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3382RER10.

3102/0034654311423382Schneider & PlasmanScience Teachers PCK


evelopment
Review of Educational Research
December 2011, Vol. 81, No. 4, pp. 530565
DOI: 10.3102/0034654311423382
2011 AERA. http://rer.aera.net

Science Teacher Learning Progressions: A Review


of Science Teachers Pedagogical Content
Knowledge Development
Rebecca M. Schneider and Kellie Plasman
University of Toledo

Learning progressions are the successively more sophisticated ways of thinking about an idea that follow one another over a broad span of time. This
review examines the research on science teachers pedagogical content
knowledge (PCK) in order to refine ideas about science teacher learning
progressions and how to support them. Research published between 1986
and 2010 relevant to science teacher learning and PCK was examined for
what ways teachers knowledge becomes more developed and what appears
to be the sequence. Analysis indicates that it is helpful for teachers to think
about learners first, then to focus on teaching, and points out the essential
role of reflection for teachers to rearrange their ideas in ways that develop
their PCK. This review takes a unique approach to thinking about research
on what science teachers learn and can support teacher educators in designing professional programs that support beginning and advanced learning for
science teachers.

Keywords: science teachers, pedagogical content knowledge, teacher thinking,


teacher learning.

Introduction
Preparing quality science teachers is fundamental to ensuring students success
(Carnegie-IAS Commission on Mathematics and Science Education, 2009;
Darling-Hammond, 1999; National Commission on Teaching and Americas
Future, 1996). Recognizing the importance of quality teaching, reformers are suggesting that preparation and continuing education programs for science teachers
need rethinking (Hinds, 2002; National Research Council, 2000). Too often these
experiences are disjointed and disconnected from each other and from classroom
practice (Garet, Porter, Desimone, Birman, & Yoon, 2001; Goodlad, 1990). Yet if
teacher educators are to develop more coherent and ongoing experiences and programs, they will need a better understanding of how teachers knowledge of teaching grows and is connected from one set of experiences to the next. Only then will
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Science Teachers PCK Development

experiences and programs intended to be educational deliberately support teachers ongoing learning.
Understanding how science teachers learn and continue to learn about teaching
science is essential to creating programs to meet their needs at each stage of their
careers. Learning progressionsalthough proposed as a framework to guide our
thinking about student learningcan guide our thinking about how teachers
knowledge progresses over time. For science teachers, a learning progression
framework means considering teachers ideas and how they develop as teachers
continue to learn about teaching science. Pedagogical content knowledge (PCK)
is a construct to aid our thinking about what teachers continue to learn as they
study their practice. To begin to understand how science teachers learning progresses, the research literature relevant to science teachers pedagogical content
knowledge was reviewed. By looking across studies that examine PCK at different
points across preservice, new, continuing, and leader teacher career phases, this
review will inform efforts to design teacher education programs that reach across
a career and highlight areas for further research.
Theoretical Framework
Developing expertise in guiding students science learning is a challenging and
ongoing process. Not only does it take time and guided practice to develop skill in
guiding student inquiry (e.g., designing investigations and developing explanations), supporting collaboration, and incorporating learning technologies in ways
that engage all students in actively constructing deep understanding of important
science concepts (American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1993;
National Research Council, 1996), teachers are also charged with supporting the
diverse needs of students while preparing them to consider careers in science
fields. The National Research Council (2007) has proposed four key goals for science learners: know and understand the natural world, generate and evaluate scientific evidence and explanations, understand how scientific knowledge is
constructed, and participate in scientific practices and discourse. Learning to create active and engaging science learning environments is no simple task. Indeed,
there is substantial evidence that teachers face many challenges as they learn about
teaching science (Crawford, 2007; Davis, Petish, & Smithey, 2006; Marx,
Blumenfeld, Krajcik, & Soloway, 1997). Science teachers need ongoing educative
support as they learn how to create effective science learning environments with
their students (Bianchini, Johnston, Oram, & Cavazos, 2003; Crawford, 2000).
Matching teachers needs for learning support will depend on an understanding of
how science teaching expertise develops over time.
Learning Progressions for Science Teachers
To think about teachers learning across their careers implies thinking about
how ideas and skills of teaching become more refined over time. Primarily in reference to student learning, learning progressions have been described as the successively more sophisticated ways of thinking about an idea that follow one another
over a broad span of time (Heritage, 2008; National Research Council, 2007). This
framework also makes sense as we think about teacher learning, particularly since
learning to teach is considered a career-long endeavor (Ball & Cohen, 1999; Borko,
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Schneider & Plasman

2004). It is reasonable to think about teachers becoming successively more sophisticated in their thinking as they spend time in the classroom and are supported by
opportunities for learning and professional development.
The characteristics of learning progressions are that progress is: continuous and
coherent, an incremental sequence from novice to expert performance, and mediated by instruction (Heritage, 2008). To think of learning as a continuous or developmental process is not entirely new (e.g., see spiral curriculum [Bruner, 1960] or
developmental corridors [Brown & Campione, 1994]). What is more recent is an
emphasis on linking instructional planning and formative assessment in a progression of learning (Heritage, 2008). For teachers, assessment of what beginning and
advanced teachers should know and be able to do is at the forefront of discussion
of teacher quality (e.g., see National Science Teachers Association standards for
beginning teachers [National Science Teachers Association, 2003] and National
Board standards for advanced teachers [National Board for Professional Teaching
Standards, 2003]). These assessments, however, are based more on what is desired
rather than what might be developmentally reasonable. The notion of learning
progressions for teachers is also consistent with descriptions of what expert teachers are able to do and the stages of teacher development (Berliner, 1994). These
descriptions are of teachers skills and based on comparisons of novice or inexperienced teachers and expert or teachers with years of experience. The process of
learning or what teachers know is not described, and the relationship of instruction
for teachers to their developing expertise has not been examined. An understanding
of how teachers knowledge progresses with instruction will fill critical gaps in our
understanding of how to design opportunities for and assess teacher learning
(Wilson, Floden, & Ferrini-Mundy, 2001).
Alignment with curriculum is also included by some as a characteristic of learning progressions. One approach is the idea that learning progressions are bounded
by assumptions regarding students initial ideas at one end and by what is expected
at the other end of the progression (Duncan & Hmelo-Silver, 2009). Others
describe research on learning progressions to be beneficial for improving curriculum based on a better understanding of students progress in relationship to instruction (Corcoran, Mosher, & Rogat, 2009). In response to researchers using defined
goals for student understanding as targets for thinking about the track of a learning
progression, Shavelson (2009) cautions against aiming at specific, set goals. In
addition, it is more helpful to think of learning progress as a trajectory of development rather than a series of discrete events (Heritage, 2008). For teachers, it is
important to have a notion of expertise that requires sophisticated thinking. It is
less helpful in the process of describing learning progressions for teachers to target
specific ideas as end points in that development.
Developing expert knowledge. For teachers developing competence in teaching
science, it is interesting to think about adaptive expertise. Adaptive experts are
those who relish challenges and are continually looking for ways to stretch their
knowledge and abilities as they develop new habits of mind, attitudes, and ways of
thinking (Bransford, 2001). These experts are able to tolerate ambiguity and let go
of previously held assumptions as they engage in learning new skills and knowledge. Juxtaposed to adaptive expertise is routine expertise, where these experts are
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Science Teachers PCK Development

skilled in applying known routines that they have developed over time. These
experts continue to learn, but learning is focused on becoming more efficient at
carrying out those routines and hence they perform well in a stable environment.
Adaptive experts are much more likely to evolve their core competencies and continually expand the breadth and depth of the expertise as the need arises or as their
interest demands. This often requires them to venture into areas where they must
function as intelligent novices who often struggle initially in order to learn new
things (Bransford et al., 2006). Adaptive expertise requires relatively sophisticated
ways of thinking about teaching and is a constructive outcome of teachers learning
progress.
Applying learning progression as a framework to think about teachers development will mean describing trajectories from novices to adaptive experts. Although
adaptive expertise is a relatively recent refinement of the idea of expertise, thinking
about trajectories can be guided by what is known about the development of expertise. The development of expertise is considered a long-term endeavor that takes
about 10 years (Ericsson, Krampe, & Tesch Romer, 1993). For teachers specifically, Berliner (2001) suggests expertise takes more than 5 years, if it does develop.
Based on noviceexpert work, Berliner (1988, 1994) describes five levels of skill
development: novice, advanced beginner, competent, proficient, and expert.
Although continued and steady development cannot be assumed, Berliners stages
are somewhat similar to preservice, induction, midcareer, and advanced-career
years that are often used to describe teachers experience. What is interesting is that
many expertnovice studies included what were called postulant teachers. These
teachers were content experts but novice teachers and were used to illustrate the
development of pedagogical knowledge independently of content knowledge. An
additional career phase used to describe teachers is the teacher leader or mentor
teacher stage. Teachers who take on the role of leader or mentor are considered to
have a more advanced level of teaching expertise (Bullough, 2005).
Knowledge of science teaching. Learning to know like a teacher means developing
the knowledge of teaching used and developed within practice (Feiman-Nemser,
2008). This knowledge, unique to teaching and key to development of expertise, is
called pedagogical content knowledge (Loughran, Milroy, Berry, Gunstone, &
Mulhall, 2001; Shulman, 1986). In this way of thinking, PCK is an amalgamation
or transformation (not an integration) of subject matter, pedagogical, and context
knowledge (Gess-Newsome & Lederman, 1999). Thus, it is necessary to consider
teachers PCK ideas directly rather than examine subject matter, pedagogical, and
context knowledge to infer PCK. Moreover, pedagogical content knowledge, in
contrast to practical knowledge (knowledge of classrooms and the complexities of
teaching), is more formal and built on the professions collective wisdom (Carter,
1990; Munby, Russell, & Martin, 2001). PCK is directly linked to classroom practice but is not personal or as situated in classroom events as is practical knowledge
and thus may describe the ideas that enable teachers to develop the type of expertise that is adaptive to multiple settings. PCK is a heuristic for teacher knowledge
that can be helpful in untangling the complexities of what teachers know about
teaching and how it changes over broad spans of time.

