Biology teacher's perceptions of subject matter structure and its relationship to classroom practice Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/q524js078

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  • Current reforms in science education advocate instruction which capitalizes on broad, integrative understandings of a few underlying concepts. Such recommendations imply that science teachers already hold integrated conceptualizations and will use such understandings to guide practice. However, little research exists which delineates the global content understandings of biology teachers (herein called subject matter structure - SMS) or assesses if these understandings translate into classroom practice. The purpose of this investigation was to determine the nature of biology teachers' SMSs and the relationship of these structures to classroom practice. Case studies of five experienced biology teachers were constructed through interviews, classroom observations, and analysis of instructional materials. Teachers were observed 15 times during their first semester of biology teaching. The data were qualitatively analyzed to determine the exhibited SMS of the teacher as elucidated from the classroom context. This SMS was compared to SMSs provided by the teachers in post-observation interviews and to a SMS generated from the text. The nature of the SMSs, the sources and formation of SMSS, and the variables which differentially affected teachers' abilities to translate SMSs into classroom practice were identified. The teachers' SMSs for biology were based on discrete content topics rather than conceptually integrated themes. Though most teachers recognized the integrated nature of biology content, few explicitly stated such relationships or used such conceptions to purposefully guide practice. The initial formation of SMSs were typically credited to college content courses and modified by the act of teaching. Opportunities for reflection and reinforcement seemed critical for the formation of coherent SMSs. The relationship of SMSs to classroom practice was complex and varied. The most direct form of translation occurred in the scope of course content. Content integration typically occurred only in those areas for which there was the greatest expertise. Variables which differentially affected SMS translation (typically through mitigation) included teacher intentions, content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, students, teacher autonomy and time. These results exist in contrast to those found using other methodologies. Implications for both preservice and inservice teacher education and the potential feasibility of current science reforms exist.
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