Pre-service primary teacher training through inquiry-based science education.
Design, implementation and evaluation of a training course
University of Almeria, Spain
The scarce number of articles and open forums existing for the design and specific content of pre-service teacher training proposals for Primary science teachers justify the decision to undertake this research. To this I must add the great differences of opinion that exist within the scientific community on the aims, content and appropriate strategies to implement this training; and finally, my work as a newly qualified teacher trainer, who has recently joined the profession within the European Higher Education Area Framework.
The aim of this study is to make a contribution to the field of pre-service teacher training for Primary science teachers, based on the progress of the didactics of science which will materialise in the design, implementation and evaluation of a pre-service teacher training programme for primary school science teachers, also analysing its transfer possibilities.
Our training proposal seeks to promote the Inquiry-Based Science Education (IBSE), for which purpose we present a design supporting this methodology, as well as to emphasise the modelling of a specific content, such as day astronomy, integrating scientific (Sun-Earth model) and didactic contents (questions about science, teaching, learning... visions).
The objective of this thesis is defined by some research questions that we intend to answer in this study:
1) What approach, in a broad sense, should be adopted for effective science teaching in primary schools? What characteristics should a pre-service teacher training programme guided by this approach have?
2) Is it possible to design and develop a substantial pre-service teacher training programme that corresponds to these characteristics?
3) Is the development of this programme potentially significant for students? Does it improve their conceptions and their competence as teachers?
4) Is a programme with these characteristics and guidelines transferable?
The programme designed has been implemented by three trainers on four groups of pre-service primary teachers, and has succeeded in engaging the close attention and involvement of the students. Furthermore, the effect of this programme on the prospective teachers’ conceptions (about science and scientific work, about the justification of science teaching, and science teaching and learning) and their scientific content knowledge have been assessed, as well as their degree of satisfaction with the training.
The results obtained with different methodological designs show a positive evolution in the prospective teachers´ conceptions, as well as in their content knowledge (scientific content linked to the Sun-Earth movement). A high degree of satisfaction in those students who took part was also indicated (N=261).
Thus, the relevance of this study lies not only in its contribution of designing an innovative initial training programme, but also in other contributions that may be of interest and useful in the field of Science Education. More specifically, the set of instruments devised to assess the effect of a training proposal (pre/post questionnaire, individual interviews, students´ production as pre-post activities or theme forums, examinations, students´ and teachers´ class diaries) constitute a valuable contribution which enhances the interest of this study as it provides elements that will help, on the one hand, to increase the existing small number of proposals for training programmes, while on the other it will expand the number of measurement tools (to assess the effectiveness of these programmes) available to researchers.
Given the importance of disseminating the results obtained from our study, as well as the relevance that numerous projects attach to the dissemination of inquiry-based science education materials, we have incorporated to the design, implementation and evaluation of our training proposal, an analysis of the possibilities of transferring it to two different areas: to other teacher trainers (for its development in the university) and to in-service teachers (for its use in primary education). The two exploratory studies show the opinions of both of these groups with regard to the appropriate training of teachers and also allow us to harbour positive expectations for the dissemination of the IBSE approach and to recognise the guidelines to establish the debate on pre-service training. On the one hand, there is a need to promote the involvement of trainee teachers in learning experiences by an IBSE approach, which will be their methodological model, while on the other, the explicit reflection of IBSE characteristics is a necessary requirement in pre-service training so that they are not overlooked by prospective teachers, since due to their implicit nature they may seem scarcely relevant, thus reducing this approach to manipulative activities to make the lessons more agreeable (missing out on the advantages of interpretation, explanation and evaluation –minds-on activities- that the IBSE approach promotes). For all that has been stated above, we stress the necessity to explain the reflection on each inquiry element, while developing it in a practical way in the classroom.
Martínez-Chico, M., López-Gay, R. y Jiménez Liso, M.R. (2013). Design and implementation of an initial primary teachers training course through Model-based Inquiry. In International Conference New Perspectives in Science Education. Florence, Italy. ISBN 978-88-6292-351-4, published by Libreriauniversitaria.it.
Martínez-Chico, M., Jiménez Liso, M.R. & López-Gay, R. (in press). Does our initial training program for Primary teachers really work? Design, implementation and analysis of a questionnaire. In ESERA Conference 2013, Nicosia, Cyprus.
Martínez-Chico, M. (2013) Pre-service primary teacher training through inquiry-based science education. Design, implementation and evaluation of a training course. Phd thesis published by University of Almeria.
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