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

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5. Conclusions

From an instructional point of view, the science notebooks documented new understandings and new knowledge beyond what can be captured on teacher content inventories. It also allowed instructors to provide immediate feedback to teachers if they chose to do so and re-teach when necessary even in short institute courses where time was limited. The notebooks, with more development and explicit discussion during the structured follow-up also provided teachers with a model for classroom use.

Science notebooks illustrated several factors for consideration and further analysis including teacher reflection about content knowledge, teacher reflection about beliefs versus knowledge; accuracy of drawings and graphic representations; new understandings; misconceptions, pedagogical connections; and the demonstration of scientific inquiry and metacognitive processes.

Findings also suggest that the use of science notebooks in teacher professional learning may help teacher educators gain insight into the ways teachers learn, reflect, and process new content knowledge. Science notebooks provide a formative assessment tool to monitor teacher content knowledge and provide teachers with a means for asking questions, developing concepts, and new understandings in a non-threatening way.

The content knowledge that middle school teachers need to know, especially in mathematics and science, has recently received renewed attention. The Principles and Standards for School Mathematics document suggests that "teachers must know and understand deeply the mathematics they are teaching and be able to draw on that knowledge with flexibility in their teaching tasks" (NCTM, 2000, p. 17). Substantial evidence exists that teachers typically do not hold this rich and connected knowledge of mathematics or science, nor do they teach in ways that are consistent with the national standards (Jacobs, 2006; Mewborn, 2003). In order to carry out the demands of reform-oriented mathematics and science instruction, teachers need increased opportunities to broaden and deepen their professional knowledge. Assessment of content knowledge, however remains an elusive and complex matter.