Defining science/defining stories
Hembree, Patricia Adams
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This qualitative study investigated teacher understandings and experiences as they came to redefine science through their participation in a program that supports teacher-scientist collaborations in field-based scientific research. This summer residential experience in ecology for teachers was designed to answer the call for opportunities for teachers to conduct real world, long-term scientific inquiry projects and thus provide for greater teacher-as-scientist authenticity in the classroom. The program intended to connect several issues in recent science education literature: the conflict between real science and school science; science knowledge construction; and authentic science experiences for teachers and students. In this field-based research setting, teachers were challenged to expand their understanding of how science is conducted and how science knowledge is constructed. The teachers came to recognize the essential role of exchanging ideas and brainstorming in informal, social settings in the knowledge acquisition process. They recognized that research ideas and the designs of experiments within this research community were not considered rigid or procedural. Instead, they saw those ideas and designs as flexible and under continuous development and revision open to outside suggestions and feedback. In trying to understanding the teachersÕ experiences in the program and how their participation might subsequently influence their practice, I found that the events were empowering, transformative, and gave them confidence and a renewed energy to teach science in a way that paralleled the practice of science. The participantsÕ ideas of science knowledge construction were challenged and revised to include a more sophisticated, constructivist view of science learning and teaching as active, transitory, social, and local. This shift in understandings changed their self-view to include personal and professional empowerment and a new sense of comfort and pride in their practice.