Monday, December 20, 2010

Teacher Science Knowledge and Student Science Achievement - meta-analysis

Becker, B.J. & Aloe, A.M. (2008). Teacher Science Knowledge and Student Science Achievement. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New York, March 2008

In this research the authors ask whether teachers’ knowledge of science is an important predictor of student science achievement. the authors use meta-analysis to examine a set of studies done in the United States since 1960, and find that increased content knowledge has a positive and significant, but small, bivariate relationship with student achievement. However, effects from more complex analyses are essentially nil.

The authors address these questions:
1) Are teachers’ levels of content knowledge in science related to their students’ achievement?
2) Do differences in school level, area of science achievement, and how teacher knowledge is measured relate to the strength of relationship found?
3) For more complex studies, does whether prior student achievement is controlled affect the strength of relationship between teachers’ science content knowledge and student achievement in science?

The authors analyses have revealed, first, that the amount of evidence on the relationship of science teacher knowledge to student outcomes in science is not extensive, and is not of very high quality.  Fewer than 30 studies report results pertinent to this topic. The bulk of those studies have measured teacher knowledge using variables that appear to be, at best, proxy variables for actual levels of knowledge. If these measures indeed have low validity as indices of content knowledge, the correlations that the authors have observed will be lower than the true correlation values (see, e.g., Hunter & Schmidt, 2004, for a discussion of invalidity as an artifact in meta-analysis).

The correlational studies reveal that, on average, teacher knowledge in science has a slight positive correlation with student science achievement. However, there is variation that is not accounted for by any of the explanatory variables examined in the authors analyses. More notably, when other variables are held constant (in the five studies reporting regressions), the relationship disappears.

These results are a bit oversimplified, however.  The authors analyses revealed that a variety of factors relate to the size of the bivariate correlations between measures of teacher content knowledge and student science achievement. Of most interest is that when the authors examine studies where the measures of teacher knowledge and student achievement focus on the same content, two content areas show larger correlations: .32 on average for biology and .18 for physical sciences. Though neither of these values is large, they are larger than the means overall and for any other subsets of effects.

Also worth noting are the conflicting results for numbers of credits in science and counts of courses taken. While the mean r for credit hours in science was a significant .15, the mean for course counts was significantly negative, if trivial, at -.03. These two proxy-like predictors were studied in different kinds of samples, which may have affected the values as well.

Finally there is the issue of the national samples. In the authors analyses of correlations, the results of the national studies, all of which were based on large multi-stage probability samples, showed essentially no relationship of teacher knowledge to student achievement. The same was true for the regression studies, all of which similarly drew on national probability samples. These studies might be considered to provide the authors “best evidence” on the issue at hand, since they allow for inferences to be made to a well defined population. However, some caution is in order due to the nature of the measures used in these studies. All of these studies used broad measures of student science achievement, not measures of specific science content. Similarly all used coarse self-report proxies to represent teachers’ science knowledge, many of which were course counts and indicators of whether a teacher had a major or an advanced degree in science. These may have a less direct relation to the construct of interest than more targeted measure of teacher knowledge, thus attenuating the observed relationship. Last, two of the national surveys (LSAY and NELS) appear both data sets, and appear twice in the set of regression results, because several authors have analyzed these important data sources. Thus their findings, which appear to be weaker than those of local samples, play a large role in the authors conclusions.

Clearly, a multitude of factors aside from teacher subject-matter knowledge have been documented to impact student science achievement. Such things as students’ verbal, spatial and reasoning skills (Piburn, 1993), a diversity of teaching strategies (Bowen, 2000; Johnson, Kahle, & Fargo, 2007; Schroeder et al., 2007) and curricular interventions (Shymansky, Kyle, & Alport, 1983) have been found to impact achievement. Piburn  (1993) reported correlations ranging from about .20 to .45 for ability predictors with school science outcomes, larger than most of the values the authors report.  Bowen (2000) examined a set of studies of cooperative learning activities in high-school and college chemistry courses, and found effects that would average about .18 on the correlation scale. Other influences have been found to have even more sizeable impacts on achievement. For instance, Schroeder and colleagues (2007) examined 61 experiments or quasi-experiments on a wide range of science teaching strategies. They found effects ranging from .14 to roughly .60 on the correlation scale.

We can also compare the authors results to those found in a recent meta-analysis of the importance of subject-matter knowledge in mathematics. Choi, Ahn and Kennedy (2007) examined  results from 16 studies of student math achievement. They found that teachers’ arithmetic knowledge correlated on average only .07 with student arithmetic performance, while results were mixed for algebra achievement. Performance on algebra concept tests showed a correlation of .12 with teacher knowledge, whereas computation in algebra was unrelated to teacher knowledge. As was true for the authors' analyses the correlation of teacher knowledge to student math outcomes varied according to a variety of features of the studies and measures used. However, none of the mean correlations reported by Choi and colleagues averaged above .2, and as was true for the authors results, some mean correlations were significantly negative.

Re: claims that have been made about the importance of subject matter knowledge - In 2002 the report of the Secretary of the U.S. of Education asserted “Rigorous research indicates that verbal ability and content knowledge are the most important attributes of highly qualified teachers” (2002, p. 19, emphasis added).   the authors would argue that teacher knowledge is only one factor among many other more important ones leading to increased science achievement for students. It may be that with more targeted, higher-quality measures of teacher content knowledge, a stronger relationship would be found. This leads to one clear suggestion for future work: Use better, more specific measures of teachers’ science knowledge. However, the existing literature suggests that the relation of teachers’ content knowledge to science achievement is weak, and provides a very poor basis for claiming that science subject-matter knowledge is among the “most important” attributes of highly qualified teachers.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Effective Programs in Middle and High School Mathematics: A Best-Evidence Synthesis

Slavin, R. E., Lake, C., and Groff, C. (2009). Effective Programs in Middle and High School Mathematics: A Best-Evidence Synthesis. Review of Educational Research, 79(2):839-911. (abstract)

This review examined 100 studies of three types of programs designed to improve achievement in mathematics (Slavin, Lake, & Groff, 2009). In this review, 40 studies of mathematics curricula found very small effects (ES = +0.03); 38 studies of computer-assisted instruction found small effects (ES = +0.10); and 22 studies of instructional process programs found small effects (ES = +0.18); although the effects of specific programs varied widely, with studies of two forms of cooperative learning having medium effects (ES = +0.48).

An earlier review examined 33 studies of four types of programs designed to improve achievement in reading (Slavin, Cheung, Groff, & Lake, 2008); Regarding these programs, no studies of secondary reading curricula met the criteria to be included in the review; eight studies of computer-assisted instruction found small effects (ES = +0.10); 16 studies of instructional-process programs had small effects (ES = +0.21); and nine studies of two mixed-method models that combined large-group, small-group, and computer-assisted, individualized instruction had small effects (ES = +0.23). The third review was conducted by the What Works Clearinghouse based on three studies of a computer-based adolescent literacy program that supplements regular classroom reading instruction in grades K-8. The review found that the program had small effects on reading comprehension (ES = .27) and literacy achievement (ES = .28).

This article reviews research on the achievement outcomes of mathematics programs for middle and high schools. Study inclusion requirements include use of a randomized or matched control group, a study duration of at least 12 weeks, and equality at pretest. There were 100 qualifying studies, 26 of which used random assignment to treatments. Effect sizes were very small for mathematics curricula and for computer-assisted instruction. Positive effects were found for two cooperative learning programs. Outcomes were similar for disadvantaged and nondisadvantaged students and for students of different ethnicities. Consistent with an earlier review of elementary programs, this article concludes that programs that affect daily teaching practices and student interactions have more promise than those emphasizing textbooks or technology alone.