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Schneider & Plasman

PCK is considered a knowledge of teaching that is domain specific; it is what


teachers know about their subject matter and how to make it accessible to students
(Carter, 1990). Definitions for PCK in science are grounded in frameworks proposed for teachers generally and in other domains. For science teachers, PCK
includes knowledge of students thinking about science, science curriculum, science-specific instructional strategies, assessment of students science learning, and
orientations to teaching science (Magnusson, Krajcik, & Borko, 1999; Park &
Oliver, 2007). To develop PCK, science teachers need an understanding of science,
general pedagogy, and the context (students and schools) in which they are teaching. It is the knowledge that enables teachers to support students science learning.
Although the notion of specialized knowledge for teaching has been widely used,
questions about the nature of PCK for teachers at different phases of their career
remain (Abell, 2008). In this review, PCK in science is used as a framework to
guide analysis as we look for evidence of how science teachers knowledge develops over time.
Approach to this review. It is important to keep in mind that the notion of learning
progression does not imply a specific time frame for learning specific ideas
(Heritage, 2008). Thus, this review examines research for sequencing rather than
what teachers know at any specific point in their careers. The fact that teachers do
not step through grade levels as do students will perhaps make it a bit easier to not
be distracted by what should be known at each step. In this review, learning progressions for science teachers is used as a framework to examine what is reported
about teachers knowledge of science teaching as they move through their careers.
Specifically, the components of pedagogical content knowledge for science teachers are used as threads to trace developing teacher knowledge that otherwise may
be too complex to describe clearly. Another important consideration is that the
notion of learning progression does not imply that we should seek the paths to
specific outcomes or goals for learning (Shavelson, 2009). In other words, successively more sophisticated understanding does not mean that set goals for understanding (e.g., standards) will be achieved. In this review, we are not attempting to
find how teachers achieve a set goal of understanding. Rather, the research was
examined for what ways teachers knowledge becomes more developed and what
appears to be the sequence.
Purpose of the Review
Learning about teaching is considered a lifelong endeavor. Indeed, efforts are
made to support teacher learning at different points in their careers. Teachers move
from initial experiences with learners in their preservice programs to (perhaps)
induction programs for new teachers to professional development programs for
continuing teachers. More recently, educators have begun to think about how science teachers become teacher leaders or mentors for novices and peers (Appleton,
2008; Koballa, Bradbury, Glynn, & Deaton, 2008). There is some evidence that
shifting to new roles can encourage teachers to remain in the classroom longer than
otherwise might be the case (Margolis, 2008). This time frame is consistent with
ideas about how expertise develops. Yet, we do not often purposefully examine
teachers learning throughout their careers.
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Science Teachers PCK Development

The purpose of this review is to examine the research on science teachers PCK
in order to refine our ideas about science teacher learning progressions and how to
support them. The main question that guided this review was:
Research Question 1: How does science teachers thinking in regard to PCK
progress over time with experience in the classroom?
Because much of the research on science teachers PCK is focused on how to
improve or advance teachers knowledge, a second question for this review was:
Research Question 2: What variables appear to influence science teachers
knowledge progression in regard to PCK?
In this review, we looked across the professional phases for science teachers
including preservice preparation, new teachers in their first 3 years of teaching,
continuing teachers working beyond the first 3 years, and teachers becoming
teacher leaders or mentor teachers. Longitudinal work is difficult and thus uncommon. By compiling work across studies, this review composes a rare longitudinal
look at the development of teacher knowledge. Although factors that appeared to
influence teachers developing knowledgesupports or hindranceswere considered, this review did not look at whether changes in teachers knowledge impacted
their classroom practice.
Method
Pedagogical content knowledge as a construct was introduced by Shulman in
1986. Research published between 1986 and 2010 was searched for articles relevant to science teacher learning and pedagogical content knowledge. Multiple
approaches were used to ensure a thorough search. The archives of seven journals,
whose aims include the publication of research regarding teachers development,
particularly in science education, were searched: Electronic Journal of Science
Education, International Journal of Science Education, Journal of Research in
Science Teaching, Journal of Science Teacher Education, Research in Science
Education, Science Education, and Teaching and Teacher Education. All articles
published in these journals between 1980 and 2010 were scanned to ensure articles
that may not have self-identified as pedagogical content knowledge but did address
at least one of the five components of pedagogical content knowledge for science
teachers were included. Concurrently, educational databases were searched to
identify studies published elsewhere during the same time period: ERIC,
Educational Full Text, Educational Research Complete, EBSCOhost, and
Academic Search Complete. Search terms included: pedagogical content knowledge, science teachers, teacher knowledge, knowledge base for teaching, teacher
thinking, teacher professional knowledge, teacher expertise, teacher learning,
mentors, mentorship, leaders, and leadership. These last four terms were used to
make sure that articles regarding teacher leaders knowledge were not missed. In
addition, the references included in the identified articles were reviewed for possible relevant research articles not otherwise uncovered.

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A total of 361 articles were included in the initial database. An initial review
determined that researchers used pedagogical content knowledge for multiple purposes, such as describing the design of professional development models, technological tools, or curriculum materials; explaining student learning, teacher
behavior, or teacher beliefs; guiding the development of instruments to measure
pedagogical content knowledge; or exploring pedagogical content knowledge
itself as a construct. Others described teacher learning or development only generally (i.e., not related to science) or vaguely (e.g., state teachers learned from the
session but not what they learned). After this review, 95 articles were determined
to be research that described teachers responses or thinking in relationship to
pedagogical content knowledge. A final search of international journals specifically was conducted: International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education;
Science Education International; Canadian Journal of Science, Mathematics, and
Technology Education; and Eurasia Journal of Mathematics, Science and
Technology Education. An additional 9 articles were found. After a second review
of each article, 13 articles were not included because these studies did not directly
describe the development of any of the five components of pedagogical content
knowledge. The resulting data set used for this study includes 91 research articles.
Summaries of each article in the data set were written by closely examining the
major findings regarding science teacher PCK. Teachers experience teaching science, grade level, number of teachers studied, and the research approach were also
noted. Using NVivo qualitative research software, articles were categorized into
groups by the career stage of the participants and cross-referenced with one of the
five components of PCK (see Tables 1 and 2). When examining the participants,
we found many of the articles did not distinguish the amount of teaching experience within the participant group. If the teaching experience was mixed and the
findings were not distinguished between teachers, the primary category of experience was used if the range was clustered (e.g., a group of teachers with over 8 years
was coded as much experience). If teachers were mentors or leaders, they were
coded as leaders and were not also included in the some experience or much experience category.
After this initial round of coding, each of the articles was examined for a second
time, looking for specific details about the component of PCK that the article was
identified as. Categories or subcodes were created for each of the five components
of PCK. These categories were based on descriptions of PCK in the literature and
initial coding of the articles included in this review. It was important to both represent the construct and capture the nature of the research findings on science
teachers PCK. For example, discourse was included as a category based on its
importance in the literature on science classrooms while student-centered strategies was included as a category to represent the type of findings reported in studies
of teacher knowledge. Because many researchers grounded their work in the same
descriptions of PCK explored here, most categories were observed both in the literature and in the findings reported. Descriptions of categories for each component
of PCK are in the following:
Orientations to teaching science includes teachers ideas about the purposes
and goals for teaching science, the nature of science, and the nature of teaching
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Table 1
Categories of science teaching experience
Category of experience
Preservice science teachers
New science teachers

Some experience teaching science

Much experience teaching science

Leader science teacher

Description
Teachers in methods or student teaching
experiences prior to initial certification.
Teachers from 0 through 3 years of teaching
experience. This category included experienced
teachers new to teaching science and
experienced science professionals new to
teaching science.
Teachers with 4 to 10 years of experience
teaching science. This category included
studies with a predominance of teachers in this
experience range. When it was not possible
to determine the main experience level of the
group, the study was coded for both some
experience and much experience.
Teachers with 11 or more years of experience
teaching science. This category included
studies with a predominance of teachers in this
experience range. When it was not possible
to determine the main experience level of the
group, the study was coded for both some
experience and much experience.
Teachers taking on roles as mentors for new or
preservice teachers (including cooperating
teachers) or leadership roles with peer teachers.
Teachers with any level of experience taking
leadership roles were coded as leaders and not
in one of the other experience categories (i.e.,
some or much experience.

