Examining beginning biology teachers' knowledge, beliefs, and practice for teaching natural selection
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] The teacher is the most important school-based factor in student learning. Thus, in order to improve student learning, we must examine how teachers learn to teach. My overarching research agenda centers upon K-16 science teacher learning and development. Within this agenda, I conduct studies focused on two strands of research: 1) How teachers learn to teach science using constructivist and inquiry-oriented teaching strategies; and 2) How teachers learn to teach biological evolution. This dissertation merges the two strands together, and consists of four related manuscripts that address how beginning biology teachers learn to teach natural selection using constructivist and inquiry-oriented teaching strategies. In the first manuscript, I reviewed the evolution education literature focused on K-12 teachers' knowledge, beliefs, and practice for teaching evolution. Based upon findings across the studies, I articulated five goals for preparing teachers to teach evolution. The second and third manuscripts are longitudinal empirical studies focused on three beginning biology teachers learning to teach natural selection using the 5E instructional model and interactive classroom simulations. The fourth manuscript is a practitioner article that explains how to teach natural selection simulations using a constructivist, analogy-based teaching strategy. Findings that cut across the four manuscripts are organized into the following themes: The participants developed some common types of knowledge for teaching natural selection, yet also developed in unique ways. All participants developed knowledge of the horizontal curriculum. Yet, participants also developed different types of knowledge. For example, participants who had taken an evolution course developed more integrated pedagogical content knowledge for teaching the core concepts of natural selection. The participant who integrated discipline-level knowledge for teaching science through inquiry with topic-level knowledge for teaching natural selection had taken an undergraduate evolution course and possessed a student-centered orientation, demonstrating the importance of both subject matter preparation and orientations for teaching science in reform-based ways. Differences I observed among the participants highlight the need for more in-depth case studies in addition to large-scale studies to understand beginning science teacher development. Beliefs about science teaching and learning shaped the participants' knowledge and practice for teaching natural selection. Participants who possessed student-centered science teaching orientations developed more integrated pedagogical content knowledge for teaching natural selection. However, one participant with a student-centered orientation possessed beliefs in which it was the students' role to discover natural selection with little intervention from the teacher. This finding supports the need to help teachers develop constructivist orientations to facilitate students' conceptual understandings of science in addition to engaging in inquiry processes. Learning to teach evolution requires a complex amalgam of knowledge, beliefs, and practice. The literature highlights the types of knowledge and beliefs that teachers must develop to be willing to teach evolution, including content knowledge, understandings of the nature of science, and knowledge of teaching controversial topics. In addition, teachers need to develop pedagogical content knowledge for teaching evolution in ways that support students' conceptual understanding of evolution. Based upon my review of the literature, secondary science majors should be required to take a course designed for teaching evolution, with the following goals: 1) Develop content knowledge of evolution; 2) Accept evolution as scientifically valid; 3) Develop understandings of the nature of science related to evolution; 4) Develop strategies for handling the public controversy; and 5) Develop pedagogical content knowledge for teaching evolution. This collection of work has implications for using the construct of pedagogical content knowledge to understand teacher learning, improving teacher preparation, and policy efforts regarding teacher quality.
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