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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Developing a methodology for analysing and evaluating teaching strategies in university science teaching : an exploratory study Bashook, Philip G.

Abstract

Purpose of the study: The study explored an approach to analysing and evaluating strategies for teaching science concepts at the first-year university level based on B.O. Smith and co-workers conceptual framework of teaching. As such, the study represents an attempt to bridge the gap between a recently developed theoretical view of teaching and practical problems of classroom science teaching. A basic assumption made in the study was that teaching is a type of goal-directed activity. The major goal of science teaching was taken to be the acquisition of scientific paradigms. According to T.S. Kuhn, scientific paradigms constitute what a "scientific community thinks it knows". Since science concepts (i.e. rules governing the use of a term) are inextricably bound to scientific paradigms, the teaching of science concepts was seen as an essential aspect of science teaching strategies. It was pointed out, moreover, that teaching strategies used to teach science concepts are rarely, if ever, firmly based on systematized knowledge of teaching. Procedure: Development of the methodology was carried forward in four phases: identifying aspects of Smith and co-workers’ theoretical work potentially useful for analysing and evaluating the teaching of science concepts; characterizing records of actual teaching strategies; analyzing and evaluating actual teaching strategies for goodness-of-fit with ideal teaching strategies; and suggesting specific problems arising from the study requiring further investigation. The methodology was developed and illustrated using actual teaching strategies employed by an instructor in a first-year university physics course. The teaching strategies utilized covered a time span of eleven lectures and were directed toward an understanding of eight different science concepts. The eight concepts taught were: "Mass", "Law in Physics", "Electricity", "Electric Field", "Number of Field Lines", "Feedback", "Wave Superposition", and "Nuclear Binding Energy". Findings of the study: A general conclusion of the study was that the theoretical framework used in the study appeared to be potentially useful for analysing and evaluating certain aspects of classroom teaching. The "venture" and "move" categorizations of the framework proved tractable for analysing and evaluating actual teaching strategies performed in a lecture-type teaching situation. Difficulty, however, is likely to be encountered if the "play" categorizations; at the present stage of development, were to be included in the methodology. Classifying and organizing the information introduced by the various "moves" in a teaching strategy, in terms of the "functions to be accomplished in teaching a concept", appeared useful not only for deducing "rule-formulations" (i.e. rules governing the use of a term naming the concept) but also for evaluation purposes. In the evaluation process teaching functions which appear to be inadequately performed, because the appropriate information was not presented or because the "moves" were defective in some way, were identified. It was pointed out that suggestions for altering; a particular teaching strategy in order to include the necessary information or to modify particular "moves" would require experimental investigations into the most advantageous teaching strategy for producing specified learning outcomes for a particular group of students. The results of analysing and evaluating teaching strategies aimed at teaching concepts as illustrated in the study was seen as potentially useful information for a classroom teacher. However, it was emphasized that identifying the "intended product" of a teaching strategy (i.e. expected rule-formulations deducible from information presented in teaching a concept) is most difficult. Although the methodology developed was only applied to concept teaching it would appear to be generalizable to other kinds of teaching. Finally, four problems arising from the study and deserving further investigation were identified and described. The problems, viewed as ranging along a hypothetical-practical continuum, were: difficulties encountered in employing the "play" categorizations; a suggested expansion of the "conceptual venture" idea; devising teaching strategies for concept teaching by considering "teaching functions" in terms of the "point-at-ability" of a concept; and a suggested use of the methodology for devising a "Handbook of Teaching Strategies for Selected Science Concepts."

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