Zimbabwean teachers’ espoused and enacted knowledge for teaching ordinary-level integrated science

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Dziva, Daimond
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There is an on-going discourse on exploring Teacher Knowledge in General Education and Science Education fields (Elbaz, 1983, Shulman, 1987, Grossman, 1990; Carlsen, 1999; Lederman, 2006; Chapman, 2013; Goodwin & Kosnik, 2013). Central in this discourse on Teacher Knowledge is understanding teachers espoused and enacted knowledge, especially in the context of Developing Nations. This area of research is appropriate as Teacher Knowledge has a direct bearing on student success (Coleman, et al., 1966; Ferguson, 1991; Flippo, 2001; Reutzel & Cooter, 2012). Teacher Knowledge is by definition, embedded in the personal context of the teachers, where all kinds of domain-related, teacher-related and pupil-related and the intermingling of these circumstances play a role and for this reason Verloop, Driel, & Meijer (2001) stresses that it is logical to direct the search for shared Teacher Knowledge on groups of teachers that are in similar situations with respect to variables such as subject matter, level of education, and age group of students. This research interrogates the content of the Integrated Science teachers’ knowledge and how it manifests itself in teachers who have specialised in Chemistry, Biology or Physics during their pre-service teacher education. This study is guided and limited by the central question; “What basic Teacher Knowledge do Integrated Science teachers who specialised in Chemistry, Biology or Physics require for their teaching epistemic construction?” This question is further unravelled through two research questions: - 1. How do teachers who specialised in Chemistry, Biology or Physics describe secondary school Integrated Science teaching? - 2. What are the gaps in knowledge between the Integrated Science teachers’ espoused knowledge from teacher education institutions and the enacted experiential knowledge needed in Integrated Science classrooms? This study followed a mixed methods research design with an initial quantitative phase in which 60 Integrated Science (IS) teachers were selected through snowball sampling and surveyed. A purposive case selection of 9 IS teachers from the 60 teachers were then interviewed during the second research phase. The research participants were divided into 3 equal cohorts in both phases of the research according to area of study specialisation (Chemistry, Biology and Physics). The results of the study indicate that the IS teachers have a common set of knowledge, skills, and dispositions that are, in their professional opinion, needed and in some instances, would enable them to teach IS. The research participants had considerable knowledge as well as clear views about what it meant for them to be IS teachers. The participating IS teachers provided insights into the challenges they encounter as they implement the IS curriculum and also proffered suggestions on teacher education curriculum improvement. A striking feature of the survey findings was the similitude in discernments among the three cohorts with different levels of teaching experience. It appears that when engaging in teaching of out-of-field concepts these experienced IS teachers, in many respects, depicted that they felt de-skilled and novice-like again in the classroom. The IS teachers from the Physics cohort were much more prone to this de-skilling. IS teachers who specialised in Chemistry education were found to be much more likely to accept as true that teaching through Practical Work is as important as teaching theory in IS than those who specialised in Physics Education. Despite the IS teachers resonating with the importance of Practical Work in teaching IS and being aware of the demands of the IS syllabus document, they however, indicated that there were massive challenges encountered when embarking to teach through Practical Work and most of them, especial those from the Physics cohort revealed that they did not expose their students to the practical and investigative approach pre-specified in the IS syllabus document. The research participants were generally in concurrence across the cohorts that students’ culture was essential for learning IS. Some Chemistry and Physics IS cohort teachers felt that their content knowledge acted as a barrier to teaching IS. The broadness of the IS syllabus was reported as making the teachers rush-over as they teach in order to finish teaching in the prescribed time and hence sacrificing student learning. The teachers proffered changes to the IS syllabus where some concepts should be removed replacing them with other concepts. Most IS teachers (6) who participated in interviews reported that they did not find any bliss when teaching IS. Reasons given ranged from shallowness of IS content, little support offered by the schools, not being proficient in teaching some concepts outside-field-of-specialism, slow learners, students not being well motivated, resource constraints, little time allocated for IS on the time-table, to very high student to teacher ratio. The IS teachers’ areas of specialisation remained a major influence in the decision they made in the classroom, what they deemed as important in student learning was basically based on their area of specialisation. The research participants who specialised in Biology indicated that they felt better equipped for teaching IS upon graduation whilst at the far end those who specialised in Physics indicated that they needed some more years of experience, learning in the field, to be better teachers of IS. The Physics cohort teachers identified secondary and high school science subjects and professional courses as being an essential foundation for their teaching of IS, those who specialised in Chemistry referred to a few chemistry courses and professional courses, those from Biology education cohort indicated quite a number of courses which they took at college which aided them in the teaching of IS. The IS teachers recommended that teacher education curriculum should be reformed to integrate e-learning, put more emphasis on practical work, revise the teaching methodologies courses and avoid specialism when preparing teachers for IS teaching. The findings of this study unveil knowledge that seems to fall into the space made up of knowledge that is part of intended student learning as depicted in the syllabus document, of which knowledge the IS teachers are aware of, but of which the students are not exposed to due primarily to school situation in which the resources (chemicals, reagents, laboratory space and human resources) are lacking and the teachers’ out-of-field of specialisation situation. Assuming that teaching well is a result of teachers being aware of the available pedagogical options; this study however indicate that the school situation plays a significant role on how the knowledge demanded of a teacher plays out in practice. For those teachers who find themselves teaching concepts out-of field of specialisation the outplay of the demanded Teacher Knowledge goes well-beyond simply knowing the syllabus rules and how to manipulate them with fluency. When out-of field of specialisation, teachers find comfort in engaging in teacher centred methods of teaching, whereby they resort to ‘theorising’. This study provides contextual inputs to effective IS teacher education re-alignment informed by the IS teacher practitioners, those with the craft knowledge of the contextual environment of the Zimbabwean IS classrooms. Ultimately, with the findings of this study, a tool for recruiting and developing teachers who can effectively teach IS can be developed.
Science education, Zimbabwe, General education