Alternative Perspectives of Effective Science Teaching

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1 SCIENCE TEACHER EDUCATION Alternative Perspectives of Effective Science Teaching KENNETH TOBIN Science Education, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL MARIONA ESPINET Department of Science Education, University of Georgia, A thens, GA STEVEN E. BYRD Charleston County Schools District, Charleston, SC DARYL ADAMS Department of Science Education, Mankato State University, Mankato, MN Hoskin Named Teacher of the Year by Science Group. So read the headline of the local newspaper. The members of our research team were attracted to the banner headline and the photograph of a teacher in a familiar pose, his right hand poised at the blackboard as he explained some aspect of science to one of his five science classes at Rural County High. We were pleased at the recognition that had been given to a hard working teacher we had come to know and respect over a period of six weeks of intensive observation and interviews. At the same time we were perplexed. What we had seen in Mr. Hoskin s class was not always what you would associate with exemplary teaching. As we scanned the columns of the newspaper, we read that Mr. Hoskin was a popular choice for the award, and had been the recipient of similar awards during the past six years. Convincing evidence was provided to support his claims to the award; his teaching was held in the highest regard by his students, his colleagues and professional educators throughout the state. This discrepant event induced a state of conflict in the minds of the research team. Why would one set of educators regard Mr. Hoskin s teaching as exemplary, and another set of educators have serious concerns about the quality of science education in his classes? Was it that our research team had been too long in the ivory tower and had lost touch with the practical realities of classroom life? Many would claim this to be the case, yet each member of the research team had extensive high school science teaching experience, and two had been classroom teachers within the past two years. Science Education 72(4): (1988) John Wiley & Sons, Inc. CCC /88/ $04.00

2 434 TOBIN, ESPINET, BYRD, AND ADAMS The study was designed to investigate the forces which shaped the implemented curriculum in classes taught by an exemplary science teacher. Consequently, we started the study with a mindset that we would observe an experienced science teacher creating an environment which was conducive to learning science in a meaningful way. However, as the study progressed, the findings which emerged were not expected, and we realized that Mr. Hoskin had a perspective on science teaching which differed markedly from that of the researchers. The differences were graphically portrayed at the conclusion of the study when he compiled a 17 page written reaction to a draft of this paper. Several aspects of the teacher s reaction were not anticipated. We predicted that the teacher would not be pleased with some of the findings of the study because we had highlighted a number of concerns about his teaching and the learning environments in his classes. However, in our minds there was little in the paper that was judgmental. The following extracts from his reaction provide an indication of the extent to which he disagreed with views expressed in the paper. If this paper was written to stimulate rebuttal from classroom teachers, it has certainly done that. If, however, it was written as a true representation of the observations made, I m afraid that it has missed the mark terribly. It is good that classroom teachers allow University personnel to come into the classroom and observe. It is good also that opportunities for classroom teacher rebuttal are possible. This does two things. It forces the classroom teacher to think and reevaluate all the techniques and it allows the teacher a chance to burst the bubble of the University educator. Both of these things need to be done periodically. Never will the classroom teacher and the University professor see eye to eye. University professors have no idea what occurs in a real school situation. This is not a condemnation; it is merely a statement of fact! There is no way that University personnel can understand the school process if they are not in the classroom all day every day. Of course, everything in the paper was judgmental in an implicit way. Even though we set out to describe the classes in an objective manner, every observation and every interpretation of data reflected our perspectives on teaching. When Mr. Hoskin read about our view of his classroom, it was not recognizable to him. Clearly we had looked into his classroom through a different window, one which was shaped by our own knowledge and beliefs. The research team had a constructivist view of knowledge acquisition and understanding (Pines & West, 1986; von Glasersfeld, ) according to which meaningful learning occurs as a result of active student engagement during learning activities. Learning and growth of understanding always involve learners in the construction of personal understandings. Opportunities to learn imply, among other things, that students have time to reflect on their own knowledge, to clarify understandings, and to elaborate on existing knowledge. Because learning is a personal endeavor, each student

3 ALTERNATIVE PERSPECTIVES 435 needs to have a set of experiences that takes account of his/her current knowledge and the way the he/she can make sense of science content. Consequently, the teacher has an active role in promoting a classroom environment in which students can obtain and process information and develop understandings about science. Method An interpretive research methodology (Erickson, 1985) was used to investigate the science classrooms. The observations focused on teaching and student engagement in science activities. Interpret a tion of the observations provided insights into the major forces which drove the academic work system and shaped the implemented curriculum in these high school science classes. Mr. Hoskin, a high school science teacher who had earned a reputation as an exemplary teacher over a six year period, was the one person studied. His five classes included one 10th grade general science class, one 12th grade physics class and three chemistry classes with grade 10, 11 and 12 students. At the time of the study Mr. Hoskin was in his late thirties, had a master s degree in education with a concentration in chemistry, and had commenced doctoral studies in science education on a part-time basis. He attended professional meetings of science teachers, published articles in the state science teachers magazine, was a member of the National Science Teachers Association, and read the state science teachers magazine and popular science magazines such as Omni, Popular Mechanics and Popular Science. As departmental chairman, Mr. Hoskin was responsible for academic leadership in science and he maintained an active role in formulating school philosophy and policies. He perceived his role in the school in broad terms and was concerned for the total education of students rather than their science education only. Students said they liked Mr. Hoskin, respected him, and enjoyed his company. The school is located in a rural county in the southeastern United States and enrolls approximately 520 students. At the time of the study, the racial mix of students was 66% white and 34% black. According to school statistics, the IQ of students was normally distributed with 60% falling in the 84 to 116 range, 19% above 117, and 21% below 84. Thirty-seven percent of the school s graduates went on to some form of post-secondary education. Data Collection Four participant observers collected data in a manner that was as nonobtrusive as possible, At least two observers were present in each class period for five periods per day for four weeks. Three researchers observed