Improving High School Performance

Rumberger, R. What the Federal Government Can Do to Improve High School Performance. Washington, D.C.: Center on Education Policy. 2009. [Technical Report]

Improvement strategies, especially more comprehensive ones, will not be successful until critical aspects of capacity and context are improved (p83)

The research literature has identified two broad factors that affect implementation: will and capacity (McLaughlin, 1987; McLaughlin, 1990). Will and capacity refer to traits of both individuals and institutions. At the individual level, will refers to the motivation and commitment of educators—teachers and administrators—to implement reform strategies. (p75)

The individual capacity of teachers and administrators to carry out reforms is clearly important. The capacity of teachers to implement reforms, which, again, usually means changing their instructional practices, is a time-consuming, multi-stage process that includes persuasion over the need for reform. (p75)

The capacity of individuals—teachers and administrators—as well as the institutional capacity of the school itself are key factors to successful implementation. School capacity depends on having sufficient and correct alignment of resources (including sufficient time); it also depends on coherence in its efforts across all the demands placed on schools and their staffs by districts, as well as state and federal policy requirements. Building capacity also depends on having sufficient will or readiness, especially among school and district leadership, to build capacity and initiate reform. (p83)


High schools play a crucial role in preparing students for college, work, and citizenship. Yet, by many accounts, U.S. high schools are not performing any of these tasks well. This situation has prompted calls for improving high school performance. This report reviews past efforts to reform high schools, examines why those efforts have largely been unsuccessful, and suggests what the federal government can do to improve high school performance.

In order to improve the performance of U.S. high schools, it is first necessary to identify the purposes and goals of high schools and then develop suitable measures of school performance to determine the extent to which those goals are met. Only then can any serious effort be made to improve high school performance. In the current era of standards-based accountability, reform efforts have focused on raising student academic performance as measured by course credits, test scores, and educational credentials. Yet research studies and surveys of employers suggest students need a wide variety of non-academic as well as academic skills to be successful in college, the workplace, and in their adult lives.

A number of approaches have been developed for improving high schools, including targeted approaches that focus on specific facets of the school (instruction, student support, school restructuring); comprehensive strategies that redesign all aspects of the school or create new schools; collaborative approaches that create partnerships between schools and outside agencies; and systemic approaches that alter requirements for all schools in the system. Although the research evidence on the effectiveness of specific approaches is limited, it does suggest that no one strategy is inherently more effective than the others.

Numerous large-scale initiatives to improve the performance of high schools in the U.S. have been undertaken in the past 20 years by government agencies, foundations, non-profit organizations, and independent developers. For the most part these efforts have been unsuccessful, although there was widespread variability in both the implementation and impact of the initiatives across schools, districts, and states. Evaluations of these efforts have identified a number of factors that limited their implementation and impact, with the most important being the lack of will and capacity of both individual educators and institutions to engage in sustained improvement efforts. One implication is that strategies for improving high schools will not be successful until critical aspects of capacity and context are improved.

The federal government can play an important role in improving U.S. high schools by shifting its focus from short-term accountability to long-term capacity building. Specifically, the federal government should:
1. Support the development of broader indicators of student progress and outcomes, and include these indicators in the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
2. Help build the capacity of state governments and technical-assistance providers to support improvement efforts and capacity building in districts and schools.
3. Develop guidelines to insure that states do a better job of matching reform strategies to the capacity of schools and districts in need of improvement.
4. Improve coherence among federal policy initiatives, between federal and state initiatives, and between government and foundation initiatives.
5. Support the development of more comprehensive state and local data systems that not only measure educational inputs and outputs, but also district and school readiness and capacity to initiate reform as well as progress toward improving student outcomes.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Challenges New Science Teachers Face - Lit Review (2006)

Davis E.A., Petish, D. & Smithey, J. (2006). Challenges new science teachers face. Review of Educational Research, 76, 607–651

What are the challenges that new science teachers face in trying to meet the increasingly high expectations laid out for them in current reform documents? What do we expect new science teachers to know and be able to do? [p609] Science teachers are expected to understand: (1) the content and disciplines of science, (2) learners, (3) instruction, (4) learning environments, and (5) professionalism. [p607] New elementary teachers may face even greater challenges in teaching science than do their secondary counterparts, since they typically teach multiple subjects, including all areas of science.[p608]

The authors see standards [INTASC, 2002 & NSES] for teaching as appropriate to use as a frame for their work: They concisely represent the kinds of things that teachers should probably be able to do—and indeed, that teacher educators should help them achieve—and are the result of some form of consensus-building at a higher level than a single scholar’s viewpoint.

1. The first theme, understanding the content and disciplines of science, focuses on the teacher’s understanding of “the major concepts, assumptions, debates, processes of inquiry, and ways of knowing that are central” to the science discipline(s) she teaches (INTASC, 1992, p. 14). (p613)
  • new teachers have relatively weak understandings of science overall (p613)
  • In general, the preservice teachers held alternative ideas that were similar to those that have been identified in students (Bendall et al., 1993; Ginns & Watters, 1995; Schoon & Boone, 1998; Trumper, 2003). Even secondary preservice teachers showed poor understandings of topics (Haidar, 1997). (p615)
  • preservice secondary science teachers in their studies initially lacked understanding of the connections between concepts in the disciplines they were to teach; but these understandings improved over time and with experience.(p615)
  • In sum, preservice teachers seem, for the most part, to lack adequate understandings of science content. This trend is especially pronounced at the elementary level; results are more mixed at the secondary level. Though most studies do not characterize change over time, those that do indicate that the preservice teachers’ knowledge may improve over time. (p615)
  • Overall, these papers illustrate that many preservice teachers have unsophisticated understandings of inquiry and related skills, though of course individuals vary. p616
  • The studies in this area consistently find that most (though not all) new teachers have naive beliefs about the nature of science (see Lederman, 1992, for a review). p616
2. Theme 2, understanding learners, focuses on teachers’ understanding of how students learn and develop, and includes an appreciation of the variation in learners and in how they approach learning (INTASC, 1992). Teachers should believe that all students can “learn at high levels” (INTASC, 1992, p. 18), regardless of their cultural and language backgrounds. Teachers should “recognize and respond to student diversity and encourage all students to participate fully in science learning” (NRC, 1996, p. 32), and they should “display and demand respect for the diverse ideas, skills, and experiences of all students” (NRC, 1996, p. 46). p618
  • new science teachers’ ideas about learners can become more sophisticated with time and support p618
  • in general these teachers struggle with understanding their learners; p618
  • their practices with regard to their learners are often naive. p618
  • preservice teachers tend not to consider students or student learning very extensively, very carefully, or in very sophisticated ways p618
  • The preservice elementary and secondary teachers tended to have very limited ideas about what to do, instructionally, with students’ ideas p619
  • Rodriguez, for example, studied 18 preservice secondary teachers, including 4 focus teachers, and found that the preservice teachers tended to feel hopeless and overwhelmed about working with diverse students. p620
  • The studies reported within this theme show that, in general, new teachers do not have very clear ideas about what to do with regard to students’ ideas or backgrounds; at least at the elementary level, preservice teachers seem initially to want mainly to engage, interest, motivate, or manage their students. p620

