As the course draws to a close I have spent a lot of time reflecting on what we learned in each module, the views of the students in the course and how it all has come together for me.
Reflections on Module A: Lesson 1
The posts from Module A Lesson 1 that resonated the most with me were related to not only identifying and hopefully correcting student misconceptions but also misconceptions the educator may have. During the course of the MET program, I have wondered, stated and been frustrated by why change in education is so difficult? Week 1 in ETEC 533 was no different.
In Ontario, Elementary teachers are expected to teach all subjects (excluding French). Over the years I have noticed that many of my colleagues are university trained in the Arts, Languages or Social Sciences. Many do not have a background in the sciences, math or technology, yet they are expected to teach these concepts to their students. Truthfully, at least half of my colleagues are scared to death of teaching math and science because they know they do not have a strong background in it themselves.
The following two quotes from Anne and Gloria’s posts highlight this:
In a research paper conducted by Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the relationship between teacher knowledge and student learning was studied, and concluding that student learning is directly related to teacher knowledge. “If teachers hold such misconceptions themselves or simply are unaware that their students have such ideas, their attempts at teaching important concepts may be compromised” (Sadler et al, 2013). These leads me to two questions: How can teachers identify their own misconceptions and how can they better understand and identify misconceptions of their students?
Confrey notes that “children develop ideas about their world, develop meanings for words used in science, and develop strategies to obtain explanations of how and why things behave as they do, and that these naive ideas cannot be easily ignored or replaced” (Confrey, 1990). It is important for teachers to be able to tease out these misconceptions by probing a student’s conceptual framework using direct questioning allowing them to develop effective lessons and activities to provide opportunities for students to discover new information and correct their misconceptions. Previous research on student’s misconceptions shows that student’s have difficulty assimilating and acquiring scientific knowledge if their misconceptions are ignored or not adequately addressed. One way for teachers to address this gap is to consider that an emphasis on identifying and remediating holes in the teacher’s knowledge may be more helpful for the science teacher’s effectiveness in the classroom (Sadler et al).
When I was watching the video of Heather, I had this realization that I also have misconceptions in the science and math disciplines as a learner. I recall myself generating logical reasonings to explain scientific phenomenon. Furthermore, as an elementary teacher, I am responsible for delivering accurate knowledge to my students. This lingering thought provoked me to look at teacher misconceptions and how they compare with student misconceptions in science, specifically. I came across an article by Burgoon, Heddle and Duran (2011) that was quite recent and focused on comparing the misconceptions about physical science between elementary teachers and students. Elementary science teachers were assessed on their physical science knowledge. The results showed the elementary science teachers shared similar misconceptions in topics of temperature, gasses, magnetism and gravity. Of course, these results cannot be generalized to the entire population of science teachers, but it does indicate some concern as teachers who have misconceptions, can contribute to further misconceptions for their students. For instance, a possible source of student misconception comes from an unreliable source (like a teacher)!
In addition to not persuing science or math beyond the required courses in highschool many teachers realize that their learning may have been incomplete because concepts were taught only once with limited hands on experience. The following excerpt from Michelle’s post really highlighted this for me.
After watching the video the concepts within it rang true to me. In my experiences in science, many concepts were taught only once and models, simulations and hands-on experience were limited to what resources were available, which were often slim to none. If models were available, the educators usually stood at the front of the class with the model in front of them as they “taught” us the concept. We did not handle or construct the models. One thing I found interesting was how strongly the students held on to their personal scientific theories. It seems that early experiences learning scientific concepts are fraught with misconceptions that may not be challenged and thus taken as the ultimate truth. I wonder if this is because as children we were not taught to question what we saw in books or what we were taught. We implicitly trusted these sources, including our understanding of 3-dimensional phenomenon which was more often than not, represented in 2-D form (in drawings, graphs, etc.).
All of this makes me wonder if elementary teachers should teach their subject specific specialization rather than all subjects. Are we truly offering a well-rounded education if a student leaves grade 8 with never having been taught by a science teacher, a Physical Educations Teacher or a History Teacher? I am starting to see this as a disservice to our students and their education. Questions I will continue to ponder: are elementary students too young to benefit from having several specialist teachers? Is there a social-emotional reason that elementary students need the same teacher all day?