4 436 TOBIN, ESPINET, BYRD, AND ADAMS two periods each and a fourth researcher observed all classes throughout the day to obtain a comprehensive view of Mr. Hoskin s teaching. Informal interviews with students and the teacher were undertaken before, during and after lessons to obtain contextual information and clarification on events observed during the lesson. The information obtained in this way was incorporated into the field notes. At the end of the study, a formal interview was conducted with four students from each class. The students to be interviewed were carefully selected because of their role in class and the relevance of the information they might provide. Mr. Hoskin also was formally interviewed when all observations were completed. All interviews were recorded and transcribed. A further data source was the teacher s written reaction to an initial draft of this paper and verbal testimony from a concluding interview in which results of the study were discussed and differences and similarities in interpretations were highlighted. Data A naly sis and Interpretation Regular team meetings were held to discuss the assertions and evidence for them. Discussion led to rejection, acceptance, or modification of assertions and provided a focus for subsequent observations. Through this interactive process, we slowly generated grounded theory to explain the observations of Mr. Hoskin s science classes. Decisions to retain assertions were based on a decisive imbalance of the evidence for an assertion versus the evidence against. Definition of Terms For the purpose of the study, we defined several key terms as follows: 1. A lesson is one hour of instructional time. 2. An activity is a segment of a lesson which deals with similar content and utilizes one particular group structure. An activity ends and another begins when the group structure changes or when the content changes. 3. An academic task is the product of student engagement is an activity. The products may be overt or covert. Examples in science include constructing an understanding of a teacher explanation, providing a response to a teacher question, interpreting data from a graph, collecting data in an investigation, applying a formula to solve a physics problem, manipulating equipment during a laboratory activity, evaluating the adequacy of an explanation of another student, and recalling specific factual information. A given activity may involve several academic tasks.

5 ALTER NATl VE PERSPECTIVES Academic work for a student is the sum of the tasks completed in a lesson. Students do work when they engage in academic tasks. Findings Assertion 1: The teacher emphasized getting the work done in the scheduled time rather than learning. Mr. Hoskin s routine was extremely predictable. Three group structures were used in most of the observed lessons. In a typical lesson he allocated approximately 40 minutes to whole-class interactive teaching, 15 minutes to individualized activities and five minutes to whole-class non-interactive teaching. This pattern of activities was consistent for all except the physics and chemistry I1 classes which had approximately 30 minutes of whole-class interactive teaching and 30 minutes of individualized activities. Small group activities were only observed during laboratory investigations which were conducted in each class for one hour per week. Laboratory activities were not scheduled as frequently in general science or physics. Use of whole-class interactive activities for so much of the time necessitated a teaching and learning style that could cater to one group of students. According to Mr. Hoskin he pitched instruction to the ability level of students just below the top. As a consequence, if the lesson was implemented as planned, most students in class would cover the work during class time and would experience learning difficulties. The difficulty of the work and the pace of coverage was too fast for most students who were interviewed. Learning was delayed until they could work with the text at a later time or until they could seek clarification from the teacher. The teacher s priority appeared to be to cover the work in the scheduled time and to place the responsibility for learning the content with the students. Mr. Hoskin confirmed that content coverage was his priority during class time. He stated that: I totally agree that I emphasize covering material. Concerning whether students learn in class. I don t expect them to learn in class. You don t either. You give them in class those things that allow the students to go home and learn the material. During one chemistry lesson Mr. Hoskin demonstrated six types of chemical reactions in approximately one hour. Although the chemistry involved in the reactions was complex, it was apparent that he did not expect students to learn the chemistry as he did not highlight or reinforce the main points. Furthermore, students were so far away from the demonstration that they could not see many of the salient points. On the following day the same lesson was taught to the general science class. At best, the lesson would have had entertainment value to these low