3. The third theme, understanding instruction, means that the teacher “understands principles and techniques, along with advantages and limitations, associated with various instructional strategies” (INTASC, 1992, p. 20) and “uses a variety of instructional strategies” (INTASC, 2002, p. 4). [p621]
  • Overall, these studies illustrate a mismatch between teachers’ ideas and practices—their ideas about instruction seem generally to be more sophisticated and innovative than are their actual practices. [p621]
  • One basic challenge that new teachers face is developing sophisticated ideas about science instruction; these papers indicate that though improvement can occur, it is neither guaranteed nor necessarily long-lasting.
  • In general, these studies — mostly conducted with secondary teachers — indicate that when new teachers have stronger subject matter knowledge, they are more likely to engage in more sophisticated teaching practices. p622
  • Overall, then, teachers’ subject matter knowledge seems related to their instructional ideas and practice; stronger science knowledge typically co-occurs with more sophisticated ideas or practices with regard to instruction (though most of the studies related to this point were conducted with secondary teachers). p623
  • In sum, new teachers face many challenges with regard to using effective instructional approaches, including lacking relevant subject matter knowledge, not knowing how to enact their instructional ideas, and being resistant to certain innovative practices. With support, though, teachers can begin to move along a positive trajectory.p624
4. The fourth theme, understanding learning environments, emphasizes teachers’ understandings of how to set up productive classroom environments for science learning. This involves creating “a learning environment that encourages positive social interaction, active engagement in learning, and self-motivation” (INTASC, 1992, p. 22) and understanding “the principles of effective classroom management and [using] a range of strategies to promote positive relationships, cooperation, and purposeful learning in the classroom” (INTASC, 1992, p. 22). [p627]
  • In sum, based on the few studies we identified in this area, we see that new teachers tend to have concerns about and struggles with management, sometimes leading them to engage in less reform-oriented teaching practices. p628
5. The final theme, professionalism—or becoming a professional—emphasizes being “a reflective practitioner who continually evaluates the effects of his/her choices and actions on others (students, parents, and other professionals in the learning community) and who actively seeks out opportunities to grow professionally” (INTASC, 1992, p. 31). p629
  • Appleton and Kindt (2002) identify three important aspects of knowledge of schools: understanding the priority of science in a school culture, understanding the degree of personal choice one has about the curriculum, and identifying and obtaining resources for science teaching. p629
Supportive Science Coursework
  • simply requiring more science content courses is not enough to enable teachers to develop improved understanding of science p633
  • Many science teacher educators assume that teachers should engage in reform-oriented practices as learners if they are to learn more inquiry-oriented teaching practices and become more knowledgeable about the science content, scientific inquiry, and the nature of science;
Supportive Preservice Teacher Education
  • Science methods courses and teacher education programs can, of course, help to promote improved understanding of instruction p634
  • Zembal-Saul and her colleagues (2000) describe the importance of engaging preservice elementary teachers in multiple cycles of planning, teaching, and reflection, over the course of a year. The preservice teachers who participated in the program emphasizing elementary science teaching improved in how they organized instruction around important scientific ideas (a challenge we identified for elementary teachers, who tended instead to focus on activities) and came to recognize the importance of accounting for their learners as they planned instruction p634
  • Field experiences also help preservice teachers to overcome certain challenges [p635]
Supportive Induction and Professional Development Programs
  • action research
  • collegial relationships
  • educative curriculum materials

p624 "In sum, new teachers face many challenges with regard to using effective instructional approaches, including lacking relevant subject matter knowledge, not knowing how to enact their instructional ideas, and being resistant to certain innovative practices. With support, though, teachers can begin to move along a positive trajectory."

p626 "One study provides a counterpoint to this general trend, though it focuses on only a single teacher (Abell & Roth, 1994). This preservice elementary teacher developed effective coping strategies while taking her science methods course. She infused additional science into an otherwise limited science curriculum and inspired the other teachers in her school to use cooperative learning experiences. Her personal attributes and the features of her student teaching context helped her to take risks in her environment."

Abell, S. K., & Roth, M. (1994). Constructing science teaching in the elementary school: The socialization of a science enthusiast student teacher. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 31(1), 77–90.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Research on science teacher knowledge - Lit Review by Abell (2007)

Abell, S. K. (2007). Research on science teacher knowledge (Chapter 36). In S.K. Abell and N.G. Lederman (Eds.), Research on Science Teacher Education, pp.1105-1149, New York: Routledge.

This chapter is a comprehensive literature review of the research on science teacher knowledge.

Science teacher subject matter knowledge (SMK)

Using a true/false written test, researchers found that prospective elementary teachers (Ralya & Ralya) and practicing teachers (Blanchett) held a large number of misconceptions about science and science-related issues. The Ralya and Ralya study is interesting in that misconceptions they identified for a significant number of teachers became key targets for research on both student and teacher science conceptions 50 years later (e.g., causes of the seasons, force and motion, heat and temperature).

"Teachers often subscribe to the same alternative conceptions as their students" (p. 189), (Wandersee, 1994)
Few studies have examined the development of science teacher SMK over time. Arzi and White (2004) investigated SMK in a 17-year longitudinal study of secondary science teachers. They found that the school science curriculum was "the most powerful determinant of teachers' knowledge, serving as both knowledge organizer and knowledge source" (p. 2). This study is significant both for the rarity of its longitudinal methods as well as the resulting phase model of teacher SMK development that could be a useful tool in science teacher education.

Appleton (1992, 1995) claimed that factors other than increased science study affected confidence to teach science but admitted that teachers who experienced success in learning science content did become more confident. Appleton also warned science educators not to confuse confidence with competence.
A review of the research on teacher SMK about chemistry (de Jong et al., 2002) corroborates the observation that even teachers who have strong preparation in chemistry lack understanding of concepts fundamental to their field. ... students across disciplines, including preservice teachers, gave incorrect answers about the causes and consequences associated with this phenomenon. Indeed, problems in understanding college chemistry are not limited to prospective elementary teachers.

Another line of science teacher research concerned itself with teacher planning. Although this research typically did not mention Shulman or PCK, being more often framed by a teacher cognition perspective, notions of teacher knowledge were often implicit. The planning literature in teacher education is rich (see Clark & Peterson, 1986; So, 1997), but science education is not well represented. Science education studies on teacher planning have examined both preservice (Davies & Rogers, 2000; Morine-Dershimer, 1989; Roberts & Chastko, 1990) and practicing (Aikenhead, 1984; Sanchez & Valcarcel, 1999; So, 1997) science teachers in an attempt to understand how teachers plan and what knowledge and beliefs influence their planning.

Two other studies of SMK in earth and space science (Barba & Rubba, 1992; 1993) were substantially different in that they adopted an expert/novice theoretical framework to study inservice/preservice and novice/veteran teachers' declarative and procedural knowledge about a variety of earth and space science topics. Aligned with their theoretical frame, they found that expert teachers had better content knowledge structures, gave more accurate answers, used information chunks in solving problems, solved problems in fewer steps, and generated more solutions. Novice teachers moved between declarative and procedural knowledge more often and were less fluent in solving earth/ space science tasks overall.

SMK Assessment Methods: card sort, concept mapping, true-false tests, organize topics, comment on topic importance. Rather than provide the terms used in the card sort, the researchers (Gess-Newsome and Lederman, 1993; 1995) asked teachers to first generate their own terms and then diagram the relationships.
By far the most research on teachers' SMK in science has taken place in the domain of physics. The overall finding from these studies of teacher SMK in physics is that teachers' misunderstandings mirror what we know about students. This finding holds regardless of the method used to assess teacher knowledge: true / false (Yip et al., 1998), multiple choice (e.g., Lawrenz, 1986), open-ended surveys (Mohaptra & Bhattacharyya, 1989), interviews (Linder & Erickson, 1989; Smith, 1987), and observation techniques (Daehler & Shinohara, 2001; Pardhan & Bano, 2001).

