©2002 Kluwer Academic Publishers, Printed in the Netherlands
Supporting Science Teacher Learning:
The Role of Educative Curriculum Materials
Rebecca M Schneider
College of Education, University of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio, 43606-3390, U.S.A.
School of Education, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-1259, U.S.A.
Science education is the focus of many reform efforts. Specifically, reformers are suggesting teachers utilized inquiry based, student centered instructional practices that will facilitate students’ construction of knowledge. Embedded technology use to support students in a deeper understanding of fewer topics is encouraged. In addition, reforms based on these recommendations are being attempted on a large scale. Many states and school districts have made science education a part of their overall effort to improve instruction for students in their schools. However, reform-based curriculum designed to support students’ construction of knowledge in science through inquiry relies on teachers to fulfill this vision for our students. For many teachers this will mean substantial changes in instructional practices. Since what teachers do in their classrooms depends largely on their knowledge, teachers will need to learn a great deal to be able to enact reform-based curriculum (Borko & Putnam, 1996; Wallace & Louden, 1998). Teachers, like other learners, will need supports. Educative curriculum materials, curriculum materials designed to address teacher learning as well as student learning, is one potential vehicle to support teacher learning on a large scale (Ball & Cohen, 1996). Our work is embedded in an ongoing urban systemic initiative of a large public school district to reform science and mathematics education. As part of this effort, science curriculum materials were developed that were consistent with social constructivist ideas, addressed national and local goals for student learning and educative for teachers.
An approach to science instruction that addresses the concerns of reformers is project-based science (Krajcik, Czerniak, & Berger, 1999; Ruopp, 1993a; Tinker, 1996b). Project-based science involves students in extended inquiry as they investigate answers to a driving question (Krajcik, Czerniak et al., 1999; Tinker, 1996b). Integrated uses of technology along with collaboration among learners are This study was funded in part by the National Science Foundation as part of the Center for Learning Technologies in Education grant 0830 310 A605. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the National Science Foundation.
REBECCA M. SCHNEIDER & JOSEPH KRAJCIK
important components that support students in developing understanding of science, which they demonstrate through development of artifacts (Ruopp, 1993b; Tinker, 1996a).
The assumptions that provide the foundation for project-based science are derived from a social constructivist perspective (Blumenfeld, Marx, Patrick, & Krajcik, 1996; Krajcik, Czerniak et al., 1999). It is assumed that students need to find solutions to real problems by asking and refining questions, designing and conducting investigations, gathering and analyzing information and data, making interpretations, drawing conclusions, and reporting findings. Collaboration and conversation is also considered essential. Collaboration involves students building shared understandings of ideas and of the nature of the discipline as they engage in discourse with their classmates and adults outside the classroom (Krajcik, Blumenfeld, Marx, & Soloway, 1999).
Our research group has developed curriculum materials based on the premises of project-based science. Our curriculum design is based on principles that are consistent with what is known about teaching and learning (Singer, Marx, Krajcik, & Clay-Chambers, 2000). These include:...