of</p></li><li><p>ARTICLE IN PRESS</p><p>andteaching are commonly accepted as contextdependent (Marton &amp; Booth, 1997) and a sub-stantial body of conceptions of teaching has beenexplored in Western culture, it is valuable to havestudies with local Hong Kong teachers on theirconceptions of teaching, in order to have a betterunderstanding of how Hong Kong Chinese tea-chers conceptualize teaching and learning.There has been a growing interest in science</p><p>teachers thoughts, especially teachers subjectmatter knowledge and their conceptions of teach-ing and learning science (de Jong, Korthagen, &amp;Wubbels, 1998). There are different theories thatportray different epistemologies of science (Fleer&amp; Hardy, 1996). For instance, the transmissionview mainly rests upon the perception of science tobe a well-established body of knowledge, facts andtruths of the natural world; the interaction viewrests upon the conceptual understanding of sciencewhile the inquiry view is based on the perceivedneed for investigation and discovery.</p><p>2.2. Teacher planning</p><p>The authors consider that the planning ofteaching is a crucial component in the study ofteacher thinking. Shulman (1987) describes plan-ning as passing on the wisdom of practice.Implementation in teaching means acting on thatwisdom (Reinhartz &amp; Beach, 1997). Decisionsmade by teachers while planning instruction havea profound inuence on their classroom behaviour(Shavelson, 1987). To understand teacher planningmeans to understand how teachers interpretsubject knowledge and prepare the presentationof their teaching prior to the presence of pupils (So&amp; Watkins, 1997). As Frieberg and Driscoll (1996)describe the relationship between planning andimplementation, planning provides the frameworkfor teaching: the execution of the plan mayrequire several adjustments along the wayy Thechanging dynamics of the classroom reduce thecertainties of the lesson plan (p. 41). Moreover,Calderhead (1993) stated that planning involvesissues of values and beliefs. Research into teacherthinking regarding the relationship between plan-ning and conceptions of teaching and learning may</p><p>W.W.M. So, D.A. Watkins / Teachingindicate how this pattern is established.2.3. The practice of teaching</p><p>Learners are now commonly viewed as activeparticipants in the learning process, activelyconstructing meaning through experience. For thisreason Solomon (1997) believed that how teachersteach children is at least as important as whatteachers teach. Since learning involves the activeconstruction of meaning by the student, and is notsomething that is imparted by the teacher (Driver&amp; Oldham, 1986), and the didactic approach toteaching has been shown to be ineffective indeveloping students conceptual understanding(Carin, 1993), there has been call for a shift inthe focus of instruction from mechanical drill andpractice towards teaching for understanding. Anemphasis on constructivism and hands-on inquiry-oriented instructions to promote childrens con-ceptual knowledge by building on prior under-standing, active engagement with the subjectcontent, and applications to real world situationhas been advocated in science lessons (Stofett &amp;Stoddart, 1994).Tobin (1993) remarked that as constructivism</p><p>has become increasingly populary. in the past tenyearsy. it represents a paradigm change in scienceeducation (p. ix). Scott, Asoko, Driver, andEmberton (1994) science learning, viewed froma constructivist perspective, involves epistemolo-gical as well as conceptual development (p. 219).The collaborative effort among researchers andteachers on constructivist teaching is designed toencourage teaching which takes account of theprior ideas and understanding of children in thedevelopment of specic concepts in science, and tostress the need to provide prospective scienceteachers with a model for constructivist learningsituations. In light of the advantages of construc-tivist views in enhancing pupils learning, suchviews are taken as a referent of the better practiceof teaching in this research.</p><p>2.4. Teacher reflection</p><p>There is general agreement that the goal ofpreparing reective practitioners is a major aim ofteacher education around the world today. This</p><p>Teacher Education 21 (2005) 525541 527emphasis on reection has its roots in the writing</p></li><li><p>fro</p><p>actions as a route to the enhancement of profes-</p><p>a useful reective model consisting of stages</p><p>ARTICLE IN PRESS</p><p>and528dened by a series of questions. Pangs (1996)PIC model of reective practice suggested that anyreection can be analysed in terms of threedimensions to provide a clearer picture of thevarious aspects of the reective process. Grossmanand Stodolsky (1994) cautioned that contexts canact, in their various ways, to either enable orconstrain the enactment of teacher theories inpractice (p. 180). It is hoped that an analysis ofteachers reection would help to bring out thecontextual constraints that mediate their thoughtsand practice.</p><p>3. Method</p><p>3.1. Research questions</p><p>The focus of this study was on the fouridentied salient aspects of teacher thinking:conceptions, planning, teaching and reection,the relations between them and changes acrosstime. In particular answers to the following weresought:</p><p>1. What was the nature and changes in these fouraspects of teacher thinking over time, fromteacher education to rst teaching year?</p><p>2. To what extent were the four aspects of teachersional practice. The process of reection is denedas reviewing, reconstructing, re-enacting andcritically analyzing ones own and the classsperformance, and grounding explanation in evi-dence (Shulman, 1987).There have been a number of different frame-</p><p>works proposed for the analysis of teachersreective thinking. For example, Sparks-Langer,Simmons, Pasch, Colton, and Starko (1990)developed a framework to distinguish seven levelsof language and thinking. Smyth (1989) suggestedthecalJohn Dewey but the current impetus stemmedm the work of Schon (1983). Schon argued thatreective practitioner needs to reect criti-</p><p>ly on the meaning of his or her thoughts andofW.W.M. So, D.A. Watkins / Teachingthinking related to each other?Although in-depth qualitative methods wereadopted here to identify and explore the thinkingof participants, transformation of the collectedand examined qualitative protocol, observationsand interview data into numbers, and statisticaltechnique were then used to examine relationshipsand changes over time.</p><p>3.2. Participants</p><p>The participants were pre-service teachers, whohad a science background in their senior secondaryeducation and were enrolled in the Certicate inPrimary Education Course at the Hong KongInstitute of Education. Twenty-ve student tea-chers, the entire class taking the Science Curricu-lum Studies module, were invited to be theparticipants, and were followed over 3 years: their2 years of teacher education and their rst year asbeginning teachers. Their rst year of teachereducation included micro-teaching and the secondyear 8 weeks of teaching practice in schools. Thereason for inviting all the class to participate wasto allow for the possibility of drop-out of subjectsfrom the research due to unforeseeable factorssuch as opportunities to be involved in teachingscience topics during teaching practice and begin-ning teaching. It turned out that nine of theoriginal subjects were actually involved in teachingscience in their rst year of teaching.</p><p>3.3. Measures</p><p>Different research techniques were employed inorder to explore each of the four aspects of teacherthinking. These were: (1) interviews to captureteachers conception; (2) drawing concept mapsthat describe planning; (3) lesson observations toassess practice; and (4) analyzing reection ofteaching.The interviews were designed to explore student</p><p>teachers conceptions which includes ideas aboutchildrens prior conceptions; choice of effectiveteaching strategies; teachers role in science classes;childrens learning of science in classroom; and thedifculties children encounter in learning science.Extra questions were included in later stages of the</p><p>Teacher Education 21 (2005) 525541study to allow exploration of changes and factors</p></li><li><p>ARTICLE IN PRESS</p><p>andinuencing...</p></li></ul>


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