Relation of SMK to Teaching

Druva and Anderson (1983) found a small but significant positive relation between "science training" and "teaching effectiveness."

In an observational study of elementary science teachers, Anderson (1979) provided convincing evidence that, "Lack of science content [knowledge]... made it virtually impossible for them to structure the information in lessons in ways preferred by science educators" (p. 226); the teachers avoided spontaneous questions from students, emphasized minor details in discussion, and failed to develop important concepts.

Dobey (1980) demonstrated the complexities of correlating SMK with teaching. Dobey, in his dissertation (Dobey, 1980; Dobey & Schafer, 1984), studied 22 preservice elementary teachers' SMK and level of inquiry teaching via their planning and teaching of a pendulum unit to fifth graders. The researchers measured SMK, not by the number of college science courses taken, but by performance and training on topic-specific tasks. The findings were mixed. Teachers in the "no knowledge" group were more teacher-directed than those with "intermediate knowledge," but not more so than the "knowledge" group teachers. The "no knowledge" teachers did not pursue new avenues of investigation during the lesson and allowed the least number of student ideas. The "no knowledge" group did not give out pendulum information in the lesson, and one-half of the "knowledge" group lectured at some point. [too little or too much SMK was associated with teacher-directed instruction; perhaps the teachers with high-SMK taught science they way they learned science]

In her dissertation study of five experienced biology teachers, Gess-Newsome (Gess-Newsome & Lederman, 1995) compared the teachers' subject matter structures with their classroom practice, concluding that the "level of content knowledge had a significant impact on how content was taught" (p. 317). [Qs the teachers ask, amount of "risky activities," complexity of test questions, amount of teacher vs. student talk]
Smith (1997): "knowledge of science does enhance teaching, but not in a straightforward manner" (p. 151).

Examining preservice elementary teachers as they planned a science lesson, Symington and Hayes (1989) demonstrated that inadequate SMK led to limitations in planning, and that future teachers had few strategies for coping with their lack of science understanding. However, in another study, Symington (1982) found no direct relationship of SMK to a preservice teacher's ability to plan appropriate materials for student investigation. According to Symington, there must be other kinds of knowledge and abilities that "compensate for a lack of scientific knowledge" (p. 70).

Despite this mixture of settings and methods, the evidence does support a positive relationship between SMK and teaching.

Could it be, as Lederman and Gess-Newsome suggested, that some minimal SMK is necessary, but that studies at different grades, or with preservice versus practicing teachers, cannot be compared fairly? Or could it be that SMK does have an effect on science teaching, but that this effect is mediated by other types of teacher knowledge? This was implied in many of the studies reported. Perhaps SMK is necessary, but not sufficient, for effective teaching. A review of studies of PK and PCK could be instructive.


Shulman's Model of Teacher Knowledge: pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) as the knowledge that is developed by teachers to help others learn. Teachers build PCK as they teach specific topics in their subject area. PCK is influenced by the transformation of three other knowledge bases: subject matter knowledge (SMK), pedagogical knowledge (PK), and knowledge of context (KofC) (Grossman)

The Shulman program was substantially different. Shulman and his colleagues attempted to answer the question "What knowledge is essential for teaching?" by studying teachers from different subject areas (e.g., English, science, social studies).

Magnusson, Krajcik, and Borko (1999) defined PCK as consisting of five components: (a) orientations toward science teaching, which include a teacher's knowledge of goals for and general approaches to science teaching; (b) knowledge of science curriculum, including national, state, and district standards and specific science curricula; (c) knowledge of assessment for science, including what to assess and how to assess students; (d) knowledge of science instructional strategies, including representations, activities, and methods; and (e) knowledge of student science understanding, which includes common conceptions and areas of difficulty.

Grossman's (1990) formalization of Shulman's model of teacher knowledge included a component of pedagogical knowledge separate from PCK that she labeled general pedagogical knowledge (PK). PK includes knowledge of instructional principles, classroom management, learners and learning, and educational aims that are not subject-matter-specific. Theoretically, these types of knowledge interact with PCK for teaching of a particular topic in a discipline. Could it be that the influence of PK on PCK needs to be better articulated? I believe that more attention must be paid to the interaction of PK with PCK-for example, the role of caring, classroom management, or general learning views-in how teachers teach science.


Pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) has been defined as "the transformation of subject-matter knowledge into forms accessible to the students being taught" (Geddis, 1993, p. 675). Grossman (1990) and later Magnusson et al. (1999) defined separate components of PCK, including orientations, knowledge of learners, curriculum, instructional strategies, and assessment. Yet, the PCK literature in science education is not nearly as tidy as the SMK literature.

Several lines of research used frameworks other than Shulman's to understand science teacher knowledge. For example, science education researchers have used Schon's theory of reflective practice to understand the development of "professional knowledge" (Abell, Bryan, & Anderson, 1998; Anderson, Smith, & Peasley, 2000; Munby, Cunningham, & Lock, 2000; Munby & Russell, 1992; Russell & MWlby, 1991). These studies demonstrated how teacher knowledge develops over time with respect to various inputs and perturbations, but did not classify teacher knowledge as Shulman did.

Subcategories of PCK
  1. orientations: "general way of viewing or conceptualizing science teaching" - (e.g., fact acquisition, conceptual development, and content understanding); approaches to teaching (e.g., transmission, inquiry, discovery)
  2. knowledge of learners: requirements for learning certain concepts; areas students find difficult, approaches to learning science, and common alternative conceptions; many teachers were unaware of students' likely misconceptions [teachers have many of the same misconceptions student have]; veteran teachers are able to predict and plan around these difficulties; experienced teachers are able to provide evidence to support their interpretations of students. Overall it appears that teachers lack knowledge of student conceptions, but that this knowledge improves with teaching experience.
  3. curriculum knowledge: (a) knowledge of mandated goals and objectives (e.g., state and national standards); and (b) knowledge of specific curriculum programs and materials. Although science teachers recognize a variety of goals for science teaching, they tend to emphasize content goals over attitudinal or process goals. We know little about the knowledge teacher bring to bear on the analysis, selection, or design of science curriculum materials.
  4. knowledge of science instructional strategies: (a) subject specific strategies (e.g., learning cycle, use of analogies or demos or labs); and (b) topic-specific teaching methods and strategies, including representations, demonstrations, and activities. More science education research should be devoted to examining what teachers understand about classroom inquiry strategies and science teaching models, and how they translate their knowledge into instruction.
  5. science assessment: this includes (a) what to assess, and (b) how to assess (methods); According to Briscoe (1993), a teacher's ability to change his/her assessment practices is "influenced by what the teacher already knows or understands about teaching, learning, and the nature of schooling" (p. 983). These studies of teacher knowledge of assessment in science provide rich research models that demonstrate a link between PCK for assessment and science teaching orientation. More studies are needed to better understand what teachers know about assessment, and how they design, enact, and score assessments in their science classes.


Science teacher education must honor not only formal teacher knowledge, but also the local and practical knowledge of teachers in the field and the sociocultural contexts that frame their work.
Current U.S. federal policy implies that only SMK is needed to produce highly qualified teachers (U.S. Department of Education, 2002). This review provides evidence to the contrary.

