Striving to make a change in science classrooms: Implications from teacher education

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It is a concern among science educators that innovative pedagogical methods are not translated into classroom practice. To draw an analogy, science educators, curriculum developers and drivers for education reforms may not want to observe a cyclone or hurricane on the surface when life on the floor of the ocean has no turbulence at all. A number of ways to analyze the issue are to be suggested. A brief examination of the meaning and generation of the knowledge of teaching shows that teaching needs to be problematized, and with new designs, new knowledge can be generated. Consistent with the notion that theory is built with the support of concrete examples or experiences, researchers have advocated the creation of practitioner knowledge which is linked with practice and which addresses problems of practice. Teachers are involved in elaborating the problems, analyzing classroom practice, considering alternatives, and testing and recording new knowledge which is then to be shared. Conversely, if research is seen to be disrespectful of teachers’ knowledge of teaching, it is unlikely that the innovations suggested by researchers will be adopted. Research has shown that there are other reasons to explain the difficulty of transferring research-based knowledge into teaching, including the fact that teachers are not convinced of new teaching innovations, and the lack of good communication between researchers and teachers. Moreover, teacher beliefs serve as a filter for research-based knowledge. Teachers with beliefs that curricula or teaching can be changed and improved will be more ready to adapt to innovative practices. In order to be ready to adapt, teachers need to be interested in different perspectives and in pursuing alternative possibilities. The process of improving practice and generating new knowledge requires collaborations between researchers and teachers. Possible directions for making a change will be suggested including the introduction of practitioner research, developing better communication between researchers and teachers, as well as facilitating teacher agency and ownership. The relationship between practitioner and researcher knowledge can be built in a way that teachers use their knowledge to test and implement new ideas. With this implementation, new hypotheses can be built based on teachers’ experience and observations. Researchers can then draw on classroom implementation experiences and generate new generalized knowledge. In a similar vein, teacher learning can be described as a process of construction and reconstruction of knowledge which involves individual and collaborative inquiry. Interactions between researchers and teachers are crucial to the success of implementing new practices in the classroom. Both parties can be engaged in reflective thinking, which is considered to be useful in enhancing teaching performance. The other key to success is to facilitate teacher ownership of or agency for the teaching innovations. Teachers with a strong sense of agency will be knowledgeable of themselves, possessing a drive and the skill to improve their teaching, and will also be responsive to students’ needs. If teachers develop a connection between the innovation and their students’ needs, and see how the innovation suits them personally, the personalization will make it their own and will increase individual investment in the innovation.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2016


Cheng, M. M.-H. (2016, August). Striving to make a change in science classrooms: Implications from teacher education. Paper presented at the 2016 International Conference of East-Asian Association for Science Education (EASE 2016): Innovations in Science Education Research & Practice: Strengthening International Collaboration, Tokyo University of Science, Tokyo, Japan.


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