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Conceptualizing a "reflective practicum" in constructivist science teaching MacKinnon, Allan Murray


This study addresses the problem of conceptualizing the dynamic processes of the practicum in learning how to teach science. It is concerned with the character of the dialogue and relationship between a supervisory teacher and a student teacher, as they inquire into the ways in which pupils conceptualize science concepts and classroom events. Of particular importance is the capacity, or disposition, of a science teacher for appreciating the ways in which pupils make sense of the phenomena that are studied in science classrooms. Thus, the study focusses on the ways in which a student teacher can be encouraged to inquire into the matter of teaching science. The investigator draws from two perspectives in formulating the theoretical framework for the study. A "constructivist" perspective on the acquisition of knowledge is utilized to inform the events of science teaching. Briefly, this perspective is organized about the variety of ways events can be perceived by different individuals, according to the concepts and conceptual frameworks they use to organize and represent experiences. In science teaching, there is frequently a tension between perceptions derived from the concepts of "ordinary language" and those concepts emanating from "scientific language." A constructivist view of science teaching is developed to characterize this tension, and to point out important implications for science teaching. The other perspective that has been useful in formulating the theoretical framework for the study is a view of practicum events emanating from Donald Schon's analysis of "reflective teaching." This view focusses on the practicum supervisor's demonstration and description of pedagogical knowledge, as well as the student teacher's imitation and construction of this knowledge. This view of the practicum considers how a student teacher learns to "see" the practice setting as the supervisor does, and how the meaning of the supervisor's model is derived from the student teacher's experiences in the practice setting. The combined "Schonean-constructivist" perspective results in the derivation of an "analytic scheme" used to interpret two case studies of a "reflective practicum in constructivist science teaching." The database for these case studies consists of verbatim transcriptions of science lessons and supervisory conferences collected from the practica of two student teachers—Rosie and Kevin. Their supervising teachers, Colin and Gary, were experienced science teachers who subscribed to a constructivist perspective in guiding and making sense of their own practice. The analysis focusses on Colin and Gary's style of supervision, specifically in terms of Schon's three "models of coaching reflective practice." These models are referred to as "Follow Me," "Joint Experimentation," and "Hall of Mirrors." A set of "clues" for identifying the attributes of these models is derived from the analysis and illustrated by examining particularly informative excerpts of their supervisory conferences with Rosie and Kevin. The contribution of the study is the analytic scheme and its associated "clue structure" for identifying patterns of events in a reflective practicum in which the focus is on constructivist science teaching approaches. The general conclusion is that the analytic scheme and clue structure for identifying the three models of coaching reflective practice are both relevant and useful for thinking about events in a practicum in science teaching.

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