Recommendations for Future Research
The area in which the SMK literature is less clear is the relation of SMK to other forms of teacher knowledge, to teacher beliefs and values, and to classroom practice. We need more studies that take place within the teaching -context to examine how SMK develops, how it plays out in teaching, and how it is related to other kinds of teacher knowledge (see Ball & McDiarmid, 1996).

More studies need to focus on the essence of PCK-how teachers transform SMK of specific science topics into viable instruction (see van Oriel et al., 1998).

Although we have a good understanding of the kinds of knowledge that teachers bring to bear on science teaching, we know little about how teacher knowledge affects students.

The ultimate goal for science teacher knowledge research must be not only to understand teacher knowledge, but also to improve practice, thereby improving student learning.

Expert and novice, earth and space science (1993)

Barba, R. H. and Rubba, P. A. (1993). Expert and novice, earth and space science: teachers' declarative, procedural and structural knowledge. International Journal of Science Education, 15(3):273-282.

Abstract: This study sought to compare expert and novice earth and space science teachers in terms of the declarative, procedural and structural knowledge that they use while engaged in solving 'typical' earth science problems. In a qualitative analysis of the problem-solving skills of six expert and six novice earth and space science teachers, it was found that expert earth and space science teachers: (a) brought more declarative knowledge to the problem, (b) used fewer steps to solve a problem, (c) generated more subroutines, (d) generated more alternative solutions, (e) moved less between declarative and procedural knowledge, and (f) solved problems more accurately than did the novice earth and space science teachers. Findings from this study support Norman's (1982) theory of learning, that experts perform with ease while novices seem to work harder. The expert earth and space science teachers in this study seemed to function at the 'tuning' level, while novice earth and space science teachers function at the 'accretion' level (Norman 1982).

Barba, R. H. and Rubba, P. A. (1992). A comparison of preservice and in-service earth and space science teachers' general mental abilities, content knowledge, and problem-solving skills. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 29(10):1021-1035.

The purpose of this study was to compare in-service and preservice earth and space science teachers on their general mental abilities, their content knowledge or declarative knowledge of earth and space sciences, the Gagnean levels of their content knowledge or declarative knowledge, and the procedural knowledge used in solving earth and space science problems. This study used a contrast-group design to compare in-service (n = 30) and preservice (n = 30) earth and space science teachers. The in-service earth science teachers (a) bring more declarative knowledge to the problem-solving situation, (b) use fewer steps while problem solving, (c) generate more subroutines and alternate hypotheses, and (d) possess different structural knowledge than do preservice earth science teachers. Findings from this study support Norman's theory of learning that experts (in-service teachers) function at the tuning mode of learning, whereas novices (preservice teachers) function in an accreting or structuring mode. In-service earth science teachers exhibited smoothness, automaticity, and decreased mental effort not exhibited by preservice earth and space science teachers.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Three competing purposes of education - Laboree (1997)

Labaree, D.F. 1997. Public Goods, Private Goods: The American Struggle Over Educational Goals. American Educational Research Journal, 34 (1), pp39-81.

According to Labaree, there are three alternative & competing goals for American education:
1. democratic equality: for citizens, everyone needs to know as much as possible, education needs to be accessible to everyone in order to create a true democracy, so anyone can contribute (public good)
2. social efficiency: for workers, everyone benefits from more skilled workers, make education more practical by offering more practical study matters and some degree of stratification (private training for public benefit)
3. social mobility: for individuals, the benefit largely goes to the individual consumer, who gains a salary increase or mainains his/her position on the social scale; this provides further stratification and differentiation between institutions (even with similar programs), as well as within institutions (from remedial to gifted)

“Schools,” Stanford historian David Labaree wrote, “occupy an awkward position at the intersection between what we hope society will become and what we think it really is.” What do we want our schools to do, and for whom?

According to Lauren Resnick [Resnick, L. B. (1987). The 1987 Presidential Address: Learning in school and out. Educational Researcher, 16 (9), pp. 13-20], there are three main views about the role of education in American society:
    1. schools should prepare people for economic participation (work)
    2. schools should prepare people to learn effectively over the long course of their work lives, and
    3. schools should prepare people for civic and cultural participation
and that we as nation struggle with these competing visions and purposes of education.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Teaching as assisted performance - Tharp & Gallimore 1988

Tharp, R. G. & Gallimore, R. (1988). The redefinition of teaching and schooling (Chapter 1, pp. 13-26), A theory of teaching as assisted performance (Chapter 2, pp. 27-43) in Rousing minds to life: Teaching, learning and schooling in social context. New York. Cambridge University

Thesis: Teaching must be redefined as assisted performance. Teaching consists in assisting performance. Teaching is occurring when performance is achieved with assistance.

Traditional "teaching": lecturing, explaining, and asking students questions

Duffy and his associates (Duffy, 1981; Duffy, Lanier, & Roehler, 1980) summarized the work on teacher effectiveness and drew two conclusions: (a) The most effective teachers of basic skills generate the greatest opportunity to learn. (b) Such teachers are technical managers of instructional materials and activities rather than theory-driven and reflective decision makers.

Teaching as assistance
  • Of what does this "other" kind of teaching consist? For one thing, it clearly involves subject-matter competence. To do more than manage activities and allow students to learn on their own, teachers must command the knowledge and skills they seek to impart (Shulman, 1986). The point of teaching is to impart knowledge and the capacity to process that knowledge
  • But knowing the subject matter is not sufficient for teachers. Pedagogical expertise is also required (Berliner, 1986), of which there are many kinds.
Rousing minds to life
  • Until internalization occurs, performance must be assisted.
  • Assisted performance identifies a fundamental process of development and learning.
  • Students cannot be left to learn on their own; teachers cannot be content to provide opportunities to learn and then assess outcomes; recitation must be deemphasized; responsive, assisting interactions must become commonplace in the classroom. Minds must be roused to life.
  • "If seek to promote the quality of teaching, reforms should also provide [teachers] some means to improve"
  • How are we to achieve in schools the conditions that will make them places for teachers as well as students? The solution will involve others besides teachers.
In one view, the definitions of teaching and teachers are straightforward and readily mastered: Teaching can be reduced to a few days of standard in-service training that teachers can implement on their own. Such teaching can be assessed with an observation form and teachers can be assessed with a test. The results of teaching can be checked by standardized achievement tests. (p.24)

In an other view. teaching is a complex, humane activity at which a teacher can grow steadily more proficient over the years by means of disciplined curiosity, continuous training, and skillful assistance. Teachers can be supported and evaluated by persons - including principals - who join with them in mastering and advancing the craft. In this view, one influences teachers primarily by organizing the support and recognition that will permit them to realize the higher motives of service that bring them to teaching.

Supervision should be defined - particularly in an institution devoted to teaching - as assisting performance in precisely the terms we used to define teaching.

"In collaborative settings, teachers acquire and develop better skills through their collective analysis, evaluation, and experimentation with new teaching strategies." (Rosenholtz, 1986, p. 518)

Chapter 2 - A theory of teaching as assisted performance

Assisted performance defines what a child can do with help, with the support of the environment, of others, and of the self. For Vygotsky, the contrast between assisted performance and unassisted performance identified the fundamental nexus of development and learning that he called the zone of proximal development (ZPD).

Vygotsky's work principally discusses children, but identical processes can be seen operating in the learning adult.

T & G's general definition of teaching: Teaching consists in assisting performance through the ZPD. Teaching can be said to occur when assistance is offered at points in the ZPD at which performance requires assistance.