6 438 TOBIN, ESPINET, BYRD, AND ADAMS ability and relatively unmotivated students. Students talked to one another as the teacher set up the demonstrations on clock reactions, and did not appear to listen as he provided a conceptual level explanation of what was happening. The teacher explained the color changes in oscillating reactions in terms of electrons, orbitals, and energy being given out. Certain students attempted to communicate their lack of understanding with peer-attracting calling out. For example, at one stage the teacher invited questions from the class. One boy called out: Yeh. What s happening? Other comments suggested that the students perceived the entire demonstration as some type of gimmick or perhaps magic show. One youth remarked that the oscillating reaction demonstration would make a good Christmas present, and another indicated that if he saw that in the street I d be off man!. Mr. Hoskin was especially concerned with completing the work before scheduled tests. In a lesson in the chemistry I class in which Mr. Hoskin dealt with empirical and molecular formulae, he allocated the last five minutes of class to hybridization and resonance. Each of these concepts was complex and would have justified considerably more class time. These two areas of the curriculum were completed so that students would be able to answer questions on the test which was scheduled for the next day. The work was not reviewed after the test. Mr. Hoskin justified his approach to those topics with the following comment: Resonance and hybridization are covered in chemistry I1 and as I stated in class, only a definition would suffice for chemistry I. These topics are better skimmed over and saved for later because of the amount of additional background information required and the amount of confusion that would occur if these topics were really studied in chemistry I. In all classes there was little discussion on the conceptual aspects of science. The emphasis was on correctly answering assigned problems using seek and find techniques from the textbook or procedures to obtain correct answers to quantitative problems. For example, the following topics show the procedural orientation of the work covered during the time we observed Mr. Hoskin s chemistry I classes: rules to determine oxidation numbers of elements; problems to calculate empirical and molecular formulae; how to name compounds for which a formula was given, and how to write a formula for a given named compound; and writing balanced equations. Mr. Hoskin did not monitor student understanding of science concepts during instruction. During most lessons, he explained specific content, assigned seatwork activities from which students could learn the content, and responded to student requests for assistance. His role was consistent with his belief that students ought to be responsible for their own learning. It was up to students to recognize that they had a misunderstanding and to request assistance from the teacher. Similarly, students were left to decide whether or not they worked during class time. Although Mr. Hoskin

7 ALTER NATl VE PERSPECTIVES 439 moved systematically about the classroom, he did not ask questions to ascertain whether students understood what he had been teaching. The value of students accepting responsibility for their own learning was a driving force behind this and other findings of this study. Mr. Hoskin left students to identify resources which could assist them to understand the science content which was covered in class. This strong tendency, together with a pace and difficulty level which was conducive to the learning needs of the more-able students could lead to a situation where less-able students become demoralized by the difficulty of science. There was some evidence to suggest that this had happened in the general science class where students appeared to have given up attempting to understand the science which was taught. Assertion 2: The assessment schedule influenced the nature of the academic work. Tests that were scheduled every two weeks, nine-week examinations and semester examinations provided a strong incentive for students to focus on components of the course that were likely to be assessed. In addition, Mr. Hoskin frequently mentioned tests and identified content and procedures that had to be known for the test. Students appeared to rely on these teacher cues for what was important. If a difficult concept or procedure was being taught, students could be relied on to ask whether or not it would be on the test. Consequently, whether or not content or procedures were to be assessed became the criterion for determining the importance of academic work. This perception was reinforced by teacher responses to student questions. If questions were asked about conceptual aspects of science, frequently they were answered in terms of procedures to be applied or were deferred to some indeterminate future occasion. For example, in a discussion of partial pressure the teacher presented a formula to calculate the pressure of a dry gas. The information in the formula was presented without interaction with students. Brian, a target student (i.e., a high-ability student who dominates classroom interaction, Tobin & Gallagher, 1987a), asked about the solubility of hydrogen in water. After acknowledging the good question, the teacher informed Brian that they would not deal with this issue at the present time and to assume ideal gas behavior. A close relationship between assessment and academic work did not produce an environment in which students were encouraged to take risks since almost everything written by students was graded. Students in all classes had few opportunities to practice skills and concepts in a formal sense without the threat of a grade. The students in the classes had been evaluated an average of 28 times during the first 40 days of instruction. Consequently, there were few opportunities for different types of responding and thinking. The day prior to a test was set aside for review activities which differed

8 440 TOBIN, ESPINET, BYRD, AND ADAMS substantially from activities in which new content was introduced or practiced. A typical review lesson consisted of two activities. In the first of these, the teacher asked students if they had any questions. This activity, which continued until all questions were answered, was dominated by three to five students in each class. In one of these activities with the period four chemistry I class, 36 questions were asked in 15 minutes. Four boys asked 19 questions, and one girl asked 17 questions. The other 15 students did not speak during the activity. Not surprisingly, the majority of the questions were phrased in terms of whether or not a particular content area would be tested. Very few public questions were specific to an aspect of content that was not understood. The only time when content was identified in this way was when the teacher mentioned two or three alternative content areas, and the students selected one for clarification. The second activity in the typical review lesson consisted of a seatwork exercise in which students were given a worksheet which contained questions similar to those on the test. For example, students in general science were given a worksheet with 43 review questions on nuclear energy. They were to use their textbook to find the answer. This process required little work besides copying because the questions referred to italicized words or lists from the book. Students raced through the chapter finding and sharing answers. Mr. Hoskin justified this approach to review in the following written comments. As far as students racing through the chapter finding answers and sharing them on classroom exercises, at least that exposes them to the textbook material. It forces them to read a textbook chapter and/or help others dig things from the chapter. Mr. Hoskin and the students were aware of the focusing effect of the assessment system and the teacher was obviously prepared to continue the practice. He noted that: I took it upon myself to ask this question when students were doing a classwork exercise; If this exercise was not going to be graded, how many of you would do it? The first response was Are you kidding? Then when they saw that I was not, the responses varied from No! to Like Hades I would! Teachers and students see grades as the only guarantee that any learning will take place. Tests appeared to be conceptually difficult, however, the cognitive demand was reduced because most items had been covered in class in the same form in which they were presented on the test. A chemistry I test on empirical and molecular formula and oxidation number was administered in 50 minutes. The test contained 64 questions, 27 at knowledge level, 32 requiring application of procedures and 5 comprehension level items. Essentially there were two types of questions, each requiring low level skills to obtain an answer. The first type required recall of information learned in the course. A representative question of this type was:

9 ALTERNATIVE PERSPECTIVES 441 An example of hybridization is: (a) Lewis dot (b) SP3 (c) ionic charge (d) covalent bonds The second type of question required knowledge of how to use a procedure or algorithm in order to obtain a correct answer. For instance: The oxidation number of manganese (Mn) in KMn04 is: (a) +7 (b) +5 (c) +2 (d) +6 The time allowance required students to answer each question in less than one minute and provided little time for thinking during the test. However, some items involving calculations needed more time. As a consequence, most students were unable to complete the questions because of insufficient time. The next day the teacher informed students of their results, provided the correct answers to the items, but did not work through the items which provided most difficulty. Aspects of the laboratory were also emphasized through the assessment system. Laboratory reports were graded and a laboratory test assessed knowledge from laboratory activities. The questions for the laboratory test came directly from the printed sheets that were distributed for each laboratory activity. The teacher stated that every question comes from a question in those printed sheets or some fact in those printed sheets or is based on some results from the laboratory activity. The lab final makes the labs honest. Inspection of the laboratory tests revealed that most items were at the knowledge level and that the rest required application of procedures in a routine manner. The written reaction of Mr. Hoskin to the initial draft of this paper indicated that he was aware that low level cognitive skills were being assessed on tests, but that external factors influenced the way that he tested students. Concerning the testing and development of higher cognitive levels of learning, my use of these has declined in the last five years; again due to the forces that teachers are under. One would love to ask high level cognitive questions, but the failure rate is very high. When the principal says that teacher evaluation is based in part upon the percentage of failure, what is the teacher to do? Obviously the teacher will include all the same material but lower the cognitive level of test questions to decrease the failure rate. In addition, since University freshman classes are taught almost exclusively at the rote recall level, lowering the cognitive level of test questions also better prepares, in my opinion, the student for freshman courses. The findings associated with this assertion provide insights into reasons for the emphasis on learning facts and algorithms to solve problems of the type included on tests and examinations. The two reasons offered by the teacher for emphasizing assessment of low-level cognitive learning related to preparing students for university classes and ensuring that students pass the course.

10 442 TOBIN, ESPINET, BYRD, AND ADAMS With these reasons in mind, it might be predicted that the teaching and learning processes would be consistent with the forces which emphasized and placed value on low-level cognitive learning. Assertion 3: Teachers and students adopted strategies which reduced the cognitive demands of the academic work in science classes. Most students were covertly engaged in whole-class activities for a large proportion of the time, and as a consequence, received instruction in a form that was presented by someone else. In most cases the cognitive load was carried by the teacher. For example, in all classes Mr. Hoskin demonstrated how to solve type-examples using rules and procedures. As he worked a problem on the chalkboard, he involved selected students in a whole-class interactive activity by asking questions which redefined the task from having to know what questions to ask and be able to provide the correct answers to one of providing correct answers to given questions. The questions were usually answered by one of the more-able students or the teacher. If the question was not answered the teacher rephrased it, usually in a more convergent form that prompted a particular correct answer. Little or no attention was given to why the particular questions were asked and whether other equally productive questions might have been fruitful. The intention appeared to be to teach an algorithm which would enable a particular class of problem to be solved. When a new topic which was highly conceptual was introduced, the teacher emphasized its procedural and practical aspects rather than the development of the concept. For example, a new topic on chemical equilibrium was introduced in the chemistry I1 class. The teacher proceeded to provide short definitions of rate of chemical reaction, activation energy, level of an activated complex and rate determining step. Following this activity the teacher went straight to the formula for the equilibrium constant and worked a problem to show its application. In the final activity students were required to answer some questions from the book. Most of these required search and find techniques as students used the text to find verbatim answers. During this activity students assisted one another by sharing relevant page numbers for specific questions. A similar situation occurred in the physics classes. Almost 80% of the time was spent on problems and mathematical formulae. The students were not involved in many problems that required physics knowledge; however, they were required to apply mathematics in a procedural manner to obtain answers to problems. Although these problems concerned physics content, the emphasis was on correct application of mathematics as procedures were followed to arrive at a solution. Mr. Hoskin was conscious of his emphasis on algorithms and low-level cognitive outcomes and justified this approach in terms of his belief that the high school science courses should prepare students for further education. He noted that:

11 ALTERNATI VE PERSPECTIVES 443 I try to quiz every graduate that has gone on to further education if there is anything that I could change to make them better prepared for those courses. So far, very little has had to be changed. If the need arises, I will gladly change. So you see, apparently algorithms and procedures are needed to be successful with higher studies. Let the higher cognitive studies and concepts come after a base of knowledge has been developed. Laboratory investigations also tended to be of a procedural type where students followed instructions from a laboratory sheet. When students arrived in class they were told what to do and were given a laboratory sheet containing the steps to follow. Each laboratory activity consisted of a cookbook exercise in which students followed directions on the prescribed worksheet to obtain a predetermined answer. Students were not involved in planning the activity and were not responsible in any way for being prepared for a laboratory exercise. Students worked in self-selected and self-paced groups which varied in size from two to six. Observation of these laboratory activities revealed both sustained and intermittent engagement. In most cases the pace of work was relaxed, and students dealt with their social agendas as well as the academic work. The students knew that the write-up could be completed at home if it wasn t completed during class time. Although there were students who engaged intensively in laboratory activities, more than 50% of the students engaged in a covert manner. In most instances they stood back and watched their peers carry out the investigation. Mr. Hoskin acknowledged that a cookbook approach to laboratory activities was adopted. He noted that: Yes the laboratories are cookbook; that is the only way that a teacher can control in some measure what goes on in the laboratory. Don t burden the teacher with the idea of free experimentation in the chemistry lab. Possibly in grade school this would work, but if one requires free experimentation in high school, there will be no labs in science courses, and you will relegate science down to the level of English and mathematics classes. The above response is consistent with Mr. Hoskin s overall approach to science teaching. Laboratory activities, just like any other activities, are a part of the academic work which needs to be completed. The role of learning from a laboratory activity is largely ignored in his response. Students could be involved in planning investigations in numerous ways which would not lead to safety problems. However, Mr. Hoskin has associated involving students in planning investigations with implementing dangerous investigations and has not addressed himself to the cognitive aspects of designing an investigation to solve a particular problem. His tendency to ignore the cognitive engagement of students was apparent in other responses as well. For example, a common activity in all science classes was for students to copy notes that were summarized on the board by the teacher. One frequent problem with this strategy was that the teacher elaborated on the notes and clarified what was meant as the students copied them from the chalkboard.

12 444 TOBIN, ESPINET, BYRD, AND ADAMS As a consequence, students effectively were required to engage in two tasks at one time. Because of the importance of having good notes to prepare for tests and examinations, students would most likely concentrate their efforts on copying the notes and not attend to the oral presentation as closely as they should in order to gain most benefit from it. Mr. Hoskin s written response to the draft paper ignored the cognitive problems of having to decode verbal input from the teacher at the same time as related but different information is being copied from the chalk board. What is wrong with engaging in two things at once? I know of no person that is not required to do multiple things. If students were not accustomed to doing two or three things at a time, they could not survive. On the contrary, most students feel bored without two or three things occurring simultaneously. The cognitive demands were reduced also by students seeking assistance from peers. During individualized activities students often formed groups and worked together to solve problems. Although group cooperation has the potential to enhance the learning of all group members, this was not the case in the observed classes. In most instances informal groups were set up by students requesting help from peers. Discussions appeared to consist of one student asking, and another student giving oral assistance. In many cases the assistance was much more blatant as students took and copied another student s work. Reducing the cognitive demands of the work facilitated content coverage, which appeared to be Mr. Hoskin s main concern. For most students the effect of these strategies was to allow them to succeed in science without necessarily understanding the concepts involved. The findings reported in conjunction with this assertion are consistent with Mr. Hoskin s intention of covering the work so that students can learn at home and pitching the level of instruction just below the ability of the more-able students. As a consequence, many activities were presented in a manner that stimulated the involvement of a few of the more-able students. Assertion 4: A relatively small number of target students dominated wholeclass interactions and laboratory activities. In four of the five classes taught by Mr. Hoskin, three to five target students dominated the whole-class interactions. There were no target students in the general science class. Target students asked most questions and overtly responded to teaching cues more often than others in the class. Responses largely involved calling out, and hands were seldom raised. For example, in the period four chemistry class, three grade 10 males, a grade 11 male and a grade 12 female were target students. The tendency for target students to be male was evident in the other classes as well and is consistent with other research in science classes (Sadker & Sadker, 1985; Tobin &

