Teacher conceptions of authentic science : exploring teachers' practical and formal epistemologies
Reform documents such as A Framework for K-12 Science Education and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) have placed an emphasis on students’ understanding and ability to engage in scientific practices. Even with an understanding of the importance of engaging students in authentic science practices for informed citizenry, much of what goes on in classrooms differs from what scientists do. Elementary teachers in particular often feel underprepared and/or uncomfortable teaching science. NGSS-aligned curriculum materials offer one route to support implementation of scientific practices. However, teachers’ beliefs about science influence their planning process and how those plans are enacted in the classroom. Thus, if teachers hold inaccurate views of science and do not understand the pedagogical rationale for the inclusion of the NGSS Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs), they may implement curricula that emphasize scientific practices in ways that are inauthentic to how science is practiced. Therefore, it is important to understand how teachers conceptualize scientific practices, and how these materialize in teachers’ plans for the inclusion of scientific practices in the classroom. Findings from this study indicate that the SEPs are included in elementary teachers’ plans for instruction, but focus on particular aspects of the practices and in ways that are more teacher-driven. Additionally, teachers primarily engage their students in the practices for the purpose of assessing student understanding of the content, as opposed to as opportunities for student sense-making. These findings have important implications for both research and practice.