and learning science (Friedrichsen, van Driel, & Abell, 2011). For most teacher
educators and researchers, an inquiry orientation to teaching, as a view of science and for student learning, is the goal for science teachers.
Science teachers knowledge of students thinking about science includes
teachers ideas about students initial science ideas and experiences (including
misconceptions), the development of science ideas (including process and
sequence), how students express science ideas (including demonstration of
understanding, questions, responses), challenging science ideas for students,
and appropriate level of science understanding (Carlsen, 1999; Grossman,
Schoenfeld, & Lee, 2005).
Teachers knowledge of instructional strategies in science includes teachers
ideas about inquiry strategies (e.g., questions or exploring and including how
to use, how science is developed, and how student thinking is supported), science phenomena strategies (e.g., demonstrations or predict-observe-explain
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Table 2
Science teacher pedagogical content knowledge (PCK), aspects and categories
Components of science
teacher PCK
Orientations to teaching
science

Student thinking about


science

Instructional strategies in
science

Science curriculum

Assessment of students
science learning

Categories for each component of PCK


Teachers ideas about . . .
purposes and goals for teaching science
the nature of science
the nature of teaching and learning science for students
Teachers ideas about . . .
students initial science ideas and experiences
(including misconceptions)
development of science ideas (including process and
sequence)
how students express science ideas (including
demonstration of understanding, questions, and
responses)
challenging science ideas for students
appropriate level of science understanding
Teachers ideas about . . .
inquiry strategies (e.g., questions and including how to
use, how science is developed, and how student thinking
is supported)
science phenomena strategies (e.g., demonstrations or
predict-observe-explain and including how to use, how
science presented, how student thinking is supported)
discourse strategies in science (e.g., argument, writing,
presenting, or conferencing and including how to use,
how science portrayed, and how student thinking is
supported)
general student-centered strategies for science (vs.
teacher-centered) including how to use and when, how
science is represented, and match to student needs and
thinking
Teachers ideas about . . .
scope of science (importance of science topics and what
science is worth knowing or teaching)
sequence of science (organizing science content for
learning)
curricular resources available for science
using standards to guide planning and teaching science
Teachers ideas about . . .
strategies for assessing student thinking in science
how or when to use science assessments

and including how to use, how science is presented, how student thinking supported), discourse strategies in science (e.g., argument, writing, presenting, or
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Science Teachers PCK Development

conferencing and including how to use, how science is portrayed, and how
student thinking is supported), general student-centered strategies for science
(vs. teacher centered) including how to use and when, how science is represented, and how strategies are matched to students needs and thinking (Kelly,
2007; Treagust, 2007).
Teachers knowledge of science curriculum includes teachers ideas about the
scope of science (importance of topics and what science is worth knowing or
teaching), the sequence of science (organizing science content for learning),
curricular resources available for science, and using standards to guide planning and teaching science (Grossman et al., 2005; Magnusson et al., 1999).
Teachers knowledge regarding assessment of students science learning
includes teachers knowledge of a variety of strategies for assessments and how
or when to use assessments. Because there were fewer articles in this group,
only two categories were developed (Hashweh, 2005).
Coding allowed data for each PCK category and experience level to be extracted
and reviewed. Data were then examined for patterns within and then across experience levels for what teachers know or think about and what appears to influence
their thinking for each of the categories for the five components of PCK. Trends
that were similar for teachers moving from one idea to a new idea were noted
whether those teachers were early or later in their careers. Studies that made before
and after comparisons or made comparisons between experience groups such as
new teachers and their mentors were particularly helpful. Studies that were more
limited in scope were useful in confirming trends or patterns. In addition, we
looked for and described differences for grade levels (elementary vs. secondary
teachers), formal or informal education (programs vs. workshops), date of the
article publication, and research trends (e.g., studies during the focus on misconceptions or nature of science). The final progressions presented here are based on
what is described in the research examined.
Findings
The final data set represented each component of PCK across the experience levels
(see Table 3). Of the articles examined for this review, only five were longitudinal
studies following teachers for 2 or more years. In addition, many studies focused
on experienced teachers did not distinguish years of experience beyond stating the
overall range of experience (e.g., stating teachers had 4 to 25 years of experience)
for all teachers participating in the study or professional development. This is
interesting since the development of PCK is thought to progress over time as teachers gain additional years of experience in the classroom. Yet, all teachers were
given the same level of professional development as if their knowledge of teaching
were similar after an initial induction period. In contrast, preservice teachers ideas
were frequently described at multiple points along the academic year leading to
certification. There were many studies that described teachers ideas before and
after a methods course or student teaching, or occasionally both. In a few cases,
experienced teachers new to science were the focus of research. Because the focus
of this review was on subject-specific teaching knowledge (i.e., science
PCK), teachers in these cases were coded as new teachers. Research on preservice
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Table 3
Number of published papers for each level of teacher experience and category of
pedagogical content knowledge (PCK)
Preservice
(n = 50)

n = 91
Orientations (n = 48)
Purposes/goals
Nature of science
Nature teach/learn
Student ideas (n = 51)
Initial ideas
Development of ideas
Expression of ideas
Challenging ideas
Appropriate
understanding
Strategies (n = 39)
Inquiry
Phenomena
Discourse
Student centered
Curriculum (n = 28)
Scope
Sequence
Curricular resources
Standards
Assessment (n = 20)
Strategies
How/when to use

0 to 3 years 4 to 10 years >10 years


(n = 23)
(n = 19)
(n = 26)

Leaders
(n = 7)

25
16
11
22
28
19
14
7
12
7

10
3
6
8
11
9
10
2
3
0

11
5
9
5
12
8
10
1
5
0

12
6
7
4
15
10
10
2
7
0

4
3
2
2
5
4
3
2
0
1

18
6
14
7
12
14
11
2
8
1
8
7
8

13
6
6
3
7
6
3
1
4
2
3
3
3

12
3
7
5
6
7
5
2
3
2
4
4
3

13
5
7
5
4
11
7
3
3
4
10
10
8

2
1
1
0
1
2
2
1
2
0
1
0
1

teachers was abundant while research on leader teachers was scarce. Similarly,
research on orientations and student ideas was more frequent and research on what
teachers think about science phenomena or assessment was uncommon.
Orientation to Teaching Science
Many studies included in this section focused on nature of science specifically
as a research agenda. Researchers were not necessarily focused on teachers pedagogical content knowledge, but these studies did tend to explore teachers ideas
about what to teach in science and how to approach science instruction. Other
studies included in this section described teachers ideas about teaching science as
a component of describing how teachers approached teaching during specific
events such as student teaching or working with a new curriculum.
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Purposes and goals for teaching science. Researchers were not consistent with
their use of the terms purpose and goals and frequently used goals to identify a
range of objectives. Findings were examined for descriptions of teachers ideas
about why science is taught and what was important about teaching science. Two
progressions were identified, one for the purpose and a second for the goals for
teaching science.
The overarching purpose of teaching science was described by teachers as preparing students: first by gaining students attention, then developing students
skills, followed by supporting understanding, and finally focusing both on value
and understanding. Secondary and elementary teachers tended to differ somewhat
in their ideas about why it was important to teach science. As preservice teachers,
both groups thought it was important to prepare students for the next level of
schooling or life. However, elementary teachers were interested in developing students curiosity and providing them with fun ways to remember information while
secondary teachers focused on building confidence and developing an appreciation
for the usefulness of science. This difference is illustrated by a set of companion
studies that looked at teachers concepts of teaching across the preservice year
(Lemberger, Hewson, & Park, 1998; Meyer, Tabachnick, Hewson, Lemberger, &
Hyun-Ju, 1999). In four interviews across the methods and student teaching semesters, 15 secondary and 20 elementary teachers, respectively, were asked how they
felt about their lessons, what they did during their lessons, and reasons for their
actions. Reported in case studies, one elementary teacher began with the idea that
the primary role of the science teacher was the need to find ways to make the
information interesting to the students so that they would have an easier time
remembering it and later described that science instruction is helping the students to discover this known body of information (Meyer et al., 1999, pp. 327
328). In contrast, one secondary teacher described science teaching as somehow
getting the students to think about the topic and came to class dressed as an
atom. She later stated that learning occurred when students built their own meanings and that science teaching is causing them to come up with those things
themselves (Lemberger et al., 1998, pp. 351352). In studies focused on teachers
with more experience, some teachers still described the purpose as gaining attention, but other teachers were concerned that students build understanding that
would enable them to continue to study science. The interplay of preparing students to explain everyday phenomena and to study science was more evident for
experienced and leader teachers. The nuance of elementary versus secondary was
still evident but not as dramatic.
Progression for purpose. The purpose of teaching science is to prepare students for the next level of schooling or life by encouraging curiosity and
providing fun ways to remember information (elementary) or by building
student confidence and developing students appreciation for the usefulness
of science (secondary) The purpose of teaching science is to prepare students by teaching them how to find information (elementary) or develop
understanding (secondary) by themselves The purpose of teaching science
is to prepare students by supporting conceptual learning to enable further
study in science The purpose of teaching science is to help students scientifically understand phenomena in everyday life by making content relevant

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and available to children (elementary) or by modeling content and thinking


(secondary)

