Becoming an Urban School Middle-Level Science TeacherReport as inadecuate

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Journal of Elementary Science Education, v19 n1 p45-55 Spr 2007

The purpose of this case study was to document the journey of three novice career change science inductees as they became middle-level science teachers in urban low socioeconomic status (SES) schools and included post-internship employment status data on all nine science teachers who completed the alternative certification program, up to the time of this writing. All teachers participated in a fast track master's alternative certification degree program and received in-depth education coursework and mentoring. Results indicated that support (i.e., administrative, parents, mentors) and teachers' beliefs about their students' capabilities may affect their effectiveness in urban, low SES middle-level science classrooms. Urban middle school science teaching presents a complexity of issues for the novice (beginning) teacher. First, the beginning teacher must learn to orchestrate effective teaching and learning strategies in urban school settings. Urban schools have often been characterized as places that have a number of inequities (Cardenas, 2000; Hoff & McCarty, 1985) and low levels of student interest and motivation to learn (Tobin, 2001). In addition, novice teachers may face challenges in teaching middle school learners. That is, teaching at the middle level can be daunting. The National Middle School Association (NMSA) states that teachers should understand the developmental uniqueness of young adolescents and should be as knowledgeable about their students as they are about the subject they teach (1995, p. 13). Beginning teachers must also learn how to effectively teach school science. A person who has had success applying academic knowledge, skills, and experiences using mathematics and science in the real world does not necessarily mean that he or she will translate the knowledge and experiences to a successful middle-level teaching career. Shulman (1986) argues that teachers also need pedagogical content knowledge, which he describes as knowledge that goes beyond understanding of the content to understanding the dimension of the subject matter for teaching. Taken collectively, these challenges may seem almost insurmountable for even veteran middle-level teachers. Improvements in middle school mathematics and science teaching are needed, and getting more qualified teachers into these schools is of the essence. Teachers without teacher preparation courses tend to feel inadequate to teach and are not sufficiently prepared to handle the details and intricacies of diverse student populations, classroom management, and student assessments (Darling-Hammond, Chung, & Frelow, 2002). Ball (2003) succinctly states, We cannot afford to keep re-learning that improvement of students' learning depends on skillful teaching, and that skillful teaching depends on capable teachers and what they know and can do (p. 1). This article reports case study findings of three career change teachers in a fast-track (one-year) middle-level mathematics and science master's degree program, which provided the education academic coursework and internship experience as they transitioned from the business world to middle-level mathematics and/or science teaching and employment data for all science teachers who completed the program.

Descriptors: Classroom Techniques, Urban Schools, Mentors, Middle Schools, Teacher Effectiveness, Career Change, Urban Teaching, Secondary School Teachers, Low Income Groups, Alternative Teacher Certification, Teacher Administrator Relationship, Teacher Attitudes, Teacher Expectations of Students, Beginning Teachers, Teaching Experience, Teaching Skills, Knowledge Base for Teaching, Pedagogical Content Knowledge, Mathematics Instruction, Teacher Qualifications, Masters Degrees, Mathematics Teachers, Science Teachers, Internship Programs

Western Illinois University. Document and Publications Services, 1 University Circle, Macomb, IL 61455-1390. Tel: 309-298-1917; Fax: 309-298-2869; e-mail: DPS[at]; Web site:

Author: Jeanpierre, Bobby


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