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Assessing Students' Understanding of Inquiry: What Do Prospective Science Teachers Notice?

Abstract

"The theoretical construct of teacher noticing has allowed mathematics teacher educators to examine teacher thinking and practice by looking at the range of activities that teachers notice in the classroom. Guided by this approach to the study of teacher thinking, the central goal of this exploratory study was to identify what prospective science teachers notice when evaluating evidence of student understanding in another teacher's inquiry-based unit. Our results are based on the qualitative analysis of 43 prospective teachers' evaluations of assessment evidence presented to them in the form of a video case and associated written artifacts. Analysis of our data revealed two major categories of elements, Task-General and Task-Specific, noticed by our study participants. Task-General elements included attention to learning objectives, independent student work, and presentation issues and they often served to guide or qualify the specific inquiry skills that were evaluated. Task-Specific elements included the noticing of students' abilities to perform different components of an investigation. In general, study participants paid attention to important general and specific aspects of student work in the context of inquiry. However, they showed preferential attention to those process skills associated with designing an investigation versus those practices related to the analysis of data and generation of conclusions. Additionally, their interpretations of assessment outcomes were largely focused on the demonstration of general science process skills; much less attention was paid to the analysis of the epistemological validity or scientific plausibility of students' ideas. Our results provide insights into the design of meaningful learning experiences for prospective teachers that elicit, challenge, and enrich their conceptions of student understanding in the context of inquiry."

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