Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Teaching-Learning Processes

Date of Defense

3-12-2008

Graduate Advisor

William C. Kyle, Jr.

Co-Advisor

Polman, Joseph

Committee

Granger, Charles

Loiselle, Bette

Abstract

Historically, teaching has been considered a burden by many academics at institutions of higher education, particularly research scientists. Furthermore, university faculty and prospective faculty often have limited exposure to issues associated with effective teaching and learning. As a result, a series of ineffective teaching and learning strategies are pervasive in university classrooms. This exploratory case study focuses on four biology graduate teaching fellows (BGF) who participated in a National Science Foundation (NSF) GK-12 Program. Such programs were introduced by NSF to enhance the preparation of prospective faculty for their future professional responsibilities. In this particular program, BGF were paired with high school biology teachers (pedagogical mentors) for at least one year. During this yearlong partnership, BGF were involved in a series of activities related to teaching and learning ranging from classroom teaching, tutoring, lesson planning, grading, to participating in professional development conferences and reflecting upon their practices. The purpose of this study was to examine the changes in BGF understanding of teaching and learning processes in science as a function of their pedagogical content knowledge (PCK). In addition, the potential transfer of this knowledge between high school and higher education contexts was investigated. The findings of this study suggest that understanding of teaching and learning processes in science by the BGF changed. Specific aspects of the BGF involvement in the program (such as classroom observations, practice teaching, communicating with mentors, and reflecting upon one's practice) contributed to PCK development. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that constant reflection is critical in the process of change. Concurrently, BGFs enhanced understanding of science teaching and learning processes may be transferable from the high school context to the university context. Future research studies should be designed to explore explicitly this transfer phenomenon.

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