Investigating the Pedagogical Content Knowledge of Georgia 6-12 Science Teachers in Relation to Conservation of Mass
Date of Award
Doctor of Education in Secondary Education - Chemistry (Ed.D)
The Law of Conservation of Matter is a crosscutting concept in science that has implications for all disciplines of science. Conservation of Matter concepts are interwoven into all middle school and high school science courses both within the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and the Georgia Standards of Excellence (GSE). For students to become scientifically literate, teachers of science must be able to articulate the content accurately to students and anticipate student difficulties and misconceptions in understanding the content. In order to ensure that students successfully learn said content, science teachers must possess both content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge. Strengths and limitations in the CK and PCK of science instructors within various populations must be identified so that interventions can be designed to help these teachers improve and enhance the PCK of the scientific community as a whole. This study utilized a mixed method design to investigate the correlation between content knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, and instructor demographics, as well as discover the way that teachers address student misconceptions in class. Middle school and high school science teachers in Georgia participated in the administration of a concept inventory and semi-structured interviews relating to the concept of Conservation of Matter. The concept inventory data investigated indicated that there is no correlation between content knowledge and pedagogical content in the area of Conservation of Matter for these teachers. However, it was found that the content knowledge and teaching an honors level class influenced the pedagogical content knowledge score of these teachers. Interview data suggests that teacher misconceptions in regard to Conservation of Matter exist within this population. These misconceptions specifically were found in regard to the splitting of atoms during chemical reactions and matter cycling in biological systems. Teachers were both proactive and reactive to the presence of student misconceptions in class. Another finding from this study indicates that teachers make alterations to their curriculum due to misconceptions. While the modifications to the curriculum varied from adding/changing activities, adding additional instructional time, and incorporating more discussions and questioning, a high percentage of teachers interviewed did modify their curriculum due to misconceptions being present. This study highlights the CK and PCK of teachers related to conservation of matter and can be utilized in order to develop interventions and professional development for teachers that allow for development in these areas.