The four stages of the ZPD:
Stage I: Where performance is assisted by more capable others
Stage II: Where performance is assisted by the self
Stage III: Where performance is developed, automatize, and "fossilized"
Stage IV: Where de-automatization of performance leads to recursion back through the ZPD

Responsive assistance
In the transition from other-assistance to self-assistance (and automatization) there are variations in the means and patterns of adult assistance to the child. At the earlier phases, assistance may be frequent and elaborate. Later, it occurs less often and is truncated . Adult assistance is contingent on and responsive to the child's level of performance.

If the truncated guidance fails, the adult may add additional hints, testing to find that minimum level of help the child needs to proceed. This continual adjustment of the level and amount of help is responsive to the child's level of performance and perceived need.

However, patient, contingent, responsive, and accurately tuned adult assistance does not always occur. A major variable here is the nature of the task or performance.

"Assistance" offered at too high a level will disrupt child performance and is not effective teaching. Once independent skill has been achieved, "assistance" becomes "interference."

That's why T & G say teaching occurs when assistance is offered at points in the ZPD at which performance requires assistance.

As common as assisted performance is in the interactions of parents and children, it is uncommon in those of teachers and students. Why?
First, to provide assistance in the ZPD, the assistor must be in close touch with the learner's relationship to the task. Sensitive and accurate assistance that challenges but does not dismay the learner cannot be achieved in the absence of information.
Second, while most parents do not need to be trained to assist performance, most teachers do. Teachers need a more elaborate set of skills in assistance, and they need to be more conscious of their application. Teachers need to learn good pedagogical practices.

Scaffolding; A theory of the teacher - Greenfield (1984)

Greenfield, P. (1984). A theory of the teacher in the learning activities of everyday life. In B. Rogoff and J. Lave (Eds.), Everyday cognition (pp. 117-138). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Scaffolding and the Zone of Proximal Development
The scaffold is a metaphor, originated by Wood, Bruner, and Ross (1976), to describe the ideal role of the teacher. This metaphor is the basis for a theoretical model of the teacher in informal education. The scaffold, as it is known in building construction, has five characteristics:
  1. it provides a support;
  2. it functions as a tool;
  3. it extends the range of the worker;
  4. it allows the worker to accomplish a task not otherwise possible; and
  5. it is used selectively to aid the worker where needed.
Scaffolding thus closes the gap between task requirements and the skill level of the learner, creating what Hunt (1961) called "the match" between the cognitive level of the learner and the characteristics of instruction, or what Brown (1975, 1979) referred to as "headfitting."
  • The "region of sensitivity" to instruction lies in the gap between comprehension and production
  • Shaping involves a series of successive approximations to the ultimate task goal. While the learner is successful at every point in the process, he or she starts with a simplified version of the ultimate task.
  • Scaffolding, in contrast, does not involve simplifying the task during the period of learning. Instead, it holds the task constant, while simplifying the learner's role through the graduated intervention of the teacher.
Language Learning in Los Angeles was examined: mothers engaged in both shaping and scaffolding communications

Learning to Weave in Zinacantan, Chiapas, Mexico: The role of scaffolding in informal instruction was also illustrated in weaving in Zinacantan

Other ideas:
  • The basic idea that a scaffold functions to close the gap between learner abilities and task requirements implies that more scaffolding will be used in the harder parts of the task.
  • Equally fundamental to the scaffolding concept is sensitivity to the skill level of the learner and the idea that the scaffold supports what the learner can already do.
  • There is an interesting commonality here with the language learning process: the use of multiple and potentially redundant communication channels also decreased as the learner became competent in going from words to meaning.
  • An unanswered question is the extent to which school instruction could be improved by greater use of the principle of scaffolding, thus putting more emphasis on cooperative success in the early stages of learning and less emphasis on independent discovery through a process of trial-and-error.
  • Scaffolding is also related to the concept of cooperation. It can be conceived as an asymmetric type of cooperation where one person takes greater responsibility than the other for the successful accomplishment of a task by compensating for the other person's weaknesses.
  • This concept of scaffolding and its potentially broad applicability to situations of everyday learning raises questions as to the cognitive skills required of the teacher. Usually the focus is on the cognitive development of the learner. Perhaps more important in real life is the cognitive development which allows a person to become an effective teacher.
  • What are the cognitive skills involved in scaffolding?

Mind in action: A functional approach to thinking - Scribner (1983)

Scribner, S. (1983) Mind in action: A functional approach to thinking. In M. Cole, Y. Engestrom. And O. Vasquez (Eds.) Mind, Culture and Activity: Seminal papers from the Laboratory of Comparative Human Cognition, (pp. 354-368). NY, NY: Cambridge University Press.

This "classic" and widely cited article is about the use of mathematics knowledge by dairy workers who assemble and price orders and take inventory in the warehouse.

The first thing we learned from our systematic observations is that the preloaders had a large repertoire of solution strategies for what looked like the "same problem."

We postulated a "law of mental effort": "In product assembly, mental work will be expended to save physical work."

By comparing various modes of solution in terms of the number of moves they required, we could determine which strategy represented a "least-physical-effort solution" under a given set of circumstances. We refer to these as optimal solutions.

Pricing delivery tickets is all symbolic work. Speed and accuracy count.

A problem by problem analysis of solution strategies showed that the case price technique functioned as an effort saver in a manner analogous to the nonliteral optimal solutions in the product assembly task - with an important difference. The effort saved here was mental, not physical, Use of case price either eliminated computation altogether or simplified it.

Practice makes for difference - the problem-solving process is restructured by the knowledge and strategy repertoire available to the expert in comparison to the novice.

One feature of skilled problem-solving is the dependency of problem solving strategies on knowledge about the workplace. Skill in the dairy was not content-free.

Variability was an outstanding feature of skilled performance on all tasks.

Skilled practical thinking at work is goal-directed and varies adaptively with the changing properties of problems and changing conditions in the task environment.

In contrast to the conventional psychological model of learning which assumes a progression from the particular and concrete to the general and abstract, skill acquisition at work seems to move in the direction of mastery of the concrete.

Work activities have certain peculiarities and cannot be considered representative of all practical thinking in action.

At the end of one interview, a seasoned delivery driver described to me the public's image of a milkman. He said , "Most people believe you only need a strong back to be a milk man. But, come to think of it, there is a lot of brain work involved." I think he is right.

Cultural similarities and variations in guided participation - Rogoff 1990

Rogoff, B. (1990). Cultural similarities and variations in guided participation, Chapter 6 in Apprenticeship in thinking: Cognitive development in social context. New York: Oxford University Press.

In this chapter, Rogoff suggests that guided participation may be widespread around the world, but with important variations in arrangements for and communication with children in different cultures.

The most important differences have to do with the goals of development - what lessons are to be learned - and the means available for children either to observe and participate in culturally important activities or to receive instruction outside the context of skilled activity.

The general processes of guided participation appear around the world. Caregivers and children make arrangements for children's activities and revise children's responsibilities as they gain skill and knowledge.

In these accounts, which illustrate the ubiquity of social guidance and participation in learning through structuring of activities for novices in close involvement with others, there are also obvious cultural differences.

The most important differences across cultures in guided participation involve variation in the skills and values that are promoted according to cultural goals of maturity.

Along with differences in skills considered important (e.g. , reading, weaving, sorcery, healing, eating with the right hand) and approaches valued (e,g., individual achievement, speed in performance) are differences in the situations available to children for the practice of skills and incorporation of values.

