Reviewed by Linda Schoen-Giddings
Science Consultant - SCDoE
Most science teachers do not consider themselves to be researchers. Yet, according to this very well-written and notated book, research is not a daunting endeavor---it's an actual element in most classrooms. According to the authors, “asking questions about practice, collecting evidence, making sense of the evidence, and sharing conclusions with others” are elements of daily teaching practice that are actually elements of research. In other words, teachers who are interested in improving instruction through explorations of questions about student learning are conducting research.
The National Science Education Standards recommend that teachers learn to use the skills of research to generate new knowledge about science and the teaching and learning of science. In this book, all of the research described is within the context of science teaching and learning. Therefore, not only will readers learn about common, non-intimidating classroom research practices, they will also read about exemplary classroom practices in science teaching. For the most part, the authors are classroom teachers sharing classroom experiences that they view as research. Most of the teacher research involves articulating questions of interest, developing interpretations of data collected while teaching, modifying instruction in light of these interpretations, and perhaps sharing findings with colleagues – what most experienced teachers would consider “good practice.” Data collection may be through student work samples, audiotapes, photographs, interviews, surveys, or anecdotal notes and journals.
The book is divided into three parts (Part I: Integrating Science and Literacy Learning, Part II: Ongoing Studies of Learning and Teaching in Science Contexts, and Part III: Reflections on Researching While Teaching). The individual chapters in each part of the book were written by classroom teachers. After each chapter are reflections on the chapter, which function as a summary of the salient features discussed.
Readers may find many of the investigations discussed in Part I to be familiar. The teacher/authors share their experiences, motivations, and methods of data collection used to document students’ progress and learning; at the same time, they analyze their teaching practices so that they may learn and grow from the process.
Part II deals with researching issues of classroom practice more than science content. Examples of chapters include researching reasons why some students don’t talk in class, ethical issues in scientific experiments, and the study of a teacher/mentor collaborative relationship.
Part III summarizes the realities, practical limitations, and benefits of doing research in the classroom. Unlike the research scientist who devotes all of his or her time to research, teachers are mostly overwhelmed with the daily exigencies of classroom teaching. As stated in chapter 9, teachers have a huge load in their assignment of knowing content, using best teaching practices, helping less able students, working with disruptive students, and so forth. The solution to doing practical research may be to think of research as an “intentional reflection” of a teacher’s own work. Suggestions follow as to ways of making research a part of daily practice.
While this book offers practical applications of research, more importantly it encourages teachers to continue to learn and grow in their profession. This may be through self-reflection or professional learning communities, which may function as study groups or action research teams. The teacher/authors enthusiastically describe their experiences and are sure to inspire readers to reflect upon practice and application of some of the tenets of science teaching research.
I recommend this book especially as a resource for professional development for all teachers of science, in all grade levels. It is motivating and authentic because real teachers discuss real classroom investigative practices and reflect upon their own teaching practice. It would be an excellent tool to use in professional learning communities to promote viable study and discussion about relevant issues in science teaching and learning.
Review posted on 9/14/2007