Improving Science Content Knowledge of Undergraduate Elementary Education Majors through Phenomenon-based Science Courses
Project ECAST (Elementary Content through Ambitious Science Teaching) aims to serve the national interest by developing and testing the effectiveness of phenomenon-based science content courses for prospective undergraduate elementary teachers. As part of this Level I - Engaged Student Learning project, two phenomenon-based science courses, specifically focused on the science content areas, life and earth/space and physical science and engineering, that prospective elementary teachers need to understand to teach science in their future classrooms, will be developed using the Ambitious Science Teaching framework. This framework centers around an evidence-based pedagogy that is currently used in K-12 settings. This project intends to test the effectiveness of the developed courses in terms of improving prospective elementary teachers’ science content knowledge. Additionally, it will determine the applicability of the Ambitious Science Teaching framework to the undergraduate context especially in science courses for undergraduate students who are not STEM majors and for elementary education majors in particular.
Many elementary education majors graduate from their teacher preparation programs with incomplete science content knowledge and limited experience learning science in ways that model the types of pedagogical approaches shown to be effective for elementary students. This project intends to contribute to the STEM education field’s understanding of how prospective elementary teachers develop deep science content knowledge. This work aims to extend research that has examined the relationship between science content courses for prospective elementary teachers and their confidence, attitudes, and self-efficacy beliefs. This project embraces the critical need for elementary teachers to not only develop useful understandings of science content, but to also to utilize effective science teaching instructional approaches. This project will extend a model of science instruction, Ambitious Science Teaching, shown to be effective in K-12 settings into undergraduate science teacher preparation. Project goals are to: 1) Develop two phenomenon-based science courses (one focused on Life and Earth/Space Science and the second focused on Physical Sciences and Engineering) targeting undergraduate elementary education majors; 2) Examine the impact of the phenomenon-based science courses on prospective elementary teachers’ science content knowledge; and 3) Determine the applicability of the Ambitious Science Teaching instructional model to the undergraduate context. Using a mixed methods with a quasi-experimental approach, the research team will investigate the impact of the courses on prospective elementary teachers’ science content knowledge and how the Ambitious Science Teaching framework supports prospective elementary teachers in developing understandings of science content. As a community, elementary science teacher educators recognize the enduring challenge of science content knowledge preparedness for their teacher candidates. This project has the potential to significantly impact science instruction for undergraduate elementary education majors and thus their future elementary school students.