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Physical Science: Role in the Program

Page prepared for SERC by Matt Nyman of the University of New Mexico.

A discussion of the design and implementation of physical science content course serving pre-service teachers at the University of New Mexico, created by Matt Nyman.

A description of this course and its goals is available.

What Role Does this Course Play in Teacher Preparation?

The physical science class is one in a series of 3 science classes (the other two classes are Life Science and Environmental Science)designed especially for K-8 preservice teachers at UNM. Specifically this class provides standards-based content in the physical sciences and opportunities for students to develop a deeper and more meaningful understanding of science process.

How does the Course Address Each Role?

Physical Science addresses this role by offering a small classroom setting (cap of 21 students) where students can examine their previous knowledge, learn from the lecturer and engage in a range of activities to expand their knowledge in the content area.

How do Students Integrate Learning & Teaching?

Throughout the course there is an emphasis on the individual as a learner and a teacher. We cover some aspects of learning theory and classroom practice(metacognition, addressing preconceptions, multiple instructional strategies, use of concept maps)but we acknowledge that we are not experts in how kids learn. We hope that the pre-service teachers will use examples of our teaching methodology in their future classrooms. We also provide pre-service teachers with a range of activities, some of which are easily scalable to a range of ages and abilities.

How does the Course Transition Pre-service Teachers into the Classroom?

The Natural Science classes (including physical science) are typically taken prior to the pre-service teachers are accepted into the College of Education. Therefore they are fairly early in their careers and we do not play much of a role in the transition to classrooms. We would, however, love to develop a better relationship with the College of Education (specifically science ed faculty members) in order to investigate the effectiveness of our special courses in classroom practices for the teachers.

How is the Course Content Aligned with the National Science Education Standards?

Class content in all three classes is, in part, dictated by state science standards, which are modeled after the national standards. New Mexico state standards are some of the most highly regarded in the country, receiving an A in a recent analysis by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

How does the Course Meet Certification Requirements?

The Natural Science classes (including Physical Science) fulfill science requirements for K-5 teachers (12 credit hours).

What Challenges have been Encountered in Teaching this Course? How have they been Resolved?

The biggest challenge, by far, is student attitudes towards science. A majority of the students have EXTREME science (and math) phobia and bad attitudes towards science. Also, many of the students lack basic skills that are required to be successful in the class including reading, writing, rudimentary math and thinking skills. Both of these issues require constant attention and whether they are addressed varies from student to student and semester to semester. All instructors in these course seek to provide doable science opportunities for the students in order to build confidence. We try to reduce the focus on tests and instead require assessment that provides students time to reflect on their experiences. Still, the lack of skills and general dislike for science is a hard nut to crack - but we are determined to fight the good fight!