Learning to become a Teacher: Student teachers' understanding of and approaches to the teaching of subject matter

Year: 1990

Author: Nettle, E., Conners, R., Placing, K.

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Up to 40 per cent of primary school teachers lack confidence in their ability to teach science and many are unfamiliar with the curriculum, a survey found. (The Daily Telegraph/Mirror, 10.10.90) This statement in a recent Sydney newspaper refers to a survey conducted by the Department of School Education and not released. While this information provided good copy for some struggling journalist, it would raise few eyebrows amongst reseachers in science education. Researchers have been reporting on the low level of scientific knowledge of primary teachers for many years (Kruger and Summer, 1988; Smith and Neale, 1989; Tobin and Garnett, 1984). Teachers and student teachers in these studies have been described as lacking a working knowledge of elementary science and therefore lacking confidence in their abilities to teach science. Consequently they neglect science in their curriculum implementation. Because of the seriousness of the concern for teaching science in primary schools and the responsibility which must be born by teacher educators, science was chosen as the vehicle for examining the developing "pedagogical content knowledge" of a group of student teachers. This paper reports on some of the data from a longitudinal study of eleven student teachers who are learning to become primary teachers at the St George Campus of the University of NSW.