The primary goal for teaching science was to address science information and
concepts. Preservice teachers were clearly focused on covering basic content correctly and completely; they thought teachers should cover the material by presenting facts and correct explanations. As new teachers gained experience with
students, their goals included the avoidance of repeating what students already
knew or to correct misconceptions (Kang, 2007). This view of the goals for scienceto correctly cover basic contentwas reported for some teachers in every
category of experience. Across the levels of experience, teachers did not typically
include a range of science knowledge types in their goals for teaching science. For
example, teachers tended to not include argumentation or the nature of science as
goals. This was true even when teachers considered science itself as a knowledge
field to be setting the goals for what should be taught. Teachers however, did add
inquiry science skills or what they sometimes called thinking skills to the list of
goals. It is important to note that goals for process skills often meant that teachers
would add process ideas to the content they would correctly explain. This is illustrated in a study to examine the relationship between personal epistemologies and
science teaching goals. In this study, 23 secondary methods students described
their ideas about teaching science in structured essays and reflections (Kang,
2008). Although the majority (17 out of 23) of the teachers described knowing as
receiving knowledge, about half of the 17 (8 vs. 9) included inquiry process and/
or thinking as a goal. These teachers described inquiry process as knowledge they
received during the lecture (Kang, 2008, p. 486). Of the 6 teachers who described
knowing as seeking ones own answers, 5 included inquiry process and/or thinking
as a goal. These 5 described thinking skills as critical and analytical thinking
skills, to understand inner workings of science (Kang, 2008, p. 488). The goals
described by researchers were sometimes dependent on the purpose of the research.
If learning to teach the nature of science was the context of the study, then some
teachers were reported to begin to think about nature of science as a possible goal
for science teaching. If the researchers were interested in what ideas teachers had
about inclusion, then the goal of including all students was described. Researchers
also reported that teachers had multiple, nonscience content goals for teaching
science such as maintaining a safe environment or helping students develop social
skills (Abd-El-Khalick, Bell, & Lederman, 1998). These goals were not included
as PCK for science.
Progression for goals. The goals for teaching science include information
and concepts, are identified by the curriculum, and should be presented correctly and completely The goals for teaching science include information
and concepts but may include some science processes, are identified by the
curriculum, and students should understand concepts The goals for teaching science include information, concepts, processes, and possibly some
aspects of the nature of science; are determined by science as a body of
knowledge; and students should develop thinking skills and link ideas The
goals for teaching science include information, concepts, processes, and possibly some aspects of the nature of science; are determined by science as a
body of knowledge and phenomena in everyday life; and students should
benefit from understanding the ideas

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Teachers ideas about the purposes and goals for teaching science appeared to
be influenced by the agenda of the educational experience, more so for process
goals than nature of science goals. Programs that focused on helping teachers
understand and use inquiry often reported that teachers added science process or
inquiry skills as a goal for student learning. Programs focused on the nature of
science, on the other hand, reported limited success in adding nature of science as
a content goal. The progression of purposes and goals described also seems to be
influenced by time working with students and developing an interest in adding
science to students futures. Finally, content knowledge was often shown to have a
relationship to specific topic goals and ideas about purposes and goals generally.
Content knowledge was reported to be primarily based on college science courses
that tended to be traditional lecture-based instruction.
The nature of science. Many teachers, preservice teachers in particular, had a view
of science as discrete with few connections or themes. This view is not surprising
since most teachers experiences with science are probably in college courses
where science is often presented as discrete ideas. Teachers also confused science
procedures with the nature of science. With increasing levels of experience, teachers tended to include more features in their ideas about science such as the observational nature of data or creativity. Experienced teachers were mixed in their view
of science, with some having a linear and topical view similar to textbooks while
others had a more integrated view of science (Abd-El-Khalick, 2006). The features
of teachers ideas about the nature of science were well described in a study
focused on six cooperating physics teachers from three teacher training schools in
Finland (Asikainen & Hirvonen, 2010). These teachers had many years of experience guiding preservice teachers. In a 30- to 60-minute interview, teachers were
asked to describe the knowledge base of a skillful physics teacher. One teacher
described physics as structured and hierarchical, an experimental science, and having theories that are constantly developing. Another teacher stated that some areas
of physics are not questionable and the philosophy of science is limited to modern
physics. A third teacher described physics as the relationship between theories and
observations. The authors interpret this range as each teacher having a unique view
of the philosophy of science (i.e., nature of science).
Progression. Science is a set of known ideas that can be divided into small
pieces of information to be delivered to the learner and knowledge is divided
into right answers and misconceptions Science has some empirical and
tentative aspects and includes specific ideas such as the nature of data or
creativity but process and nature of science are confused and misunderstood
by teachers Science is an integrated field of knowledge with connections
and themes that might be hierarchical or web like and includes big ideas such
as patterns, systems, models, or relationships

Overall, little progress in understanding the nature of science was reported. As


might be expected, experiences in college science courses influenced teachers initial
ideas about the nature of science. Instruction for teachers, often in preservice courses,
was the primary initiator of teachers including the nature of science as a learning
goal. To make progress, it appears that ongoing instruction is helpful. For example,
in the third year of a classroom-based professional development addressing science
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and literacy for English language learners, elementary teachers were reported to
make connections between concepts and emphasized big ideas (Lee, 2004). In
another example, an experienced elementary teacher made progress in her ideas
about the nature of science throughout a yearlong experience of four graduate courses
that included two courses that emphasized the nature of science (Akerson & Abd-ElKhalick, 2003). These reports support the idea that instruction is helpful but takes
time and effort. The fact that teachers tended to not have additional instruction in
science specifically may explain the uneven and limited progress in this category.
The nature of learning science for students. The initial view of learning for many
teachers was that learning was a process of receiving correct information. These
teachers described a need for lectures, note taking, and presentation of material.
Teachers also described the need for students to discover information on their own
through reading or hands-on activities. At first this might seem contradictory, but
in an in-depth case study of an elementary teacher, Bryan (2003) interprets this as
two facets of a transmission model of learning. In one situation students are receiving information from the teacher and in the other situation they are receiving information from the activity. As long as the teacher does not give the answer, it is seen
as the students discovering it from the activity (Bryan, 2003; So & Watkins, 2005).
A related idea reported by researchers focused on teachers ideas about the nature
of science is that students will learn the nature of science by doing science. This
was in part confounded by the fact that teachers confused process and nature of
science (see previous discussion). The transmission view may also lead teachers to
control information and activities such as the procedures of investigations (Bryan,
2003). Preservice teachers, in particular, also believed that most students would
learn in the same ways that they themselves learned science when they were students, which was often through listening rather than doing science.
Many researchers were interested specifically in what teachers thought about
inquiry or problem-based science. Findings reported describe teachers who try
doing inquiry but do not believe it is the best way for students to learn or who
worry about losing control of the flow of information (Briscoe & Peters, 1997;
Crawford, 2007). Other researchers were focused on helping teachers understand
conceptual change or constructivist theories of learning. In many cases, these
teachers would say students need to discover ideas for themselves as described
previously. Others, however, began to think about students building on their ideas
(rather than adding to) and helping students understand these ideas. Based on constructivist ideas, some projects focused on problem-based learning. In a study of
three experienced secondary teachers working to develop a new curriculum, some
shift was seen in teachers ideas about learning (Coenders, Terlouw, Dijkstra, &
Pieters, 2010). Initially, teachers struggled with the idea of a problem covering the
material but at the end of the year stated that learning could begin with a context.
They also stated, as did teachers in other studies, that new approaches were addons to traditional practice. More advanced thinking about learning was seen in a
study of elementary leader teachers. One teacher described her ideas about learning as that when she gave her students the freedom to explore an area or concept it
allowed them to learn more and find their feet with concepts that are probably
further than what we expected. . . . It allowed them to explore things with a greater
depth (Appleton, 2008, p. 534).
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Progression. Students learn science by receiving and remembering information through listening (lectures or directions), reading (textbooks), or doing
activities (discovering on their own known); students learn science the same
way they themselves (teachers when they were students) learned (often by
listening); and students learn the nature of science, in particular, by doing
science processes Students learn science by building on their ideas or by
actively developing new concepts, but new approaches (e.g., those that
require creativity and decision making) are add-ons to traditional practice
Students learn science through exploring ideas or contexts (possibly problems) with guidance from teachers

Teachers ideas about learning seem to be influenced by a combination of


instruction and experiences with students. Preservice teachers were likely to
describe learner-centered ideas based on their methods courses but struggle with
these ideas in their first year of teaching. Experienced teachers were as likely to
have transmission views of teaching as early teachers except when they participated in professional development such as curriculum reform or working with
preservice education. There is, perhaps, a slight bias in the reports favoring elementary teachers in shifting toward constructivist views of learning. Mentoring a
novice teacher, albeit a small sample of studies, seems to be helpful.
Students Thinking About Science
Many studies in this category were focused on teachers ideas about student
misconceptions. These studies contributed mainly to the initial ideas and development of ideas categories. In spite of the many studies on misconceptions and conceptual change, few actually addressed for teachers the issue of ideas that are
challenging for students. Very little was reported regarding teachers thinking
about appropriate levels of understanding. This may be related to the fact that
standards are often presented as the goal level of understanding for students.
Students initial science ideas and experiences. Multiple studies reported that
teachers were not aware that students had ideas other than what they were taught
in school. This may be, in part, because some of these studies were dated prior to
the emphasis on student misconceptions. However, this finding was also reported
by more current studies and for experienced teachers. For example, in a recent
study of 30 elementary teachers representing 12 schools in seven different districts
across the state of California with teaching experience of 1 to 35 years, several
teachers suggested that students do not have personal ideas about science with
statements such as: Children dont have much of an idea about science in any way.
I assume they are blank slates, ready to take in whatever I have to give and
[Students] dont have ideas about science. You cant have wrong ideas about science if you dont have any ideas at all. . . . They just dont think about science
(Gomez-Zwiep, 2008, p. 442). And in spite of having heard about the idea of
misconceptions, one third of these teachers were unable to give even one example
of a student misconception from their own experiences, even after examples were
provided. This finding is consistent with teachers ideas that science is a set of
known ideas and students learn science by receiving correct information.
When teachers do become aware that students have ideas, some assume these
are the ideas that will need correcting while others think of these ideas as a place
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to start instruction so as to not bore student with ideas they already know.
(Researchers themselves also seem to have moved through this phase as they
framed their work with misconceptions then alternative, nave, and later prior conceptions.) For some teachers, learning about their students ideas and that these
ideas were not accurate prompted them to revisit their own ideas. Some teachers
were interested in learning what students found interesting so they could gain
students attention at the beginning of a lesson. To uncover students ideas, most
teachers listened to their students, initially only at the beginning of a topic, and
more experienced teachers read what their students wrote on assessments. Although
not common, a few teachers did mention reading professional resources about
students ideas (Hubber, Tytler, & Haslam, 2010). Linking students ideas to
instruction was a more advanced notion. Otero and Nathan (2008) examined the
ideas of 61 elementary preservice teachers and found a range of thinking regarding
students prior knowledge. They found teachers who did not respond, who
responded only to academic ideas, and who responded to experience-based and
academic ideas but did not link the two. Teachers who thought of experience-based
and academic ideas as integrated were considered the most responsive. From the
beginning to the end of a 15-week semester, some shift across these phases was
reported for the group.
Progression. Students do not have initial ideas or experiences relevant to science except for ideas from school (correct ideas) Students do have initial
ideas or experiences relevant to science, but these are misconceptions (wrong
ideas) or simply unknown to the teacher Students have initial ideas or
experiences relevant to science and it is important for teachers to know (some
teachers can give examples) or uncover these ideas as a place to start or correct, and students initial ideas may prompt teachers to reevaluate their own
(teachers) ideas Students have initial ideas or experiences relevant to
science and it is important for teachers to look for these by listening to students, reading students work, or reading the literature on students ideas
(rarely) Students think and develop their own ideas from multiple experiences in and out of school and these ideas are the basis of learning

In general, reports describe elementary teachers as tending to be more unaware


of student ideas than teachers in high school are. Perhaps the more concentrated
focus on content brought teachers attention to student science ideas specifically.
When findings across studies were examined, hints of regression were seen, specifically when instruction for teachers was absent. Formal instruction for teachers
seemed to positively influence teachers progress. Preservice teachers in preparation programs and teachers in masters programs made progress in their thinking
about students science ideas. On the other hand, teachers with a lot of classroom
experience alone did not show the same progress and, perhaps, regressed, suggesting the possibility of two different trajectories.
Development of science ideas. Consistent with the aforementioned descriptions,
teachers tended to begin with a simple view of student idea development. Teachers
stated the importance of being correct, clear, and concrete. Preservice or new
teachers did not necessarily consider the impact of their instruction on students
science ideas (Akerson, 2005). In some cases, the very structured nature of preservice experiences allowed teachers to report that they thought it was important to
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give students opportunities to express ideas or participate in science activities. For


example, when assignments were explicitly focused on analyzing materials for
questions that make thinking visible, preservice teachers were able to be critical of
lessons regarding this feature (Beyer & Davis, 2009). Another approach to focus
teachers on their students idea development was to give teachers instruction on
conceptual change. In one study, teachers participated in an action research project
as part of a graduate course covering conceptual change pedagogy. At the end of
the course, most teachers described the importance of probing and utilizing students preconceptions in science teaching but demonstrated various levels of
understanding of student learning. Only 4 out of 14 teachers talked about assisting
students knowledge construction or guiding students ideas to scientific thinking
(Kang, 2007, p. 479). Thinking about students developing ideas appears to take
time and reflection. In a study that followed one elementary teacher through preservice to new to established teacher, it was reported in Year 9 that she chose lessons to develop students ideas (Mulholland & Wallace, 2005).
For development of science ideas, the possibility of two trajectories was even
more apparent than for initial ideas. When teachers benefited from instruction,
they made progress toward understanding how students develop ideas. In contrast,
teachers with experience only seem to become more focused on how to present
ideas in ways that require less complex thinking on the part of students. Some
teachers described the need to break content in small pieces of information and
interpreted challenging ideas, such as the cell, as being boring (Cohen & Yarden,
2009; Lemberger et al., 1998). One path emphasizes students ideas and the other
emphasizes students work.
Progression. Students science ideas increase when teachers give them correct ideas Students science ideas develop when teachers simplify complex
ideas and make abstract ideas concrete and correct wrong ideas Students
science ideas develop when teachers use multiple ways to present an idea for
different students and learning styles (variety) Students science ideas
develop when they have multiple opportunities or representations to experience science and time to express their science ideas Students science
ideas develop when teachers are responsive to their ideas and reasoning by
adjusting instruction (sequence and integration)
Alternative path. Students science ideas increase when teachers give them
correct ideas Students science ideas increase when teachers simplify
complex ideas and make ideas concrete Students science ideas increase
when they work hard Students science ideas increase when ideas are
presented in very small chunks and when excitement is added to boring topics

Work within a formal program, either preservice or masters level, was clearly
associated with positive progress in thinking about how to develop student ideas.
Preservice programs launched teachers in a positive direction and graduate study
or curriculum work in conjunction with classrooms appeared to help teachers think
about students ideas. For example, in the curriculum reform work mentioned previously (Coenders et al., 2010), teachers learned that students did not have a good
understanding of models and saw the need for teachers to guide students when they
did not link concepts on their own. Students questions and listening to students
explanations appeared to be helpful for teachers. Experiences with students, in and
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of themselves, however, seemed to lead teachers to simplify ideas and focus on


students enjoyment.
How students express science ideas. Simple views of how students express ideas
are also consistent with teachers early ideas about science and learning. The view
is that students state their ideas in response to teachers questions. Preservice and
new teachers explained that students give funny answers because the teachers
question was not worded well or students understanding was not correct (Akerson,
2005). Thus, they concluded that they, as teachers, should be very strict in their use
of language. For some teachers, experiences with students lead them to notice
students ideas and then probe students for explanations in order to listen to students thinking (Avraamidou & Zembal-Saul, 2005; Zembal-Saul, Krajcik, &
Blumenfeld, 2002). Experienced teachers were able to use a variety of approaches
such as observational notes and assessments to learn what students were thinking.
Early teachers might watch their students for clues but did not mention assessments as revealing student ideas. Leader teachers recognized that kid language was
different from adult language and guided their interns to notice how students
behavior and questions revealed their thoughts (Akerson, 2005; Nilsson & van
Driel, 2010). Whereas early teachers listened to what students had to say, experienced teachers were more likely to hear or interpret what students meant. Leader
teachers were able to build from student views to give appropriate tasks such as
readings that would guide students.
Progression. Students express their science ideas in response to teacher questions; if students give unexpected answers then teachers need to reconsider
how they state their questions Students express their science ideas in the
questions they ask and when teachers probe students for explanations (teachers listen to students) Students express their science ideas in the questions
they ask, when teachers probe students for explanations, and in what they
write for assessments Students express their science ideas in kid language
and behavior that reveals their thoughts (hear/interpret students) Students
express their science ideas in ways that reveal their thoughts and teachers
should respond accordingly

Experiences with students, listening and thinking about their learning, seemed
to be the main influence on teachers ideas about how students express ideas.
Although preservice instruction was shown to enable teachers to include questions
in lesson plans that should give students opportunities to describe their ideas,
whether these teachers understood students expression of ideas cannot be assumed.
Experienced teachers studying their students work did learn about assessments as
a source of learning what students are thinking (Coenders et al., 2010). Leader
teachers demonstrated more sophisticated thinking about students versus adult
language and how students express their ideas. Preservice teachers learned about
their students expression from these mentors.
Challenging science ideas. Most preservice teachers did not think about reasons
students might find ideas difficult and thought about science ideas as right or
wrong. Preservice middle grades and elementary teachers did not think students
would have difficulties while preservice secondary teachers believed students
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would have the same difficulties they themselves did as students (Kapyla,
Heikkinen, & Asunta, 2009). After experiences with students, some teachers
explained student difficulties as being due to vocabulary, intangible topics, and
visualization problems and were unaware of documented challenges for students
regarding specific science ideas (Cohen & Yarden, 2009). Some teachers explained
that students were challenged because they did not have enough background
knowledge. In a study with three experienced middle grades teachers learning how
to use representations to help students understand forces, teachers explanation of
student difficulty as being a lack of background knowledge is linked to teachers
notion of science and learning:
You come into class with some certain concepts that you want to deliver and
you end up with a lesson that is totally different to what you planned, because
it is usually directed by the students. The questions they ask are challenging
they ask questions I cant answer to a level or a point that the kids can understand [as] they dont have that background knowledge so we try and simplify
for them and it is not easy. (Hubber et al., 2010, p. 19)

In other reports, some more experienced teachers explained student difficulties by


identifying topics as boring, for students and themselves. In this case, there is a
connection with the alternative pathway described previously for the development
of student ideas. On the other hand, some experienced teachers were reported to
have more developed understandings of the challenges students face that were
specific to science such as substantiating claims or scientific models. While these
teachers mentioned reflection on student difficulties as a reason for changing how
they taught a topic, they were vague about what to do (Drenchsler & Van Driel,
2008).
Progression. Science ideas will not be challenging for students (elementary)
or challenges will be the same challenges teachers themselves had as students
(secondary) Science ideas are challenging in general ways such as vocabulary or abstractness Science ideas that are challenging are specific to
science areas such as genetics (linking genes with traits) and processes such
as substantiating claims or scientific modeling
Alternative path. Science ideas will not be challenging for students (elementary) or challenges will be the same challenges teachers themselves had as
students (secondary) Science ideas will challenge students when they
dont have enough background knowledge to understand Science ideas
will challenge students when topics are boring

Teachers thinking about challenging ideas was shown to be influenced by their


own understanding of specific science ideas for both novice and experience teachers (Cohen & Yarden, 2009; Kapyla et al., 2009). Teachers seem to be more likely
to understand the nature of challenges for specific ideas that they had spent more
time exploring themselves. Teachers views of science and learning also appear to
influence teachers ideas about challenges for students.
Appropriate level of science understanding. There were a few studies for preservice teachers and only one for leader teachers with no reports in between. Thus, it
was not possible to suggest a learning progression in this category.
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Often reports in this area consisted of lists of what strategies were used by
teachers but did not always describe how or why teachers were thinking about
strategies. The goal often appeared to be to encourage teachers to try strategies
with less discussion of whether teachers learned or why they used a strategy.
Teachers ideas were often implied by their actions. Many of the reports were
focused on general student-centered strategies rather than strategies more specific
to science. Discourse in science was generally not explicitly addressed. Most of
the studies for experienced teachers did not separate years of experience and
grouped these teachers together.
Inquiry strategies. Teachers had a range of ideas about inquiry strategies but most
reports describe teachers having ideas that were progressing toward student investigations. In science education there has been considerable effort to help teachers
understand and use inquiry strategies, particularly in preservice education. Thus,
many reports regarding inquiry described preservice and new teachers who had
ideas about inquiry that included questions and evidence. There were, however,
reports of teachers who struggled with the idea of inquiry. These teachers included
hands-on activities or opportunities to discover concepts as being inquiry
approaches. A study of five preservice secondary teachers and their mentors illustrated a range of inquiry ideas from uninformed to informed for the preservice
teachers and from traditional/closed to inquiry/open for their mentors (Crawford,
2007). While most teachers were midrange, there were preservice and mentor
teachers at each end of the range. For several of the preservice teachers, inquiry
was a conflict between ideas about learning and meeting expectations in the classroom. For example, one teacher stated it was best when students have their own
questions but she was worried about addressing standards. Some of the preservice
teachers developed the idea that inquiry was not appropriate for high school students. For the most inquiry-based intern, inquiry included students asking questions, working with data, and developing explanations. Another intern more
midrange modified traditional labs while the intern least inquiry based described
hands-on activities as inquiry. Across the reports, when teachers begin to think
about inquiry they focus on data collection. Some teachers used demonstrations or
teacher-led activities for students to observe and record data. The first step toward
inquiry strategies appears to be for teachers to remain somewhat teacher centered
but to include opportunities for students to collect evidence. Teachers new to
inquiry and preparing for National Board Certification increased the opportunities
for inquiry by adding inquiry lessons and converting traditional lessons to inquiry
(Park & Oliver, 2008). These reports suggest that specific features of inquiry are
easier to learn, such as data collection, and other features require teachers to do
more rethinking (with educational support), such as having students pose questions (Weinburgh, Smith, & Clark, 2008).
Progression. Inquiry strategies are activities that are hands on or that lead to
discovery, are difficult to enact, and may be inappropriate for students
Inquiry strategies are primarily opportunities to collect data through observations or experimentation and can be teacher centered Inquiry strategies are
opportunities for student to pose questions or collect and work with their own

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data, and traditional lessons can be converted to inquiry lessons Inquiry


strategies include students posing questions, designing investigations, collecting evidence, and making claims (with instruction)

Teachers preparing for National Board Certification increased their number of


inquiry lessons (Park & Oliver, 2008). One study reports that a new teacher who
had taken standard science courses in her preservice program focused on investigations, working with data to answer questions, hands-on activities, and group discussions while another new teacher who had taken science courses designed for
education majors focused on students designing investigations, posing questions,
interpreting data to form evidence, and constructing and communicating evidencebased claims (Avraamidou & Zembal-Saul, 2010). This effect was also seen with
yearlong individual instruction for the teacher in the classroom (Weinburgh et al.,
2008). These reports highlight the impact of science content courses and classroom-based teacher education on how teachers think about inquiry strategies for
their students.
Science phenomena strategies. There were few reports that focused explicitly on
teachers thinking about strategies to engage students with science phenomena.
This is interesting since science as a field is based on understanding natural phenomena. Reports described teachers stating the value of a variety of representations such as students participating in hands-on activities; reading about science;
viewing scientific videos, pictures, or physical models; or hearing descriptions of
real-world applications. Elementary teachers used trade books to relate and help
explain phenomena to children (Akerson, 2005). Demonstrations were seen as a
way to have students gather data without doing an investigation themselves or to
save time (Avraamidou & Zembal-Saul, 2005; Crawford, 2007). Research that did
examine teachers ideas about phenomena strategies more closely studied secondary teachers, were focused on specific science areas such as forces or chemical
equilibrium, and made links to challenging science ideas. These studies usually
examined teachers understanding of the science represented. In a comparison
study of novice and expert chemistry teachers, where novice and expert were
defined by years of teaching experience, experienced teachers were reported as
knowing more demonstrations, knowing more about the complexity of the demonstrations, and having better quality explanations (Clermont, Borko, & Krajcik,
1994). In conjunction with ideas reported for challenging ideas, it appears that
teachers begin to think about what difficulties students might have with a science
idea. But how this was related to phenomena strategies was not explored. It appears
that teachers begin by thinking about multiple representations of science phenomena that can be viewed by students. And, perhaps teachers progress to knowing
more about more ways to represent phenomena and to thinking about what difficulties students might have with a science idea. But teachers ideas about engaging
students with phenomena, linking challenging science ideas with the phenomena,
and guiding them to develop scientific explanations were generally not described.
Thus, a progression for thinking about phenomena strategies was not uncovered.
Discourse strategies in science. The use of language within science was generally
not a central theme and was not reported as a separate category. Teachers ideas
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about spoken discourse were reported in descriptions of what teachers thought


about discussions and explanations. Teachers ideas about written discourse were
reported in descriptions of what teachers thought about reading and writing assignments. It is important to point out that the term discussion was used by most teachers but it was not always clear what teachers understood a discussion to be. In some
cases, it appeared that teachers understood discussion to be any conversation or
talk with students. Other descriptions such as having students share explanation or
evidence claims are more likely to be interactive discussions. Some beginning
teachers frequently saw science only in conversations that involved the teacher and
did not consider that students might be able to explain concepts to one another.
Frequently, writing, talking, or group work was seen as a way to see what students
were thinking, launch a lesson, and, in some cases, support teacher-centered
approaches such as determining where to begin a lecture and motivating students
to listen (see previous section on student thinking). Overall, discourse was not
usually viewed as a goal for science in and of itself. Thus, the progression in this
category is somewhat undeveloped and tentative.
Progression. Language use in science is having conversations with the
teacher and studentstudent talk is not considered Language use in science
includes class discussion, reading textbooks and other books for research,
and writing reports or summaries Language use in science includes discussion (possibly in groups) or writing (e.g., journals) for students to describe
their ideas and explain their thoughts about scientific concepts Language
use in science includes students communicating claims from investigations
as an argument (with science course for teachers)

Explicit focus on language use in science was associated with teachers using
and then seeing the value of students writing and conversations. For example,
teachers preparing for National Board Certification began to include journaling as
a form of studentteacher discussion (Park & Oliver, 2008). In other work focused
on science for English language learners, literacy was a joint theme with science
(Lee, 2004). These teachers first thought about vocabulary and later learned the
importance of probing students ideas and encouraging students to elaborate,
explain, or justify responses. Teachers confidence in their content knowledge
influenced how they had students participate in classroom conversations. Teachers
with a weaker content understanding spent more time listening to students, used
group work, and put students in the role of the teacher (Akerson, 2005; Friedrichsen
et al., 2009). Teachers who took a science course designed for education majors
engaged students in constructing and communicating claims resulting from
inquiry-based investigations in the form of an argument (Avraamidou & ZembalSaul, 2010).
Student-centered strategies for science. Findings in this category were confounded
with inquiry strategies described previously. This makes sense in that inquiry is a
strategy in science intended to be student centered. Activities that might appear to
be student centered were sometimes used by teachers to compensate for their own
uncertainty with the content (Carlsen, 1991). For example, group work was sometimes used by new teachers when they themselves did not understand a science
topic. Preservice teachers were often focused on management and, thus, on
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teacher-centered activities. Some teachers had more initial success with strategies
intended for individual students such as giving students feedback on journal
entries. In a 10-year study of one elementary teacher, how her ideas about studentcentered science develop is described (Mulholland & Wallace, 2005). As a beginning teacher she struggled with group work and realized she needed to spend more
time teaching group skills but worried about completing the unit on time. As an
established teacher she said that she deliberately planned a short quiet period
immediately before a hands-on science lesson. They get excited by science. So you
need to settle them down. And then bring them to [the space where they will do
science] (Mulholland & Wallace, 2005, p. 780).
Progression. Student-centered strategies are hands-on and small group activities; teachers consider activities known to work, management, and their own
(teachers) lack of knowledge to select strategies Student-centered strategies are whole class idea collection such as KWL charts (what we know, what
we want to know, and what we learned) and individual opportunities to share
ideas such as journals or teacher feedback Student-centered strategies are
individual and student-student opportunities to develop and share ideas such
as generating questions and communicating claims and explanations

Successful experiences in the classroom encouraged teachers to include new


strategies (Coenders et al., 2010; Mulholland & Wallace, 2005). Teachers were
influenced by their own confidence with science, management, and student-centered strategies. Instruction for teachers, mostly seen in the form of professional
development sessions, appears to encourage teachers to try specific strategies.
Similarly, the National Board Certification process expanded teachers knowledge
of instructional strategies.
Science Curriculum
The aspects of science curriculum tended to be areas that teachers were initially
unfamiliar. Teachers did not know what science ideas to include in their instruction
or what resources were available. As teachers gained experience, they knew more
about science curriculum. There was not a clear progression, but rather, teachers
became familiar with curricular aspects such as what resources were available and
what were the specific science standards.
Scope, sequence, standards, and resources. Separate trends for each category of
science curriculum were not obvious. What was found was a cluster of characteristics for beginning and a different cluster of characteristic for more experienced
teachers.
Progression. Teachers are uncertain about what topics are appropriate and
allow the materials to define the scope, think about sequence only generally,
are unfamiliar with science standards, and are unfamiliar with available
resources and rely heavily on curriculum materials Teachers integrate science concepts and other subjects, are flexible in their thinking about sequencing, are familiar with and use standards, are unfamiliar with available
resources, and rely heavily on curriculum material for scope and sequence

Activities that involved teachers in exploring curriculum added to their knowledge in this area. For example, participation in the revision of the school curriculum
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resulted in teachers knowing much more about science standards (Friedrichsen et al.,
2009). Likewise, preparing for National Board Certification led teachers to think
more about the scope and sequence of science for instruction (Park & Oliver, 2008).
Assessing Science Learning
Assessment as a component of pedagogical content knowledge has not been a
clear research objective. In addition, much of what is described about teachers
ideas was implied by what researchers found as to what teachers do or do not do
regarding assessment. There were few studies that addressed teachers ideas about
assessing students science learning and only one was found for leader teachers.
On the other hand, experienced teachers were the focus of several studies examining assessment knowledge specifically. This was the only category where experienced teachers were represented in more studies than early teachers.
Strategies for assessing student thinking in science. Reports indicated that during
early phases, teachers tend to not think much about assessment. Preservice and
new teachers did not typically include assessments in their plans, but new teachers
did plan to use informal questions to find out what students know throughout a unit
while preservice teachers planned to grade student worksheets (Friedrichsen et al.,
2009). Teachers continue to learn new assessment strategies such as portfolios,
performances, presentations, and journals, often as part of a project such as the
National Board Certification process, curriculum revision work, or because of dissatisfaction with published tests (Goodnough & Hung, 2009; Kamen, 1996; Park
& Oliver, 2008). More experienced teachers, particularly if they participated in
graduate work, were more likely to rethink science assessments. Experienced
teachers in a yearlong program to study assessment design for their curriculum
units that included instruction for interpreting their students work made important
progress in understanding assessment design and in understanding the relationship
between the science and the assessment tasks (Gearhart & Osmundson, 2009).
There were no studies on leader teachers and what they know about assessment
strategies specifically.
Progression. Assessments are traditional formats such as test at the end of a
unit and assessments in science are the same as other subjects Assessments
include informal questioning to know what students are thinking
Assessments include a variety of strategies such as journal entries, portfolios,
presentations (when taught and practiced) Assessments require planning
such as developing criteria and should be matched with specific science ideas

Working with students was not only very helpful, it appeared to be necessary
for teachers to think about strategies for assessing science learning. For example,
preservice teachers needed to experiment with performance assessment in their
field experiences, and learning to interpret students work was key to learning how
to develop improved questions for experienced teachers (Gearhart, Nagashima, &
Pfotenhauer, 2006; Morrison, McDuffie, & Akerson, 2005). Instruction for teachers on the types and uses of assessment also seemed necessary to expand teachers
ideas. Teachers began with traditional assessments such as tests. This was likely
related to what they experienced in their own schooling. Careful thinking about
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science assessment appears to have been an area underrepresented in educational


programs for science teachers.
How or when to use science assessments. Preservice teachers, and sometimes
experienced teachers, reported thinking of assessment as an end of unit event with
the goal of assignment of grades for students (Sanchez & Valcarcel, 1998; Wang,
Kao, & Lin, 2010). When asked about assessment during a unit, preservice and
new teachers stated that the purpose of assessment was to see if or what material
needed repeating. New teachers also approached assessment in this way, but in
addition they began to wonder about alternative assessments when students were
not successful with traditional strategies. Teachers tended to not think about assessment during their instructional planning and were not comfortable overlapping
instruction and assessment (Kamen, 1996; Kaya, 2009). Experienced teachers, on
the other hand, did begin to understand that instruction and assessment were linked
and began to include different assessments in order to gain better information
about their teaching. This was particularly evident in projects with a strong focus
on helping teachers learn about assessments. For example, in a problem-based
learning project, teachers were encouraged to use systematic observations and
formal note taking of their students. Teachers reported that this made them recognize the integral relationship between assessment and instruction (Goodnough &
Hung, 2009). In a more structured examination of assessment in the yearlong program mentioned earlier, teachers considered students responses in order to
improve instruction and provide students feedback. This project also illustrates the
level of challenge for teachers to understanding science assessment (Gearhart &
Osmundson, 2009).
Progression. Assessments can be used to give grades, motivate students to
work, and sometimes determine when to repeat material Assessments can
be used to see what students have correct (formal), see what students are
thinking (informal), and provide feedback to students Assessments can be
used to understand what and how students are thinking about specific science
ideas Assessments are connected with instruction and should be used to
inform instructional improvement

Again, experiences with students seemed to bring teachers attention to assessment in ways not seen in course work alone. Similarly, experience alone did not
focus teachers thinking in ways seen when teachers were formally guided.
Formally examining student work for the National Board Certification process
pushed teachers to think about how to assess higher levels of thinking (Park &
Oliver, 2008). Projects focused intensely on assessment and linked to students
work for preservice or experienced teachers reported progress in teachers ideas
about science assessment (Gearhart et al., 2006; Morrison et al., 2005).
Building a Picture
Overall, teacher thinking appears to progress first to thinking about learners,
then to thinking about teaching, and finally to building a repertoire. Transitioning
to a leader teacher was associated with more sophisticated thinking about teaching.
Although it is likely that teachers who are more advanced in their thinking volunteer or are recruited to be leaders, there was also some evidence that being a leader
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promotes more advanced thinking. Guidance and reflection appeared to be essential. Time in the classroom alone was not sufficient for teachers to make progress.
Indeed, hints of regression were uncovered when instruction for teachers was
absent. When teachers reflected on practice and student responses, they had the
opportunity to rearrange their ideas in ways that developed their science pedagogical content knowledge. Formal learning opportunities such as ongoing programs or graduate courses appeared to make a difference and move teachers along
the trajectory toward more developed thinking. Uncoordinated professional development or, worse, no support for learning appeared to result in little progress.
Longitudinal work was uncommon and much was reported regarding what teachers do and less regarding how they think about what they do. But more encouragingly, studies with small or large numbers of teachers presented consistent findings.
Being able to include both small- and large-scale reports when looking across time
frames aided the examination of data for trends and progress.
Discussion
Overall, this analysis indicates that it is helpful for teachers to think about learners first, then to focus on teaching, and points out the essential role of reflection for
teachers to rearrange their ideas in ways that develop their PCK (Henze, van Driel,
& Verloop, 2008). This review also shows that although professional development
opportunities are frequently provided for experienced teachers, these opportunities
are not usually designed to build on previous experiences or to advance teacher
understanding to higher levels. Thus, science teacher PCK reported for continuing
teachers was often quite similar to PCK for earlier career teachers. More troubling
are indications that PCK as defined by researchers might actually decline over time
as teachers advance in their careers, highlighting the importance of advanced or
extended professional development guided by the idea that teacher learning should
progress across a profession. Using learning progressions as a framework for
thinking about teacher learning illustrates that teacher educators have not created
a careful curriculum for teachers across their careers in spite of the idea that teachers continue to learn and learn from their practice (Garet et al., 2001).
Learning Progressions for Science Teachers
Findings indicate that it is reasonable to think about learning progressions for
teachers (Heritage, 2008). Teachers ideas did successively increase in sophistication over a broad span of time. Progress, however, was not consistent or steady.
This is likely due to the inconsistency of instruction rather than an inappropriate
use of learning progressions or trajectories to describe teachers thinking. It was,
in fact, possible to surmise trajectories for teacher learning when ideas about science teaching were disaggregated and examined. Using components of pedagogical content knowledge as a lens made it possible to undercover a sequence of
changes in teachers ideas. Because these trajectories were varied and sometimes
included alternative paths, searching for desired outcomes as targets would not
have been as helpful (Shavelson, 2009).
Progression of science teacher knowledge. When looking for evidence within each
facet of PCK, some areas were found to be better represented than others. For
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example, research reports on teachers ideas about students initial ideas were more
abundant while reports regarding teachers ideas about appropriate levels of understanding were infrequent. Coverage was in part explainable by the trends in interest and the goals of the research community. Nature of science and misconceptions
were two areas that were well populated, and information about teachers ideas
about teaching science could be extracted. Other areas at first glance appear to be
well represented, yet upon further examination were lacking description of teachers thinking. Assessment was an area where much is written but most is about
what teachers do rather than what they understand. This is an important distinction
when exploring teachers knowledge of science teaching in order to predict or
influence what teachers might do (Darling-Hammond, Bransford, LePage,
Hammerness, & Duffy, 2007). Moreover, topics of interest were given attention in
educational opportunities provided for science teachers, and the goals of the
research community often framed what was examined and reported. This is a limitation in describing learning progressions based on the available research findings. As ideas about what is important for science teachers to know evolves and
characterizations of PCK are refined, it is likely that improved descriptions of
teachers learning progressions will be possible.
Sequencing research reports by experience levels of the teachers studied was
helpful but not perfect. Earlier career teachers such as preservice teachers tended
to have certain ideas about teaching science. This is not surprising and is similar to
the consistency seen in the reports of challenges for teachers new to inquiry (Davis
et al., 2006). New teachers tended to have ideas that were similar to preservice
teachers yet showed some development. More experienced teachers, on the other
hand, might have the same ideas as early career teachers or they might have much
more development. Leader teachers, even though these studies were a small sample, were often the most likely to have the most sophisticated ideas. Leader teachers were not described as having early stage thinking in any PCK component. It is
important to remember, however, that individual teachers were not followed. Thus,
there appears to be a trend in the development of ideas but by no means do these
trajectories describe any particular teachers progress.
Midcareer teachers, as well as illustrating novice ideas and more developed
ideas, also illustrated ideas on a different overall path altogether. Specifically in the
area of student thinking about science, two trajectories were suggested. Although
true adaptive expertise was not obvious, trajectories in that direction were uncovered. For example, on one trajectory for development of student ideas, teachers
became more responsive to students in their thinking. This might be in the direction of adaptive expertise in that teachers were making choices for specific student
needs. What is yet to be seen is how this level of thinking might develop in new or
challenging situations (Bransford et al., 2006). On the other hand, some midcareer
teachers showed evidence of moving in the direction of a form of routine expertise.
Routines can be valuable, aiding teachers in managing classrooms and making it
possible for teachers to actively think about students and learning. But routines are
less helpful when they overshadow learning. For example, on the alternate trajectory for development of student ideas, teachers thinking progressed to presenting
science ideas in ever smaller pieces to help students complete their work. Divergent
trajectories were not seen in most areas of PCK examined in this review. But thinking about types of expertise did uncover differences for midcareer teachers. This
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was not the case for early stage teachers, who tended to illustrate initial ideas, or
for leader teachers, who tended to illustrate the most sophisticated ideas.
Influences on knowledge progression. Formal education was clearly helpful. For
some components of PCK, concurrent science instruction was advantageous. The
nature of science component of PCK is an example where studying science again
was helpful. For inquiry strategies, science instruction that was intended for science teachers was more beneficial than traditional science coursework. A better
understanding of science also impacted teachers ability to think about the nature
of science ideas that would be challenging for students. This makes sense in that
science content is considered an ingredient of PCK (Gess-Newsome & Lederman,
1999). But evidence also indicates that simply increasing science content was not
as helpful as purposefully addressing inquiry or nature of science for learners. For
other areas of PCK, thoughtful experiences with students were advantageous. For
assessment, teachers thinking about strategies for assessing science appeared to
depend first on work with students around assessment task, then on increasing the
number of assessment strategies. In both exampleslearning science and assessments in ways linked to students thinkingteachers learning is linked to students learning (Sykes, 1999). Throughout, reflection and instructional guidance
were clearly and consistently supported as beneficial for teachers developing their
thinking about teaching in productive directions (Ball & Cohen, 1999).
Implications for Research
There were very few longitudinal studies regarding teacher learning. In this
review, only five studies followed teachers for more than 1 year. Although this is
not surprising given the constraints of research with teachers, it is interesting given
the acceptance of the idea that teachers learning takes place over the course of
their careers (Feiman-Nemser, 2008). Yet, it was possible to build a picture of
teacher learning by looking across studies. Even though different individuals participated in these studies, it was possible to extract overall trends or trajectories of
teacher learning. As a field, longitudinal work should be supported and would
improve descriptions of how teacher learning progresses. There is also a need for
a greater focus on experienced teachers. Research on preservice teachers was
ample and examined teachers at several points during the preservice year.
Experienced teachers, on the other hand, were the focus of far fewer studies.
Moreover, when experienced teachers were the subject of research they were commonly grouped together rather than describing differences for teachers with some
or more years of experience. More study of midcareer teachers and their learning
would contribute to our understanding of how to support teachers more effectively
(Moreland & Hobbs, 2011). Work to study leader teachers ideas about teaching
science was rare. This is clearly an area in need of more work.
Pedagogical content knowledge is a popular yet still developing construct.
Early work utilizing PCK to describe teachers ideas was relatively vague and
undefined. Later work includes examples that are more analytical and descriptive.
But, PCK is still a developing construct based on researchers and philosophers
ideas about professional knowledge. What is described is, in part, related to the
ideas and goals of the researchers themselves. More empirical work is needed to
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define this construct in a way that is useful for understanding and enhancing teachers knowledge. To this end, research that carefully describes what teachers know
or their ideas about teaching science is needed. Across 25 years, fewer studies than
might be expected actually examined teachers ideas for any specific component of
PCK. One difficulty in this work is that PCK is defined as having many components, each with subcomponents. It is difficult to consider all facets within one
study. As a field, attention to each aspect in a strategic fashion is needed. It also
appears to be challenging for researchers to achieve a level that is not so general as
to be closer to general pedagogical knowledge or so specific as to be closer to specific content knowledge. Part of the attractiveness of PCK is that it is a domain of
specific yet professional knowledge thought to be important for content teachers (in
this case science) beyond their specific classroom. In this way, PCK can be a heuristic to guide our thinking about the development of adaptive expertise. Research
framed by the idea that teachers thinking becomes increasingly sophisticated,
whether longitudinal or at different points across profession, and that defines teachers thinking as knowledge of teaching subject matter that transcends individual
classrooms would inform efforts to move teachers toward adaptive expertise.
Implications for Teacher Education
In the context of learning progressions for teachers, it is necessary to think
broadly about teacher education. Educational opportunities for teachers need to
begin with preservice education and continue with the same degree of concern for
developing teachers thinking throughout their careers. In the studies examined for
this project, professional development was not necessarily planned as a continuous
experience. Teacher education to progress teachers learning and develop increasingly sophisticated thinking would build ideas over time and across educational
opportunities (Garet et al., 2001). Given that teachers do not remain in any particular program or school, developing coordinated programs across many years
will be difficult. Yet, until such programs are developed, isolated sessions will
likely have little lasting impact. Findings also indicate that programs need to provide teachers with meaningful experiences with students before helping teachers
build a larger repertoire of practices. The value of experience first was highlighted
in studies looking at teachers ideas about assessment. In a similar fashion, these
findings indicate that curriculum materials or requirements for teachers to design
lesson plans could have a small set of ideas such as strategies for new teachers to
practice initially with an increasing set of ideas and options as teachers develop
their thinking about teaching science. Again, creating and coordinating different
materials and requirements for new and experienced teachers will not be easy but
may help teachers progress. Finally, it appears to be necessary to focus on pedagogical content knowledge explicitly with clear opportunities for teachers to think
about, experience, and reflect on how to think about each aspect of PCK (e.g.,
assessment) in relationship to students and science.
Conclusion
This review examines the research across 25 years, since the conceptualization
of pedagogical content knowledge as a construct for teacher knowledge was
introduced, for evidence of how science teachers develop pedagogical content
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knowledge. By using the framework of learning progressions, this review takes a


unique approach to thinking about research on how and what science teachers
learn. This work can support teacher educators in designing professional programs
that support beginning and advanced learning for science teachers. In addition,
because longitudinal studies are rare, a review across multiple studies with an eye
for evidence that learning progresses from one professional stage to another can
provide insight needed to create ongoing learning for science teachers. By looking
across studies that examine PCK at different points along professional continuum,
this review can inform efforts to design teacher education programs that reach
across careers and highlight areas for further research. By looking across studies
for patterns in how PCK develops over a career, we can begin to think about how
to design programs and experiences that move teachers into advanced levels. This
is key in understanding how to support continued growth by experience teachers.
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Authors
REBECCA M. SCHNEIDER is an associate professor of science education and director of
secondary teacher education in the Judith Herb College of Education, Health Sciences,
and Human Services at the University of Toledo, 2801 W. Bancroft St., Toledo, OH
43606-3390; e-mail: Rebecca.Schneider@utoledo.edu. Her design research is focused on
science teachers thinking and their development as professionals with a special interest
on supporting midcareer science teachers in continuing to learn as they take on new roles
as mentors and leaders.
KELLIE PLASMAN is a doctoral student in curriculum and instruction in the Judith Herb
College of Education, Health Sciences, and Human Services at the University of Toledo;
e-mail: kellie.plasman@rockets.utoledo.edu. Her research interest focuses on the use of
literacy in science education.

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