This project is reforming a conceptual physics course for large numbers of future elementary teachers. Pedagogical content knowledge is woven into the fabric of the course so that future elementary teachers recognize the interdependence of learning physics concepts and the use of reform-based pedagogy in their future roles in the classroom. While promoting active learning of both the science concepts and pedagogy, the effort goes well beyond modeling inquiry-based teaching of science. More importantly, this course provides opportunities for future teachers to develop and build upon their own metacognitive skills and perspectives as they reflect on their own learning of physical phenomena, understand how children talk and learn about physical phenomena, and become more aware of how the research literature describes ways in which children think about physical phenomena. It also facilitates the application of a developing understanding of integrated content and pedagogy as these future instructors seek to develop age-appropriate lesson plans for teaching physical science concepts within an elementary science classroom. Further, these future teachers are able to demonstrate positive improvements on surveys that measure their understandings of science and the framework of their own beliefs about learning science. As a result of this course, statistically significant increases are anticipated in the number of future elementary teachers concentrating in science at Kansas State University.
The project brings together a team of experienced discipline-based STEM education researchers with teacher educators as they develop strategies that integrate the learning of science and pedagogy in a large enrollment course. The resulting instructional approach (being developed and tested) moves toward a fully developed course model for consideration and dissemination within other large enrollment pre-service teacher science classes in the U.S. The institutionalization of this project ensures that it will continue to produce a cadre of capable elementary teachers who choose to concentrate in science.