Gunckel, K. 2008. Preservice elementary teachers learning to use curriculum materials to plan and teach science. Ph.D. Dissertation, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA.

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New elementary teachers rely heavily on curriculum materials, but available science curriculum materials do not often support teachers in meeting specified learning goals, engaging students in the inquiry and application practices of science, or leveraging students’ intellectual and cultural resources for learning. One approach to supporting new elementary teachers in using available science curriculum materials is to provide frameworks to scaffold preservice teachers’ developing lesson planning and teaching practices. The Inquiry-Application Instructional Model (I-AIM) and the Critical Analysis and Planning (CA&P) tool were designed to scaffold preservice teachers’ developing practice to use curriculum materials effectively to plan and teach science. The I-AIM identifies functions for each activity in an instructional sequence. The CA&P provides guides preservice teachers in modifying curriculum materials to better fit I-AIM and leverage students’ resources for learning.

This study followed three elementary preservice teachers in an intern-level science method course as they learned to use the I-AIM and CA&P to plan and teach a science unit in their field placement classrooms. Using a sociocultural perspective, this study focused on the ways that the interns used the tools and the mediators that influenced how they used the tools. A color-coding analysis procedure was developed to identify the teaching patterns in the interns’ planned instructional approaches and enacted activity sequences and compare those to the patterns implied by the I-AIM and CA&P tools. Interviews with the interns were also conducted and analyzed, along with the assignments they completed for their science methods course, to gain insight into the meanings the interns made of the tools and their experiences planning and teaching science.

The results show that all three interns had some successes using the I-AIM and CA&P to analyze their curriculum materials and to plan and teach science lessons. However, all three interns used the tools in different ways, and some of their ways of using the tools were different from the intentions for the tools. These differences can be accounted for by the variety of mediators that influenced the interns’ use of the I-AIM and CA&P tools. These mediators were rooted in the Discourses at play in the various communities in which the interns participated during their teacher preparation program. Some of the practices and resources of these various Discourses interfered with or supported the interns’ use of the I-AIM and CA&P tools. Each intern took a different trajectory through these Discourses and encountered different practices that mediated how each used the I-AIM and CA&P tools.

The results of this study suggest that the goal of preparing preservice teachers to use the I-AIM and CA&P tools should be to provide preservice teachers with opportunities to use the tools and help them develop the metaknowledge about the tools necessary to critically analyze the affordances and weaknesses of different approaches to teaching science.

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