Preservice program Instructional framework

The faculty of the Masters of Arts in Teaching Science (MAT-S) program at Northern Arizona University have begun a multi-year project to iteratively generate and test an instructional framework to guide our work with novice science teachers. The framework is based on the work of multiple research teams in mathematics and science education. After describing the context of the graduate program, the framework is described in detail before describing the ways in which we engage novice science teachers in learning to teach.

Program context

As a master's level certification program for secondary (grades 6-12) science teachers, the program serves students with strong undergraduate science preparation. The program of study consists of 35 credits of coursework including: science methods (6 credits), nature of science (3 credits), assessment (3 credits), structured English immersion (3 credits), and graduate-level science coursework (6 credits) in addition to 14 practicum credits. The program consists of three semesters of intensive apprenticeship into the profession. In the first year, each terms consists of coursework and a practicum in the local schools designed to integrate with the science methods course. The students complete their student teaching practicum in the third and final semester before graduating with a credential in secondary science and master's degree. It is important to note that the framework detailed below represents the focus of the program but not all of the work or ideas included across the courses. In the assessment course, for example, students work on designing effective summative assessments. However, we prioritize formative assessment techniques through inclusion in the framework.

The program is rooted in a sociocultural view of learning that places classroom discourse at the forefront. Therefore, the components of the framework are largely designed to improve the level of classroom discourse as the main tool of classroom meaning making. See the productive classroom talk section for more details.

Framework description

We believe that having a well-defined framework based on current research (and some experience) has multiple advantages. First, it allows us as teacher educators to be focused in our work with the novice teachers. Second, it provides a common language for this work across stakeholders allowing more in-depth and targeted conversations about teaching than are otherwise possible. Finally, the framework, built on a shared image of effective science teaching for novice teachers, leads to coherence across the multiple courses and experiences of the program.

The following diagram shows the multiple layers of the framework. A set of elements of ambitious science teaching provides a shared vision and guides teacher decision-making. Rooted in equitable and rigorous science teaching, these elements provide context for the rest of the framework and permeate the work of the program. The remainder of the framework consists of four distinct grain sizes of practices that build upon each other. At the center are instructional activities that provide the focus of the novice teachers' work in the methods courses. The instructional activities are short "episodes", common in science classrooms, that build toward a complete lesson (e.g., opening and closing lessons, facilitating small and whole group discussions, etc.). At the smallest grain size are high-leverage practices that lead to student learning and are fundamental for novice teachers entering the science classroom (e.g., eliciting and responding to student ideas, representing student thinking, etc.). Multiple high-leverage practices are used to enact an instructional activity and are enabled by specific strategies that are used across the practices (e.g., discourse moves, appropriate questioning). The remainder of the framework focuses on the design of instructional units. Instructional design strategies occur before lesson planning and enable coherent and rigorous planning (e.g., identifying big ideas). Instructional sequences provide structure to a unit of instruction (e.g., supporting on-going changes in thinking). (Please note that the term 'practice' can be problematic in this work as many research teams use the term to describe practices at multiple grain sizes. In this work we have chosen to use the term 'practice' for the smallest grain sized component of the framework and have chosen other terms for the remaining categories. In reality, all categories of the framework represent teaching 'practice'.)

As illustrated below, the components of the framework are organized across the first two semesters of the program (with the third semester being full-time student teaching). The fall term courses focus on the design of effective lessons that build to support the design of effective units during the spring term. We have chosen to focus on model-based inquiry as the method of unit design as it provides the strongest "container" for work in both the teaching practices outlined in the framework and the science and engineering practices of NGSS.

Learning to teach

In addition to the framework, the program utilizes the principles of learning to teach as a guide for designing learning experiences for our novice science teachers. Taken together, they represent the idea that great teaching can be learned.

The way in which we engage novice science teachers in this work draws on cycles of investigation and enactment (Grossman et al., 2009). This work focuses on the level of instructional activities that are observed, deconstructed, and rehearsed with coaching before enactment in the secondary science classroom. Records of practice (i.e., videos, classroom artifacts) of both the rehearsal and classroom enactment enable students to collectively analyze and learn from their enactments of the instructional activity during collaborative 'video clubs'.


The framework draws heavily on (and owes a large debt of gratitude to) the following research teams: