Learning to Teach Elementary Science in an Experiential, Informal Context: Culture, Learning, and Identity


Elementary and Early Childhood Education

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Lack of time for teaching science in traditional classroom placements in the United States has led some science teacher educators to provide practice teaching time for elementary education students in informal science settings. The purposes of this study were to describe the culture of one science methods course taught in conjunction with a K-7 summer science camp and explore how the science teaching identities of three case-study students developed in this culture. Theoretical frameworks included situated learning (J. S. Brown, A. Collins, & P. Duguid, 1989), professional identity development (M. B. Brewer & W. Gardner, 1996), and a pragmatic approach to constructivist learning theory (P. Cobb, 1994). An ethnographic study was used to determine meaning from the participants' points of view. Results indicated that preservice teacher autonomy, peer collaboration, and close relationships with children were key features of the culture of the methods course. One case-study participant with an initial identity who favored a constructivist approach found opportunities to try out this approach and learn how it might be implemented. The second case-study student began the course with only a vague sense of her own science identity and tended to adopt identity elements similar to those of peers in her group. The third case-study student appeared to experience less dissonance between her initial science teacher identity and other possible identities, enhancing her disposition to meet the needs of all diverse children. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]