Science Teachers’ Views and Practices in Planning for Teaching

Abstract

This article studies the views and practices of a group of secondary school science teachers toward lesson planning. The two main questions posed are: “What do teachers do when they prepare their lessons?” and “What do teachers think of their own planning?” We describe the decisions made by the teachers, the things they take into account, what they give most importance to, the time spent, the source of their knowledge, and how they evaluate the results. The information was obtained by structured personal interviews, which were compared with reports written by the teachers. Our findings led us to reflect on ways in which lesson planning may be introduced into training programs. © 1999 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 36: 493–513, 1999 Since the 1980s, there have been many proposals for remodeling science teaching in various countries with a wide consensus as to the need to adapt a constructivist view of learning, although there has been less unanimity as to the exact theoretical framework which should be adopted (Posner, Strike, Hewson, & Gertzog, 1982; Pope & Gilbert, 1983; Driver & Bell, 1985; Osborne & Freyberg, 1985; Novak, 1988). Taking into consideration what the students know about the content, models have varied from the use of strategies based on cognitive conflict and conceptual change to those which associate conceptual change with epistemological and methodological changes in the construction of knowledge (Duschl & Gitomer, 1991; Gil, 1993a; Porlán, 1993). Such reforms in science teaching require a fundamental change in the teacher’s role, and many specialists have pointed to the need for teachers to change their conceptions and practices concerning the teaching of science (Hewson & Hewson, 1987; Furió, 1994; Porlán, Azcarate, Martín, Martín, & Rivero, 1996). In Spain, too, following the educational reforms of education in 1990 (MEC [Ministerio de Educacion y Cultura], 1990), a new curriculum has been designed for science. On the one hand, the curriculum is conceded as an open and flexible project. Based on certain principles and guidelines established by central and regional educational bodies as to what should be taught, how and when it should be taught, and how assessment should be carried out, teachers can define the educational and curricular proj-ects of their particular school and plan their own classJOURNAL OF RESEARCH IN SCIENCE TEACHING VOL. 36, NO. 4, PP. 493–513 (1999) © 1999 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. CCC 0022-4308/99/040493-21 Correspondence to: G. Sánchez Contract grant sponsor: DGICYT Contract grant number: PS94/0177 room teaching to meet these ends. This involves a fundamental change in the roles of teachers since they cease to be administrators of centrally fixed programs which an embodied in textbooks and instead become active course designers and investigators, progressively adapting and changing their ways of teaching in accordance with the feedback received. On the other hand, the underlying psychopedagogical principles are contained within a constructivist concept of student learning and of pedagogical intervention in its widest sense. Knowledge is actively constructed by the students, and it is necessary to understand their conceptual schemes for the teacher to promote meaningful learning. Pedagogical proposals arise from the students’ previously held ideas and emphasize the importance of finding meaning through groupwork and teacher support (MEC, 1989). Several specialists in Spain (Gil, 1993b; Porlán & Martín, 1994; Furió, 1994) have thrown doubt on whether science teachers can adapt to their new role since they have not received adequate training, and suggest that they need to be introduced to a constructivist view of science learning. They maintain that teachers should be capable of preparing a program of activities to generate more effective learning, adopt a new view of assessment, and, finally, associate teaching and research. In their new role as course designers, in addition to adopting the above approach to teaching, teachers must observe criteria and strategies which will permit them to plan their own lessons independently. However, before entering more deeply into the matter, it would perhaps be of interest to ascertain the actual views of science teachers on lesson planning and what they do in this respect by finding the answers to a series of questions. How do teachers plan their lessons? What criteria do they use to design teaching units? How do they choose and sequence the content? To what extent do they take the level of knowledge of their students into account when planning their lessons? These new tasks must take into account both curriculum design and development and, at the same time, the in-service training which teachers receive (García & Porlán, 1990; Marcelo, 1994). Many authors have pointed to the importance of planning because it forms an ideal base for analyzing views and practices and for generating educational innovation (Lledó & Cañal, 1993; Jiménez, Wamba, Estepa, Carrilo, & Contreras, 1994; Azcarate, Cuesta, Navarrete, & Cardeñosa, 1994; Porlán et al., 1996; Pacca, Pacca, & Villani, 1996). In recent years, many educational institutions in Spain (universities, learning resource centers, etc.) have organized inservice training for science teachers on materials preparation and the design of teaching units, a term we use to refer to a series of lessons on a particular topic. The results have shown that this is a complex task for teachers to carry out, leading us to suggest that a structured approach is best (Sánchez & Valcárcel, 1993). Moreover, given that it is widely agreed that constructivist thinking should form the basis of training activities (Hewson & Hewson, 1987; Gil, 1993b; Furió, 1994), teachers’ preconceptions play a similar role in teacher training as do the scientific preconceptions held by students while they are being taught. For this reason, we take teachers’ views and practices as a starting point, so that they may be taken into account when planning and so that any proposals for change may seem to arise from the teachers’ own reflections. Thus, Marcelo (1994) pointed to the need to bear in mind the experience and practical knowledge which teachers bring with them to the training situation. The above justifies the importance we give to investigating teachers’ views on planning teaching units or individual lessons and ascertaining what they do in this respect. The results obtained can be taken into consideration when planning training courses. Since the 1970s. many studies and reviews have concentrated on the processes of planning (Clark & Peterson, 1986; Salinas, 1990; Bellon, Bellon, & Blank, 1992). However, we agree 494 SÁNCHEZ AND VALCÁRCEL

4 Figures and Tables

Cite this paper

@inproceedings{Snchez1998ScienceTV, title={Science Teachers’ Views and Practices in Planning for Teaching}, author={Gaspar S{\'a}nchez and M. Victoria Valc{\'a}rcel}, year={1998} }