Examining Teacher Content Knowledge in the Context of Science Notebooks
Authors: Carole G. Basile, Doris Kimbrough, Sharon Johnson

1. Context of the Work
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Each year millions of dollars are spent on teacher professional learning because it is recognized that teachers do not and cannot know everything about how to teach as they exit a teacher preparation program. There is common agreement that teachers need to be exposed to and understand new teaching and learning models throughout their teaching career. In science, educators suggest that high quality professional learning must contain six components: (1) immerse teachers in inquiry learning; (2) be intensive and sustained; (3) engage teachers in concrete teaching tasks and be based on teachers' experiences with students; (4) be connected with school change and school reform; (5) be grounded in a common set of standards; and (6) focus on subject-matter knowledge and deepen teachers' content skills (Supovitz & Turner, 2000).

It is this final component related to subject matter knowledge and content skills that tends to be elusive for professional developers, but teachers' content knowledge, especially in science, is critical in order to ensure basic conceptual and theoretical understanding and to keep pace with cutting edge innovation, technology, and application. Elusive because while many would agree that teacher content knowledge is critical to classroom effectiveness, it is very difficult to determine what teachers should know, and even more difficult to determine how to assess it (Ball, 2005). National and State tests developed by Educational Testing Service and National Evaluation Systems measure teacher content knowledge in specific disciplines for certification, endorsement, and licensure purposes. Teacher content inventories developed by researchers at the University of Michigan, University of Louisville's Center for Research in Mathematics and Science Teacher Development, and Horizon Research, have also become a popular method for assessing teacher content knowledge These methods have both pros and cons related to issues of validity, reliability, time, content breadth and depth, and access. They can be a good tool or indicator of teacher knowledge but they do not help us to understand how teachers learn content, what types of knowledge and at what levels teachers need; and in what contexts teachers learn best (Lowery, 2002). It is imperative that we look at alternative assessments that provide evidence of theoretical, conceptual, and procedural knowledge in science.

Popular in science classrooms today is the use of science notebooks as an assessment tool (Ruiz-Primo &Li, 2004; Aschbacher & Alonzo, 2006; Keys, Hand, Prain, &Collins, 1999; Prain, 2006). Research indicates that the use of relevant and meaningful writing in science can promote learning and understanding (Lemke, 1990, Martin, 1993). Ruiz-Primo & Li (2004) describe science notebooks as a "compilation of entries that provide a record, at lest partially, of the instructional experiences a student had in her or his classroom for a certain period of time. Since notebooks are generated during the process of instruction, the characteristics vary from entry to entry as they reflect the diverse set of activities in a science class (p. 62). They continue to cite evidence that science notebooks allow students to illustrate the skills and processes related to scientific inquiry, promotes application and integration of new information, provide a venue for expressing personal meaning and ownership of the learning, and they provide a good source of information about student conceptions and understanding of the content.

Therefore, the claim is, if science notebooks provide us with assessment information about student content knowledge, in what ways could we use them as a tool for assessment of teacher content knowledge? This paper presentation will examine the use of science notebooks in a National Science Foundation Math and Science Partnership where gaining insight into how teachers acquire content knowledge is the priority.

The Rocky Mountain Middle School Math and Science Partnership (RM-MSMSP) is a National Science Foundation-funded, 5-year project that targets middle school teachers and students in seven Denver-area school districts. The project links these school districts with faculty from University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and School of Education and Human Development, as well as faculty from four other university partners to increase the subject-matter content and pedagogical content knowledge of middle school teachers. The project's primary component is to provide math and science content courses to middle level teachers. Since the project's inception in 2004, seventeen content-based math and science courses have been developed. These courses have been designed to be approximately 80% content and 20% pedagogy and are taught in the summer as 2-3 week institutes. In addition, structured follow-up courses associated with each content course are taught during the academic year. These courses are taught across four Saturdays during a single semester and are focused 80% on pedagogy and 20% on content, the latter consisting of either new or review from the summer content course based on feedback from the teachers in the content courses, or historically, based on Teacher Content Inventory data. All courses are co-taught by faculty from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, School of Education and Human Development, and our K-12 partners.