13 ALTERNATIVE PERSPECTIVES 445 Gallagher, 1987a). These students dominated the whole-class interactions. For example, 36 questions were asked in a 15 minute segment of one lesson. Seventeen questions were asked by the female target student and the four male target students asked 19 questions. The remaining students in the class were involved in a covert manner only. Target students also appeared to dominate many laboratory groups. Activities in two separate physics laboratories were monitored to determine how much time was spent doing and how much time was spent watching. One laboratory had the students divided into two groups, and the other had all students in one group. The average time spent doing was 25% with a range from 0% to 74%. Because of equipment limitations, it was not possible for all students to participate by doing. Consequently, the stage was set for one or two students to monopolize the use of equipment. The interview data suggest that students who took the initiative in laboratory activities were permitted to continue to do the work. In one particular instance, one student was dominating the activity but relinquished control to another student. However, the new student could not get the equipment to function properly so the first student again resumed command. The data suggest that for most of the time the majority of the students watched someone else doing the experiment. Most students seemed happy with this arrangement since for most of them the desired outcome of the laboratory was to complete the worksheets and the report, not learning to manipulate experimental apparatus. The teacher s written comments regarding target students indicated that he knew about them and considered the disproportionate involvement inevitable. He did not relate target student involvement to possible enhancement of learning for them and deprivation of learning opportunities for others. Whenever any group interaction is held, only a few people dominate the answering of questions. This is nothing new. There is nothing wrong with this. I feel that your assumption that more female target students might be expected in advanced sciences is wrong. Very few females actively participate in any higher level math or science courses. This is fact, not assumption. Target students and risk takers are merely those students that will be the leaders of the future. They have personalities that are such that they ask many, many questions. They are not target or risk students, that is their personality. If people do not answer because they are afraid, that is merely an indication of what they will be like in the future-not an indication of preferential treatment. Risk level in a class has several dimensions, which are influenced by teacher and student expectations, peer influence and other factors associated with the implemented curriculum. Risk level is an important concept in classroom research because of the public nature of teaching and learning in classrooms. When a teacher asks a question or calls for students to ask a question, there are risks associated with providing an answer. The risks depend upon the

14 446 TOBIN, ESPINET, BYRD, AND ADAMS difficulty of the question, the ability of the student to answer the question, the anticipated reaction of the teacher following a response to the question, and the reaction of students in the class to a response to the question. Associated with risks are payoffs. These would include the opportunity to receive feedback or knowledge as a result of answering the question, the opportunity to receive a higher course grade and the opportunity to receive peer approval by answering or by not answering. Thus, whether or not students interact in classrooms may be dependent on the balance between the risks and the payoffs. If the gap is too great in favor of the risks students are unlikely to participate; however, if the gap is narrow or if the payoffs outweigh the risks, then student engagement will probably occur. The teacher s responses to the presence of target students suggested that he expected certain students to dominate in science activities and that gender-related differences were inevitable. Consequently, what happened in his classroom was consistent with his expectations for student involvement. Throughout the study, it was apparent that Mr. Hoskin s expectations for student engagement and the quality of student work had important consequences for the implemented curriculum. Assertion 5: Differential teacher expectations for classes and students influenced the nature of the academic work. Mr. Hoskin expected students to accept responsibility for their own learning. As a consequence, his management style was distinctive. Although he circulated about the room and provided assistance as required, there were few occasions when the teacher actively monitored engagement and took action to engage off-task students. Students knew what Mr. Hoskin s expectations were regarding accepting responsibility for their own work in class and they also knew that he was not assertive in maintaining engagement. These realizations helped to shape their own behavior in class. Highly motivated students from the chemistry I, chemistry If and physics classes worked well in this system, however, in each class there were students who were off-task and distracted others from engaging. Mr. Hoskin assigned a seatwork activity during the final 20 to 25 minutes of most lessons. As the end of the lesson approached (i.e. during the last three to four minutes), almost all students were off-task. It appeared that students were more concerned with pursuing their social agenda during class time and would complete the work at home. When asked about the three to four minutes of dead time at the conclusion of each lesson, Mr. Hoskin said that sometimes it was intentional, but it was not a part of a bargain in which rewards were exchanged for work. He said that he had a specific amount of work to get done and if I ve finished what I set out to do, I won t start something new. It is not for socializing; it is not related to that at all. Mr. Hoskin had high expectations for the chemistry and physics classes

15 ALTERNATIVE PERSPECTIVES 447 and low expectations for the general science class. Because chemistry and physics students were more likely to continue to study at a higher level Mr. Hoskin emphasized study techniques and skills. He felt that higher ability students would be able to learn facts when they were needed, and it was more important for them to develop skills to equip themselves for later studies. In contrast, the general science course emphasized low-level cognitive learning despite the fact that Mr. Hoskin stated that these students should be exposed to things that they have not experienced before, particularly aspects of science that relate the world outside of the classroom to what they are learning in class. To facilitate learning he said that he hit the same material in three or four different ways before the test. Consequently, students answered textbook questions, read from the text, took notes from lectures, completed review sheets, observed demonstrations, and performed laboratory investigations. He said that through the use of differeqt modalities there was a chance that some of it would sink in. Although Mr. Hoskin stated that these things should occur in the general science class, the researchers did not observe science being related to the world outside of the classroom and few laboratory activities were prescribed for the class. Mr. Hoskin stated that a major problem in the school was that students had so much free choice in terms of subject selection that students with high ability could opt for low level subjects such as general science which also enrolled a high proportion of low ability students. He felt that he had to demand something of these students. Yet the demands or accountability were not made in terms of how students were to engage; rather, the accountability was associated with the assessment scheme. Students in general science expected to be able to come to class and not engage in a sustained manner. They knew that they were expected to complete specified tasks in order to obtain credit and to perform at specified levels on tests. There was no requirement that they engage in class, and in most instances students did not engage in class. Their behavior was consistent with Mr. Hoskin s expectations which are graphically represented in the written statement below. The general science class is called middle group. Students in the middle group are there for one of two reasons; either they should be in college preparatory courses and have opted for the easy way out or they are too immature to study and take school work very seriously. No, they couldn t explain the labs; they don t listen to instructions given the day before and repeated the same day; no, they hadn t read the lab sheet due to immaturity and the essence of the middle group child which is a desire for uncontrolled freedom with no limits... These are the kids that are very sharp but have no home, or one parent, or drunk parents, or abusive parents. No, they do not get turned on by school; they are glad to be alive. Besides, we need good chicken pluckers and factory workers, and the middle group is the pool from which they come. Several questions might be asked about the general science class. For

