Research questions, objectives and theoretical framework
What the main contents of teaching in different subjects should be is a question that could and ought to be problematized. Different policies for what contents teaching should include and how it should be conducted shapes different presuppositions for teaching and for what the pupils have opportunity learn (cf. Fensham, 2009). That every pupil should be scientific literate to be able to take part in society have in many countries become a prominent goal in Science Education (Roberts, 2007). At the same time, there are goals in Science Education stating that pupils should be prepared for future studies in science, something that is relevant only for a minority of the pupils (Roberts, 1988). The difference between these goals for a teacher in Science Education could either be to put emphasis on the contents of the traditional academic subjects physics, chemistry and biology (to give the pupils a solid foundation for future education) or to focus more on the role of science in questions of ethical, social and political character in connection to questions about for example air pollution or global warming. These different purposes in science education create tensions concerning the subjects character (Ryder & Banner, 2011). Even though teachers are working to meet the same goals in the Science syllabuses, emphasis can be made differently, forming different manners of teaching (Munby & Roberts, 1998) that can be connected to different teaching traditions (Lundqvist, Almqvist & Östman, in press).
The purpose of this study is to survey different manners of teaching practiced in Swedish Science Education in upper secondary schools and to qualify what features are characteristic in these manners, connected to teaching traditions.
Teachers develop different manners of teaching that characterise their actions in the classroom (Munby & Roberts, 1998). The concept “manner of teaching” describes teachers’ actions in relation to epistemology since teachers are in a position to show privileged knowledge and values within the practice. The concept of curriculum emphases (Roberts, 1982) was invented to identify and describe the regularity within the epistemological dimension in teaching. Analysing Science syllabuses and Science textbooks, Roberts (in North America) and Östman (in Sweden) found different patterns concerning curriculum emphases in Science Education: correct explanation, structure of science, solid foundation, scientific skill development, self as explainer, everyday coping and science, technology and decisions (Roberts 1982, Östman, 1996). The curriculum emphases can in turn be connected to Roberts’ (2007) two main visions (I & II) in western societies of how science education should be formed in order to make the pupils scientific literate. Vision I is describes as science reproducing its own products of concepts, laws, theories and methods. In Vision II it is accentuated that education must include facts of the subject but it must also include knowledge and skills that make the pupils able to use scientific knowledge in practical, existential, moral and political contexts (e.g. Zeidler, 2003,Wickman et al., forthcoming).
This investigation is done by constructing a questionnaire which aims at elucidating teachers teaching practice according to teaching goals, choice of content and methods used in the classroom including the assessment of students. The alternatives in the questionnaire have been elaborated emanating from the concept of curriculum emphases. In the questionnaire, the teachers were asked to rate several alternative goals, contents, methods, and form of assessment in a five point Likert scale from “not important” to “very important”. The questionnaire was sent to ~1000 teachers teaching grades 6-9 all over Sweden.
The answers to the questions concerning teachers’ goals and contents in teaching were analysed in order to see if it was possible to find patterns in the collected materials. Factor analysis was used in order to estimate the patterns among the indicators of the teacher’ goals and contents in teaching. Descriptive analyses of what qualifies the different factors in how the respondents combine alternatives for goals, contents and mode of operation were performed. Furthermore we look in to other aspects e.g. gender, teaching experience and assessment principles to see how these vary within the different manners of teaching.
The data was suitable for factor analysis (Kaiser’s MSA=0,81). The factor analysis resulted in four distinctive clusters; emphasizing goals and contents concerning 1) scientific methods and ways of reasoning, 2) application of societal, political, moral and existential questions, 3) to prepare pupils for future studies, the future every day and working life, and 4) facts and contents of science. Furthermore, the analysis show that there are statistic significant differences regarding goals and contents depending on gender. It was however no statistic significant differences regarding how many years the teachers had been in the profession.
With a comparative approach, we find that the four clusters coincide in good measure with the teaching traditions found from analyses of subject content, subject focus and curriculum emphases in the Science syllabuses and Science textbooks (cf. Östman 1996), but not entirely. We attribute the clusters to be a constructivist tradition, a moral tradition, an applied tradition and an academic tradition. The paper discusses central features of teachers’ manners of teaching practice in the different traditions.
ECER (European Conference on Educational Research), September 18-21th in Càdiz, Spain