Details of Thesis

TitleCollaborative Partnerships: A model of professional learning in primary science for practising and preservice teachers
Author Jones, Mellita M.
Institution Australian Catholic University
Date 2010
AbstractThis study explores collaborative partnerships between practising and preservice teachers as a model of primary science teacher professional learning. Thirteen volunteer preservice teacher participants from a 3rd year core Science Education unit in a Bachelor of Education course from a regional university were partnered with eight practising teacher volunteers from primary schools in the regional centre in which the university was situated. Partners planned, implemented and reflected on a series of science lessons using the 5Es framework (Australian Academy of Science, 2009) adapted from Bybee (1997). Partners were encouraged to integrate other areas of the curriculum into their science lessons where appropriate. A model of reflective practice informed by Korthagen's (2001) Action, Looking back on the action, Awareness of essential aspects, Creation of alternative actions, and Trialling of the new action (ALACT) model was used to guide partners' reflection and subsequent planning of lessons. Data collection was achieved through a variety of methods including round table and online discussions with and between preservice teachers throughout the partnership period; semi-structured interviews with practising teachers after the partnership period; a variety of qualitative data collected at initial and final partnership workshops; and quantitative data collected through initial and final participant questionnaires which included the STEBI-A and STEBI-B instruments developed by Enochs and Riggs (1990). Findings revealed that six out of eight partnerships achieved medium to strong collaboration, while two partnerships had little to no collaboration between preservice and practising teachers. Where collaboration was achieved, the experience was effective in building preservice teacher efficacy and confidence to teach science. These partnerships also provided valuable experience for preservice teachers to observe and teach science which was lacking in their previous professional experience teaching rounds. Some content and pedagogical knowledge development was also evident, particularly from those preservice teachers who were involved in collaborative partnerships. Guided reflection in expert facilitated round table discussions also appeared essential in forming the theory-practice nexus that helped preservice teachers develop knowledge of science teaching. Practising teachers who lacked confidence in their knowledge of science and belief in their ability to teach it also experienced growth in efficacy and knowledge of science and its teaching. Teachers who already had strong science knowledge and teaching efficacy did not appear to experience knowledge growth, but did gain enhanced ideas and approaches to teaching science. The more formal the reflection conducted between partners, the more practising teachers appeared to benefit overall. It was also identified through the findings that time for organisation and accessing appropriate resources were significant issues in teachers' sense of their ability to teach science more often. Confidence and background knowledge were also identified as barriers for increased science teaching in schools. In spite of this all preservice teachers indicated a strong desire to include science in their teaching frequently as a result of their experience in this project. These findings suggest that professional learning in science education can be achieved for both practising and preservice teachers when they work together in collaborative partnerships to plan and reflect on a series of science lessons that are implemented in an authentic classroom setting.
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