Assessing preservice elementary teachers’ understanding of science practices using children’s astronomy storybooks
Keywords:science practices, preservice teachers, storybooks
Purposefully-designed, science content courses have the potential to help prepare future elementary teachers by helping to develop their understanding of the practices of science. We extend this area of research by investigating how students’ experiences in such a course contributes to their understanding of the coherence of science practices within a science investigation. We investigated U.S. college students’ understanding of coherent science inquiry investigations after completing an inquiry-based astronomy course designed for preservice elementary teachers. We assessed preservice teachers' (N=63) understanding of the coherence between question, data gathering, and evidence-based explanations using a novel format: student-generated astronomy-based children’s storybooks. Most students (59%) wrote storybooks featuring coherent investigations; in other words, their stories featured characters who linked an investigation question to data collection and to an evidence-based explanation. Over the three years of data collection, the percentage of preservice teachers who wrote coherent investigations in their final storybooks increased from 35% to 71% suggesting that additional scaffolding provided by the faculty in years 2 and 3 helped students understand these practices. Our findings suggest that purposefully-designed, science content courses can help preservice teachers learn about coherent science inquiry in astronomy. We also suggest that projects tied to the students’ own future careers, such as creating children’s science storybooks, can be used as assessment tools by faculty to assess preservice teachers’ development of science practices.