16 448 TOBIN, ESPINET, BYRD, AND ADAMS example, what would be the effect of insisting that students engage in wholeclass and individualized activities? Furthermore, if the curriculum was selected with student interest in mind and was implemented with learning as the major goal, it is possible that interest levels might increase, and that motivation to learn might increase as well. The interactions between teacher and student expectations appear to have resulted in a degenerate learning situation in which management was a major concern. The learning environment which characterized the general science class was not conducive to teaching or learning. The teacher s differential expectations for performance also operated within classes. More was expected from some students in a class than others. An example of this was in the chemistry I class where the grade 10 students were regarded as bright and capable of good work, and the grade 11 students were regarded as less-able. Some of the 10th graders had skipped grades and were extremely sharp. Three of the five target students referred to in the previous section were grade 10 males. One exception was a 12th grade female who accepted responsibility for her own success and asked very many questions and the other was an 1 lth grade male who was almost as assertive about his own learning. As previously described, these students dominated involvement in most types of activities, and because they were the most-able in the group, the level of instruction was matched to their interests and needs. Most of the students that we interviewed felt that Mr. Hoskin had high expectations for their academic progress. For example, Sally, one of the grade 11 students in the chemistry I class described Mr. Hoskin as a top teacher who had good control, never raised his voice, who trusted that they would behave, and who had the utmost of respect for the students as people. She noted that he expected a 150% effort from everyone. Mr. Hoskin s views on his own expectations mirrored those expressed by students. His written comments are provided below. I have the highest expectations for students of any teacher that I have met. I expect them to discipline themselves; I expect them to learn a tremendous amount of material; I expect them to come to class prepared; I expect them to prepare papers in correct english; and I expect them to do this with a smile on their faces! I do not raise my voice because I don t want to do so. Quiet strength is a lot more effective than yelling. When it comes to Mr. Hoskin s expectations and their effects on academic work there is clear disagreement between the views of the teacher and students on the one hand and the members of the research team on the other. Undoubtedly Mr. Hoskin did expect students to submit a lot of work if they wanted to succeed in the course. However, the work did not require high-level cognitive effort. In addition, the work of students in class was shaped mainly by Mr. Hoskin s value position that students should accept responsibility for their own learning. Accordingly, the teacher had a rela-

17 ALTER NATl VE PERSPECTIVES 449 tively non-active role whereby he was available as a resource but did not seek to maintain high levels of student engagement and did not initiate interactions to probe student understanding. Thus, Mr. Hoskin s expectations were that the work would be completed if students expected to pass the course. However, he had low expectations for student behavior in class, engagement in learning tasks, and learning science with understanding. Alternative Perspectives on Teaching and Learning The teacher s written and oral reactions to the initial version of this paper highlight the difficulties faced by teacher educators endeavoring to improve science teaching. This teacher is generally acknowledged as outstanding by his peers, the school administration, the students, and parents. The feedback that this teacher receives about his teaching is extremely complementary. Faced with a report that suggested that there were some aspects of his teaching that might be improved, the teacher s first reactions were to rationalize the results, to defend his actions and to disagree with many of the interpretations. Although the teacher had expressed a sincere request for feedback on any and all aspects of his teaching, receipt of the full report was not welcomed. This was not the first feedback that the teacher received throughout the study. At the conclusion of most lessons, members of the observation team discussed aspects of the lesson in an endeavor to verify the data or to elaborate on aspects that were not clear. In addition, a written report was provided to the teacher after the study had been in progress for two weeks. The intense level of reaction of the teacher to the initial draft of this paper was not anticipated. It was clear that the distance between the research team and the teacher was relatively large in this study. The teacher was surprised by the results and regarded the report as an example of ivory tower views of the research team. The question of providing the teacher with the report was one that was carefully considered before taking that action. Although we could have written a special report for the -teacher, we felt that it was intellectually honest to provide him with the initial draft, to incorporate his reactions into the paper, and to use his perspectives to assist in analyzing the data. We still feel that this was the appropriate course of action. However, one methodological issue that might be considered is the desirability of working with a teacher as a co-researcher in studies such as this. Of course there will be trade-offs. Some data will be accessible that would not normally be available to a research team; however, regular feedback to the teacher would result in a continuously changing classroom environment. Clearly, the research questions will determine the degree of participation that is desirable in an interpretive research study. From a theoretical perspective, Schon (1983) highlighted the value of reflection on practice in professional contexts such as teaching. However, the work environment of Mr. Hoskin provided few opportunities for reflec-

