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Special Secondary Methods of Math and Science

Page Prepared for SERC by Sadredin C. Moosavi, Ph.D.

A discussion of the design and implementation of Special Secondary Methods of Math and Science serving pre-service teachers at Portland State University, created by Ronald Narode.

A description of this course and its goals is available.

What Role Does this Course Play in Teacher Preparation?

Within the context of recent science and math education reform and national and state standards, the pre-service teachers in this course seek to:
  1. Identify and describe the key concepts within the subject disciplines and the conceptual underpinnings prerequisite to study in the disciplines.
  2. Adapt instruction to the cognitive development of the student including developing methods to promote critical thinking and metacognition in their classrooms and lesson plans which teach concepts in the context of pair problem solving and cooperative learning.
  3. Become familiar with resources for instruction, including texts, computer software, educational journals, audio-visual aids, and the use of informal science education environments such as the Portland Zoo and Oregon Museum of Science & Industry (OMSI).
  4. Develop methods for student testing and evaluation incorporating relevant social, historical, and technological perspectives into math and science instruction. Methods to teach to culturally diverse student populations and instructional recommendations for teaching the learning impaired are investigated. Students also critically examine educationally charged topics such as Creationism vs. Evolution, population and the environment, modern medicine and the sanctity of life, etc. The Teaching Intro Level Geoscience component of Starting Point contains a module on addressing creationism in the classroom

How does the Course Address Each Role?

  1. Students examine the pedagogical literature on key concepts within the specific discipline each student is training for.
  2. Understanding of age appropriate lessons is gained through observation and interviews with K-8 learners. Students prepare discipline-specific lessons giving special attention to the psychological stages of development learners pass through. This occurs through analysis, evaluation and recommendation of curricula. Special attention in lesson development is dedicated to effective and appropriate questions and querying techniques.
  3. Investigation for the informal learning project relating to the opportunities afforded by the Oregon Museum of Science & Industry and the Portland Zoo give students examples of the types of informal science education resources available to their classes. Extensive surveying of the literature and internet identify further teaching resources.
  4. As part of their development of lessons and micro-teaching, students identify and practice various forms of learning assessment applicable to their discipline and student population. Students are required to look at the social and cultural context within which they must operate. Techniques for addressing students of varying ability/impairment are also examined as is the role of diversity in modifying the classroom environment.

How do Students Integrate Learning & Teaching?

As a methods course, Special Secondary Methods of Math and Science uses evaluation of standards and curricular materials to help students begin to develop actual lessons for use in the classroom. Since content mastery is largely assumed, the students can focus on the learning and teaching process engaged in by student and teacher. Peer review of microteaching activities assists in this process.

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

This course provides the connection between the technical content possessed by the students with the practical skills needed for classroom instruction. Students focus on the psychology of learners and curricular evaluation and development relevant to the population they seek to work with. Students develop and implement micro-teaching experiences as part of their work in preparation for student teaching in a future semester.

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

Special Secondary Methods of Math and Science Education is built upon Oregon state standards which are based upon the National Science Education Standards.

How does the Course Meet Certification Requirements?

This course is a requirement for teacher certification in Oregon.

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

The students in this course typically bring strong scientific content and process backgrounds to the table. With students approaching teaching as a second career, two primary pedagogical challenges confront the instructors of this course.
  1. Knowing Too Little Content
    Some pre-service teachers lack confidence in their content knowledge. Knowing enough to use scientific knowledge is not the same as the depth of knowledge needed to teach the same content. This course builds the students' confidence in their content knowledge by helping them to examine what their learners know and how their learning progresses through clinical experiences incorporating observation, reflection and discussion.
  2. Knowing How to Teach
    Of those pre-service teachers confident in their content knowledge some lack understanding of how best to communicate their knowledge. By focusing on the psychology of learners and practical experiences in clinical observations and microteaching opportunities, the students begin to gain insight into how teaching is done, thereby smoothing the transition to full student teaching.