There are striking cultural differences in the explicitness and intensity of verbal and nonverbal communication, the interactional status of children and adults, and the company children keep

An emphasis on explicit, declarative statements, in contrast to tacit, procedural, and subtle forms of verbal and nonverbal instruction, appears to characterize cultures that promote schooling

These joint socialization roles may be universal, although communities vary in the goals of socialization and in the means of communication. Observations of variations in guided participation across cultures draws our attention to
1. How the goals of mature contribution to the community organize the skills and values that children learn
2. The opportunities available to children for learning in the arrangements made for children's activities and companions
3. The responsibility that children take for learning from whatever activities they participate in, and the rich opportunities for observing and eavesdropping
4. The tacit but ubiquitous nature of children's guided participation
5. The unselfconscious nature of the roles of children as well as of their

How School Learning Differs from Other Learning; Learning in school and out - Resnick 1987

Resnick, Lauren B. (1987). The 1987 Presidential Address: Learning in school and out. Educational Researcher, 16 (9), pp. 13-20.

How School Learning Differs from Other Learning
  1. Individual cognition in school versus shared cognition outside.
  2. Pure mentation in school versus tool manipulation outside.
  3. Symbol manipulation in school versus contextualized reasoning outside school.
  4. Generalized learning in school versus situation-specific competencies outside.
  • The dominant form of school learning and performance is individual.
  • Work, personal life, and recreation take place within social systems, and each person's ability to function successfully depends on what others do and how several individuals' mental and physical performances mesh. (Example: piloting ships in and out of harbors)
  • In school, the greatest premium is placed upon "pure thought activities - what individuals can do without the external support of books and notes, calculators, or other complex instruments.
  • In contrast, most mental activities outside school are engaged intimately with tools (calculators, compasses, tables), and the resultant cognitive activity is shaped by and dependent upon the kinds of tools available.
  • Tool use is not only a way for people of limited education to participate in cognitively complex activity systems; it is also a way of enhancing the capacity of highly educated people well beyond what they could do independently.
  • Outside school, actions are intimately connected with objects and events; people often use the objects and events directly in their reasoning, without necessarily using symbols to represent them. (e.g., Scribner: the use of mathematics knowledge by dairy workers who assemble and price orders and take inventory in the warehouse)
  • School learning, by contrast, is mostly symbol-based; indeed, connections to the events and objects symbolized are often lost.
  • Part of the reason for this isolation may be that schools aim to teach general, widely usable skills and theoretical principles.
  • On the other hand, situation-specific learning by itself is very limiting. Some of these studies also document the limits of highly situated skills acquired in the workplace. Several demonstrate that when familiar aspects of a task change in certain ways-for example, when construction foremen are asked to work with scales not used in their culture (Carraher, 1986), or when bookies are asked to accept bets that cannot be calculated from their tables (Schliemann & Acioly, in press)-unschooled individuals have considerable difficulty and may fail entirely. Schooled people do better, although they rarely use the supposedly general algorithms taught in school. Instead, they invent new methods specific to the situation at hand.
  • Briefly, schooling focuses on the individual's performance, whereas out-of-school mental work is often socially shared.
  • Schooling aims to foster unaided thought, whereas mental work outside school usually involves cognitive tools.
  • School cultivates symbolic thinking, whereas mental activity outside school engages directly with objects and situations.
  • Finally, schooling aims to teach general skills and knowledge, whereas situation-specific competencies dominate outside.

What Role for Schooling Then? - And What Kind of Schooling?
Three points of view:
  • the role of schooling in directly preparing people for economic participation
  • its role in preparing people to learn effectively over the long course of their work lives, and
  • its role in preparing people for civic and cultural participation.
Schooling and economic participation: The question of job training. The simplest view of education as a means of improving economic productivity treats schools and classrooms as places in which to prepare students directly for jobs.

Skills for learning outside school: modern economic conditions also call for education aimed at helping people develop skills for learning even when optimal instruction is not available; schooling seems to play a role in helping people adapt to breakdowns, new and unexpected situations.

What we require now are studies of the development of competence in people who are becoming experts in their fields. We also must mount detailed examinations of people coping with situations of breakdown or transition in their work.

School is not only a place to prepare people for the world of work and everyday practical problems. It is also a place in which a particular kind of work is done-intellectual work that engages reflection and reasoning.

Resnick (1987) undertook an examination of a number of programs claiming to teach thinking skills, learning skills, or higher order cognitive abilities. She looked for elements common to the successful programs that could point cumulatively toward a theory of how learning and thinking skills are acquired. She found three key features.
  1. First, most of the effective programs have features characteristic of out-of-school cognitive performances. They involve socially shared intellectual work, and they are organized around joint accomplishment of tasks, so that elements of the skill take on meaning in the context of the whole.
  2. Second, many of the programs have elements of apprenticeship. That is, they make usually hidden processes overt, and they encourage student observation and commentary. They also allow skill to build up bit by bit, yet permit participation even for the relatively unskilled, often as a result of the social sharing of tasks.
  3. Finally, the most successful programs are organized around bodies of knowledge and interpretation-subject matters, if you will-rather than general abilities.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Teaching as learning, in practice - Lave 1996

Lave, J. (1996). Teaching as learning, in practice. Mind, Culture & Activity, 3(3), 149-164.

The argument developed by Lave & Wenger (1991) is that learning is an aspect of changing participation in changing "communities of practice" everywhere; they view "learning" as social practice, and the social practice of learning as the fundamental social phenomenon in relation with which practices of teaching are constituted.

Martin Packer wanted to know what is a theory of learning. He proposed a theory of learning consists of three kinds of stipulations: a telos for the changes implied in notions of learning; the basic relation assumed to exist between subject and social world; and mechanisms by which learning is supposed to take place.
  1. Telos: that is, a direction of movement or change or learning (not the same as goal directed activity),
  2. Subject-world relation: a general specification of relations between subjects and the social world (not necessarily to be construed as learners and things to-be-learned),
  3. Learning mechanisms: ways by which learning comes about.
The telos might be described as becoming a respected, practicing participant among other tailors and lawyers, becoming so imbued with the practice that masters become part of the everyday life of the Alley or the mosque for other participants and others in turn become part of their practice.

Rather than particular tools and techniques for learning as such, there are ways of becoming a participant, ways of participating, and ways in which participants and practices change.

Learning, taken here to be first and principally the identity-making life projects of participants in communities of practice.

Teaching, by this analysis, is a cross-context, facilitative effort to make high quality educational resources truly available for communities of learners.

It is difficult to find research on learning that focuses on great learners learning, but it rarely focuses on great teachers teaching either. (p158) [great line!]

Lave proposes that we should address questions about teaching through research focused on learners learning
If we presume that teaching has some impact on learners, then such research would include the effects of teaching on teachers as learners as well.

Given teaching work as defined here, teachers need to know about the powerful identity-changing communities of practice of their students, which define the conditions of their work.

In what central ways do bodies, trajectories, timetables, daily practices, and changing careers create registers of identity-changing activity among learners in American schools? Lave: racialization, and the production of social class divisions and unequal gendered identities

School teaching is a special kind of learning practice that must become part of the identity-changing communities of children's practices if it is to have a relationship with their learning.

For educational researchers whose major identity is in research on schools, the approach taken here recommends research to establish the locations in which and the processes by which the most potent identity-constituting learning conjunctures occur.

For researchers whose major identity is in research on the teaching of high culture in school settings. the key questions revolve around how to make pedagogic situations (organized to produce deeper scholastic understanding) effectively available to the school-specific, identity-changing participation of kids together in their own lives.