18 450 TOBIN, ESPINET, BYRD, AND ADAMS tion on practice. As well as teaching his classes, he had to prepare laboratory and demonstration activities, tests and examinations. In addition, he had papers to grade and administrative duties to undertake. His thinking time was directed towards assisting students to succeed within his existing framework. There were few, if any, data that suggested that he should change that framework. His teaching was highly regarded by his pupils, colleagues, school administrators and educators in the county and state offices of education and the university. As we observed Mr. Hoskin s teaching, we searched for the rationale that he used to explain his actions in the classroom. It was clear that he was a concerned teacher with a strong background in science. An important difference between Mr. Hoskin and the research team was in his knowledge of how students learn, what ought to be taught, and how the teacher can facilitate learning. These differences were apparent throughout the study in terms of observations in his classes, interviews and in his written reactions to the draft version of the paper. A key to Mr. Hoskin s perspective on teaching and learning is his initial comment that there is no way that University personnel can understand the school process if they are not in the classroom all day every day. The main irony in the comment is that being in the classroom all day every day probably leads to the type of framework possessed by Mr. Hoskin. Our on-going research program has shown that the provision of time to reflect on teaching practice and to observe others teach leads to an environment in which teachers are prepared to change their perceptions of teaching and learning (Tobin, Espinet & Byrd, 1987a,b). We think that these alternative perspectives are understandable and predictable. They are also probably generalizable to a good many teachers. We feel that the differences are attributable to the work that teachers have to do throughout their professional lives. The findings of the study have many implications for science teachers and science teacher education; however, we think that none is more important than a need for further research to understand how teachers conceptualize teaching and learning and how alternative conceptualizations affect the practice and improvement of science teaching. Conclusion This qualitative view of Rural County High school is not the only picture that can be constructed of the complex set of processes which occur as science is taught each day, week, month and year. The academic work which occurs in the science classes at Rural County High is similar to that described in other studies. We make this point to emphasize the fact that, although contextual factors result in each class being unique, there are similarities which extend across counties, states and countries (Gallagher, 1985 ; Sanford, 1987; Stake & Easley, 1978; Tobin & Gallagher, 1987 a,b). These factors appear to be driven by powerful forces, such as teacher and student

19 ALTER NATl VE PE RSPECTIVES 451 expectations, reward systems and peer influence. To expect one teacher to change what is happening, or to change in a short period of time, may be asking too much. Science educators face a formidable challenge in changing the nature of school science. Tinkering with selected teachers in specific schools may lead to desirable regional changes; however, it appears to us that changes of a fundamental nature are necessary. These changes must begin with the beliefs and assumptions of educators. There is little reward for changing teaching so as to emphasize high-level cognitive learning and laboratory activities if the assessment system continues to promote recall of facts. References Erickson, F. (1986). Qualitative methods in research on teaching. In Wittrock, M. C. (ed.) Handbook of research on teaching (3rd Edition). NY: Macmillan Publishing Co. Gallagher, J. J. (1985). Secondary school science (Interim Report). East Lansing: Michigan State University, Institute for Research on Teaching. Pines, A. L., & West, L. H. T. (1986). Conceptual understanding and science learning: An interpretation of research within a sources-of-knowledge framework. Science Education, 70, Sadker, D. & Sadker, M., (1985). Is the O.K. classroom O.K.? Phi Delta Kappan, 55(1), Sanford, J. P. (1987). Management of science classroom tasks and effects on students learning opportunities. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 24(3), Schon, D. A. (1983). The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. New York: Basic Books, Inc. Stake, R. E. & Easley, J. A. (1978). Case studies in science education (Vols. 1 & 2). Urbana: Center for Instructional Research and Curriculum Evaluation and Committee on Culture and Cognition, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne. Tobin, K., Espinet, M. & Byrd, S. (April, 1987a). Impediments to change: An application of coaching in high school science. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the National Association of Research in Science Teaching, Washington, DC. Tobin, K., Espinet, M., & Byrd, S. (1987b). Usingpeer coachingto improve mathematics teaching performance. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Washington, DC. Tobin, K. & Gallagher, J. J. (1987a). Target students in the science classroom. Journalof Research in Science Teaching, 24( 1 ), Tobin, K. & Gallagher, J. J. (1987b). What happens in high school science classrooms? Journal of Curriculum Studies, 19, von Glasersfeld, E. (198 1). The concepts of adaptation and viability in a radical constructivist theory of knowledge. In Sigel, I. E., Brodzinsky, D. M. & Golinkoff, R. M. New directions in Piagetian theory and practice. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Accepted for publication 14 October 1987

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