Good Practices in Science Teacher Education for Schools in Disadvantaged Contexts: A Case Study from a School Improvement Program in Argentina

By Melina Furman and María Eugenia Podesta.

Published by The International Journal of Science, Mathematics and Technology Learning

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In many parts of the world, schools serving students from disadvantaged backgrounds are the norm rather than the exception. In science education, research has shown that within these schools, science is taught as a body of simple facts and that inquiry-based teaching methods are practically absent, despite being endorsed by national and local curricula. We analyzed the case of “Escuelas del Bicentenario” (Bicentennial Schools), a School Improvement Program that has been held since 2007 in 151 primary schools in unprivileged areas of 6 provinces of Argentina. This professional development program is composed of a team of 30 science facilitators who work with about 1800 class teachers every fortnight in their own schools with the goal of improving their science instruction. We conducted an open survey to examine facilitators’ perceptions of the efficacy of different professional development practices in having teachers incorporate inquiry-based science teaching methods in their classrooms. An overwhelming majority of science facilitators identified the same strategy as the most effective, namely modeling inquiry-based lessons in the actual classroom, with teachers very own students. We found the value of this practice, chosen by over 90% survey responders, to be related to the possibility of building teachers trust and understanding. First, when teachers see successful inquiry-based lessons developed with their very own students, they begin to have trust not only in facilitators as skilled professionals, but also in the value of this teaching method as a way to develop student understanding and class participation. It also helps teachers trust their students learning capabilities. Second, it helps teachers to understand the nuances of implementing inquiry-based curriculum by themselves in the future, including how to handle student questions, a challenge that most facilitators reported as one of the biggest fear for teachers in adopting inquiry-based methods.

Keywords: Science Education, Teacher Education, Inquiry Based Programs, Disadvantaged Contexts

The International Journal of Science, Mathematics and Technology Learning, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp.1-13. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 338.392KB).

Melina Furman

Assistant Professor, School of Education, Universidad de San Andres, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Melina Furman is Assistant Professor in Science Education at the School of Education, Universidad de San Andrés, Argentina. She obtained a Ph.D. in science education at Columbia University, United States and a M.S. in biological sciences at the University of Buenos Aires. Since 2007 she has worked as Science Coordinator for “Escuelas del Bicentenario” (IIPE-UNESCO and Universidad de San Andrés), a school improvement program for schools in disadvantaged areas of seven provinces of Argentina. She also worked as Project Director for the Urban Science Education Fellows Program at Columbia University, aimed at prepare preservice teachers for effective teaching in urban schools serving minority populations. Her research focuses on finding new strategies for teacher education that allow teachers to reach all students and help them develop scientific literacy. She is co-author of the books “La aventura de enseñar ciencias naturales” (Editorial Aique, 2009), “La ciencia en el aula” (Paidós, 2005), among others.

María Eugenia Podesta

Assistant Professor, School of Education, Universidad de San Andres, Buenos Aires, Argentina

María Eugenia G.T. de Podestá is MA in Education, University of Bath; post-graduate in Education, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Argentina; and BA in Biochemistry, Universidad de Buenos Aires. She is Director of the Extension Area and co-director of the Diploma “Postítulo de Actualización Académica ‘Los nuevos desafíos de la docencia’” at the School of Education, Universidad de San Andrés. She is member of the Board of Escuelas del Bicentenario (IIPE UNESCO and Universidad de San Andrés), Professor of Teaching Practice at the Teacher’s Training Course at Universidad de San Andrés and a pedagogical adviser in Natural Sciences and School Improvement. She is co-author of the books “La aventura de enseñar ciencias naturales” (Editorial Aique, 2009) and “El Rol del supervisor en la mejora escolar” (Editorial Aique, 2009) and co-author and editor of the books “Mejorar la gestión directiva en la escuela” (Buenos Aires, Ediciones Granica, 2007) and “Mejorar la escuela. Acerca de la gestión y la enseñanza” (Buenos Aires, Ediciones Granica, 2004). She is Director of a book series in Education edited by Aique Publishing Company in Argentina.