Those most concerned with relations between learning and teaching must untangle the confusions that mistakenly desubjectify learners' and teachers' positions, stakes, reasons, and ways of participating, and then inquire anew about those relations.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Cognitive apprenticeship: Teaching the craft of reading, writing, and mathematics - Collins, Brown, Newman

Collins, A., Brown, J.S., and Newman, S. (1989). Cognitive apprenticeship: Teaching the craft of reading, writing, and mathematics. In L. Resnick (Ed.), Knowing, learning, and instruction: Essays in honor of Robert Glaser, pp. 453-494. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Although schools have been relatively successful in organizing and conveying large bodies of conceptual and factual knowledge, standard pedagogical practices render key aspects of expertise invisible to students. As a result, conceptual and problem-solving knowledge acquired in school remains largely unintegrated or inert for many students.

For example. students are unable to make use of potential models of good writing acquired through reading because they have no understanding of the strategies and processes required to produce such text. Stuck with what Bereiter and Scardamalia (1987) call "knowledge-telling strategies," they are unaware that expert writing involves organizing one's ideas about a topic, elaborating goals to be achieved in the writing, thinking about what the audience is likely to know or believe about the subject, and so on.

To make real differences in students' skill, we need both to understand the nature of expert practice and to devise methods appropriate to learning that practice. (p455) 
[this is also probably true for teachers - both pre-service and in-service it would be interesting to study expert teachers]

First and foremost, apprenticeship focuses closely on the specific methods for carrying out tasks in a domain. Apprentices learn these methods through a combination of what Lave calls observation, coaching, and practice, or what we, from the teacher's point of view, call modeling, coaching and fading.

The interplay between observation, scaffolding, and increasingly independent practice aids apprentices both in developing se lf-monitoring and correction skills and in integrating the skills and conceptual knowledge needed to advance toward expertise.

Observation plays a surprisingly key role; Lave hypothesizes that it aids learners in developing a conceptual model of the target task or process prior to attempting to execute it.

Conceptual models provide:
1. an advanced organizer
2. an interpretitive structure
3. encourages reflection, comparison and diagnosing difficulties

Cognitive apprenticeship:
1. the method is aimed primarily at teaching the processes that experts use to handle complex tasks
2. focus of the learning-through-guided-experience on cognitive and metacognitive, rather than physical, skills and processes
3. have problem solver alternate among different cognitive activities while carrying out a complex task. Most notably, complex cognitive activities involve some version of both generative and evaluative processes (producer and critic).

Cognitive research:
1. protocol analysis
2. reflect on differences between novice and expert performances through abstracted replay
3. tasks are selected and sequenced to reflect the changing demands of learning

Active vs. passive learning: Students can learn by reading or listening to lectures. But passive forms of learning tend to result less learning, retention, and understanding. Students can learn to engage in active reading or listening. But few learn to do this on their own. Observing the processes by which an expert listener or reader thinks and practicing these skills under the guidance of the expert can teach students to learn on their own more skillfully.

Three Successful Models of Cognitive apprenticeship
- Palincsar and Brown's reciprocal teaching of reading: (formulating questions, summarizing, clarification, prediction)
- Bereiter and Scardamalia's Procedural Facilitation of Writing: five general processes or goals: (a) generating a new idea, (b) improving an idea, (c) elaborating an idea , (d) identifying goals, and (e) putting ideas into a cohesive whole.
- Schoenfeld's Method of Teaching Mathematical Problem Solving: heuristic strategies (e.g., distinguish special cases, solve a simpler problem, draw a picture); assigning roles to students (idea generator, critic, moderator/manager); train them to ask each other (and then themselves) questions like: what are you doing? How will success doing this help you?
[JC: this reminds me of Vygotsky's description of the internalization of language of tools - first languague is use to mediate interpersonal communication, then intra-personal thought]

Cognitive apprenticeship methods:
1. Modeling
2. Coaching
3. Scaffolding & Fading
4. Articulation
5. Reflection
6. Exploration

Collins et al., have identified some dimensions or principles that should guide the sequencing of learning activities to facilitate the development of robust problem-solving skills:
1. Increasing complexity
2. Increasing diversity
3. Global before local skills

Five characteristics affecting the sociology of learning:
1. Situated learning
2. Culture of expert practice
3. Intrinsic motivation
4. Exploiting cooperation
5. Exploiting competition

Learning through knowledge building - Scardamalia & Bereiter

Scardamalia, M. & Bereiter, C. (2003). Knowledge building. Encyclopedia of Education (pp. 1371-3) Farmington Hills, MI: Gale

Three approaches to learning:

1: Acquisition Metaphor

One approach emphasizes foundational knowledge: First master what is already known. In practice this means that knowledge creation does not enter the picture until graduate school or adult work, by which time the vast majority of people are unprepared for the challenge.

A second approach focuses on subskills. Master component skills such as critical thinking, scientific method, and collaboration; later, assemble these into competent original research, design, and so forth.

2. Participation Metaphor

A third approach is associated with such labels as "learning communities," "project-based learning," and "guided discovery." Knowledge is socially constructed, and best supported through collaborations designed so that participants share knowledge and tackle projects that incorporate features of adult teamwork, real-world content, and use of varied information sources. This is the most widely supported approach at present, especially with regard to the use of information technology. The main drawback is that it too easily declines toward what is discussed below as shallow constructivism.

Knowledge building as defined by Scardamalia & Bereiter Knowledge building results in the creation or modification of public knowledge knowledge that lives "in the world" and is available to be worked on and used by other people. That goal is to advance the frontiers of knowledge as they perceive them. The key distinction is between learning - the process through which the rapidly growing cultural capital of a society is distributed - and knowledge building - the deliberate effort to increase the cultural capital of society.

Shallow versus Deep Constructivism

"Constructivism" is a term whose vagueness obscures important distinctions. Knowledge building is clearly a constructive process, but most of what goes on in the name of constructivism is not knowledge building. To clarify, it is helpful to distinguish between shallow and deep forms of constructivism. The shallowest forms engage students in tasks and activities in which ideas have no overt presence but are entirely implicit. Students describe the activities they are engaged in (e.g., planting seeds, measuring shadows) and show little awareness of the underlying principles these tasks are to convey.

In the deepest forms of constructivism, people are advancing the frontiers of knowledge in their community.

Most learner-centered, inquiry-based, learning community, and other approaches labeled "constructivist" are distributed somewhere between these extremes of shallow and deep constructivism.

In knowledge building, ideas are treated as real things, as objects of inquiry and improvement in their own right. Knowledge building environments enable ideas to get out into the world and onto a path of continual improvement.

Educational approaches of all kinds are subject to what is called the "Matthew effect": The rich get richer. The more you know the more you can learn. This is as close to a law of nature as learning research has come. It can be used to justify loading the elementary curriculum with large quantities of content.

However, another potent principle is that knowledge needs to be of value to people in their current lives, not merely banked against future needs. This is part of the justification for activity and project-based methods where work is driven by students' own interests.

In knowledge building this Deweyean principle is carried a step farther: Advances in understanding produce conceptual tools to achieve further advances in understanding. Thus there is a dynamism to knowledge building that can be a powerful motivator.

The knowledge building trajectory offers value all along its course, not just at its upper reaches. At all stages people are building authentic knowledge that is immediately useful to themselves and their community in making sense of their world.

Joe's Questions:
1. What are some examples of knowledge building activities for math, science, and history?
2. What would teachers need to know to teach this way?
3. What kinds of curriculum materials support this form of learning?