Case Studies in Elementary Science: Learning from Teachers

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9780130824677: Case Studies in Elementary Science: Learning from Teachers

This book uses actual case studies written by teachers to engage in a lively discussion of teaching science at the elementary level. A focus is placed on important issues or dilemmas that occur in elementary science classrooms that require thoughtful decision-making on the part of the teacher. It deals with topics that all teachers will face: instruction, human relations, cultural awareness, and ethical issues. Coverage also encompasses a variety of challenges regarding the classroom, co-workers, administrators, and parents. For pre-service and beginning teachers—who will be able to use the book's practical knowledge to develop guidelines and criteria for making their own decisions in the classroom.

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From the Inside Flap:

Preface

The case studies in this book are not imaginary stories constructed from a theory. All of them were written by real teachers who share their experiences of teaching science to children in real classrooms. The cases were chosen to illustrate the broad range and variety of decisions that teachers make every day as they guide learning in the classroom and interact with colleagues, administrators and parents outside of the classroom.

A case, as we use the term, is the original story or account written by a teacher and is the raw material for the case study. We asked the teachers to reflect on their recent science teaching experience and to write about an incident or situation that for some reason stuck in their minds, either as an example of a successful resolution of a problem or as an example of a situation that they could not resolve to their own satisfaction. The incident or episode is considered a case of a larger class; it is but one among many examples that might be chosen for study. Some teachers chose to write about an incident in the past that still troubled them rather than a more recent event.

A case study, sometimes called a teaching case, is a case that has been developed to use in instruction. Each case study in this book has a brief introduction to place it in context and is followed by questions to stimulate discussion. The value of using case studies in instruction is in the thoughtful discussion, analysis, and reflection that they stimulate and the consideration of the complexities and the ambiguities inherent in teaching science.

Each teacher who contributed to this book tried to compose a story that would engage the interest of readers and deepen their understanding of the multifaceted nature of science teaching. Some of the stories have been left just as teachers wrote them, while others have been edited to emphasize points or add details that were missing. For some cases we went back to the teachers to ask for more background, more details, or more explanation of why the decision was made as it was. In all cases, the teachers who wrote them gave permission to have them published.

The focus in all the cases is on situations and decisions that are related to teaching science. Each case deals with an important issue or dilemma that arose in elementary science teaching, and each required the teacher to make a decision or a series of decisions. Most of the cases required the writers to make decisions that were never obvious and were sometimes difficult. These cases take preservice and inservice teachers beyond the realm of rules and predetermined answers; they deal with situations that require judgment and the weighing of one value or principle against another when both are worthy and important.

The emphasis throughout the book is on the base of practical knowledge that underlies successful teaching rather than on the application of theories from education or psychology. The primary purpose is to help preservice and beginning teachers develop guidelines and criteria for making decisions in the classroom and in other aspects of their work. More experienced teachers may find the book helpful as a springboard for reflection and discussion among themselves or as a stimulus to writing cases of their own.

The book has been designed for use in methods courses and workshops and by teachers who pursue professional development on their own. It not intended to take the place of a comprehensive textbook but should be used as a supplement to other teaching materials in an elementary science methods course. Instructors of methods courses should note, however, that examples of inquiry-based teaching included in some of the cases can serve to reinforce other aspects of the preservice curriculum.

The first chapter introduces the reader to the use of case studies in teaching and explains why case studies are particularly appropriate in science teacher education. Chapters 2 through 5 comprise case studies categorized by the type of problem addressed. Chapter 2 focuses on problems encountered and decisions made in student teaching; chapter 3 focuses on classroom management. Chapter 4 contains cases that arose during inquiry-based classroom instruction, and chapter 5 looks at some difficulties encountered in maintaining constructive relations with colleagues, administrators, and parents.

We have identified sixteen types of problems or areas of concern that are addressed in some way in these cases. Some are the primary focus of the case study; others are secondary but nevertheless required the teacher to make a decision. These have been classified under four broad topics: Instruction, Human Relations, Cultural Awareness, and Ethical Dilemmas. The chart that follows the preface indicates the types of problems that are addressed in each of the cases and provides a quick reference for students or instructors who wish to find a case to meet a particular instructional emphasis or other professional need.

The final chapter takes the reader beyond the case studies in the book, offering a persuasive argument for teachers to write and study their own accounts of incidents and decisions as a means of growing and learning from their experience as teachers.

Teachers have shared their stories in the hope that what they have learned can be passed on to other teachers and future teachers who want to include science as a vital, exciting part of the curriculum. We hope that the study of these cases will stimulate reflection and discussion and help teachers make thoughtful decisions to support science teaching in the elementary school. Acknowledgments

The teachers and future teachers who shared their experiences with us made this book possible. They brought to the task a wide range of ages, years of teaching, and perspectives on teaching. The fact that almost all are women reflects the composition of teaching staffs in the schools of the mid-South and Southwest where these teachers live and work. That the majority are Euro-American with a minority of African-Americans and Hispanics also reflects the composition of teaching staffs in the schools of these regions.

No real names are used in the text; we have changed all teachers' names as well as the names of the schools where they teach. The following are the real names of the teachers whom we acknowledge and thank for their time, their interest in this project, and their contributions to the education of the next generation of teachers: Julia Beamon, Glenda Bell, Chris Brandt, Nancy Bray, Mary Callery, Glenda Carter, Kathy Donk, Allison Hailey Ann Hancock, Leigh Ann Janney, Duranda Keen, Jennifer Kennedy, Terrie Kielborn, Priscilla Person, Sylvia Shepherd, Betsy Sullivan, Pat Thornton, Cindy Vainwright, Shelly Watson, and Jill White. We also acknowledge with thanks the contributions of Dr. Cheryl Grable and her students: Ron Atkinson, Verdell Bunting, Erica Craft, and Angela Sparrow.

We extend special thanks to all those at Prentice Hall who have guided and supported us: to Bradley Potthoff for his advice and patience, to Mary Evangelista for answering endless questions, and to Jennifer Day who took Mary's place at a crucial moment. We thank the reviewers of our manuscript for their insights and comments: Richard L. Benoit, University of Houston-Clear Lake; Thomas Giles, Cumberland College; Cheryl Grable, University of Arkansas at Little Rock; Michael Kamen, Auburn University; Rita K. Voltmer, Miami University; Edward J. Zielinski, Clarion University; and Douglas P Zook, Boston University.

We also acknowledge and thank our husbands, Charles Howe and Tony Thompson, who support and encourage us in all our professional endeavors, including this one.

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