Guzey, S. S., & Roehrig, G. H. (2009). Teaching science with technology: Case studies of science teachers’
development of technology, pedagogy, and content knowledge. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1). Retrieved from http://www.citejournal.org/vol9/iss1/science/article1.cfm
Teaching Science with Technology: Case Studies of Science Teachers’
Development of Technology, Pedagogy, and Content Knowledge
S. Selcen Guzey
University of Minnesota
Gillian H. Roehrig
University of Minnesota
This study examines the development of
technology, pedagogy, and content knowledge (TPACK) in four in-service secondary
science teachers as they participated in a professional development program
focusing on technology integration into K-12 classrooms to support science
as inquiry teaching. In the program, probeware, mind-mapping tools
(CMaps), and Internet applications ― computer simulations, digital
images, and movies — were
introduced to the science teachers. A descriptive multicase study design was employed to track
teachers’ development over the yearlong program. Data included interviews, surveys,
classroom observations, teachers’ technology integration plans, and action
research study reports. The program was found to have positive impacts to varying degrees on teachers’ development of
TPACK. Contextual factors and teachers’ pedagogical
reasoning affected teachers’ ability to enact in their classrooms what they
learned in the program. Suggestions for designing effective professional
development programs to improve science teachers’ TPACK are discussed.
is such a complex, dynamic profession that it is difficult for a teacher to
stay up-to-date. For a teacher to grow professionally and become better as a
teacher of science, a special, continuous effort is required (Showalter, 1984,
To better prepare students for the
science and technology of the 21st century, the current science
education reforms ask science teachers to integrate technology and
inquiry-based teaching into their instruction (American Association for the Advancement
of Science, 1993; National Research Council [NRC], 1996, 2000). The National
Science Education Standards (NSES) define inquiry as “the diverse
ways in which scientists study the natural world and propose explanations based
on the evidence derived from their work” (NRC, 1996, p. 23). The NSES encourage
teachers to apply “a variety of technologies, such as hand tools, measuring
instruments, and calculators [as] an integral component of scientific
investigations” to support student inquiry (p.175). Utilizing technology tools
in inquiry-based science classrooms allows students to work as scientists
(Novak & Krajcik, 2006, p. 76).
Teaching science as emphasized in the
reform documents, however, is not easy. Science teachers experience various
constraints, such as lack of time, equipment, pedagogical content knowledge,
and pedagogical skills in implementing reform-based teaching strategies (Crawford,
1999, 2000; Roehrig & Luft, 2004, 2006).
One way to overcome the barriers and to reform teaching is to participate in
professional development programs that provide opportunities for social,
personal, and professional development (Bell & Gilbert, 2004). Professional
development programs in which teachers collaborate with other teachers, reflect
on their classroom practices, and receive support and feedback have been shown
to foster teachers’ professional development (Grossman, Wineburg, &
Woolworth, 2001; Huffman, 2006; Loucks-Horsley, Love, Stiles, Mundry, &
In this light, the professional
development program, Technology Enhanced Communities (TEC), which is presented
in this paper, was designed to create a learning community where science
teachers can learn to integrate technology into their teaching to support
student inquiry. TEC has drawn heavily on situated learning theory, which
defines learning as situated, social, and distributed (Brown, Collins, &
Duguid, 1989; Lave & Wenger, 1991; Putnam & Borko, 2000). Since a
situated learning environment supports collaboration among participants (Brown
et al., 1989; Lave & Wenger, 1991; Putnam & Borko, 2000), and the
collaboration among teachers enhances teacher learning (Cochran-Smith &
Lytle, 1999; Krajcik, Blumenfeld, Marx, & Soloway, 1994; Little, 1990), TEC
was designed to provide teachers with opportunities to build a community that
enables learning and is distributed among teachers. The situated learning
theory was used as a design framework for TEC, but technology, pedagogy, and
content knowledge (TPACK) was employed as a theoretical framework for the
Since the concept of TPACK has emerged
recently, there has been no consensus on the nature and development of TPACK
among researchers and teacher educators. As suggested by many authors in the Handbook
of Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (AACTE Committee on
Innovation and Technology, 2008), more research needs to examine the role of
teacher preparation programs teachers’ beliefs (Niess, 2008), and specific
student and school contexts (McCrory, 2008) regarding the nature and
development of TPACK. Thus, this study was conducted to investigate the effects
of an in-service teacher education program (TEC) on science teachers’
development of TPACK. The research question guiding this study was: How does
the professional development program, TEC, enhance science teachers’ TPACK?
of the Relevant Literature
Technology Integration Into Science
technology tools such as computers, probeware, data collection and analysis
software, digital microscopes, hypermedia/multimedia, student response systems,
and interactive white boards can help students actively engage in the acquisition of scientific knowledge and development of the nature of science
and inquiry. When educational technology tools are used appropriately and
effectively in science classrooms, students actively engage in their knowledge
construction and improve their thinking and problem solving skills (Trowbridge,
Bybee, & Powell, 2008).
Many new educational technology tools
are now available for science teachers. However, integrating technology into
instruction is still challenging for most teachers (Norris, Sullivan, Poirot,
& Soloway, 2003; Office of Technology Assessment [OTA], 1995). The existing
studies demonstrate that technology integration is a long-term process
requiring commitment (Doering, Hughes, & Huffman, 2003; Hughes, Kerr, &
Ooms, 2005; Sandholtz, Ringstaff, & Dwyer, 1997). Teachers need ongoing
support while they make efforts to develop and sustain effective technology
integration. Professional learning communities, where teachers collaborate with
other teachers to improve and support their learning and teaching, are effective
for incorporating technology into teaching (Krajcik et al., 1994; Little,
1990). As a part of a community, teachers share their knowledge, practices, and
experiences; discuss issues related to student learning; and critique and
support each others’ knowledge and pedagogical growth while they are learning
about new technologies (Hughes et al., 2005).
Technology integration is most commonly
associated with professional development opportunities. The need for
participant-driven professional development programs in which teachers engage
in inquiry and reflect on their practices to improve their learning about
technology has been emphasized by many researchers (Loucks-Horsley et al., 2003;
Zeichner, 2003). Zeichner, for example, argued that teacher action research is
an important aspect of effective professional development. According to
Zeichner, to improve their learning and practices, teachers should become
teacher researchers, conduct self-study research, and engage in teacher
research groups. These collaborative groups provide teachers with support and
opportunities to deeply analyze their learning and practices.
Pedagogical Content Knowledge
Shulman (1987) defined seven knowledge
bases for teachers: content knowledge, general pedagogical knowledge,
curriculum knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge (PCK), knowledge of
learners and their characteristics, knowledge of educational context, and
knowledge of educational ends, goals, and values. According to Shulman, among
these knowledge bases, PCK plays the most important role in effective teaching.
He argued that teachers should develop PCK, which is “the particular form of
content knowledge that embodies the aspects of content most germane to its
teachability” (Shulman, 1986, p. 9). PCK is not only a special form of content
knowledge but also a “blending of content and pedagogy into an understanding of
how particular topics, problems, or issues are organized, presented, and
adapted to the diverse interests and abilities of learners, and presented for
instruction” (Shulman, 1987, p. 8).
Shulman argued that teachers not only
need to know their content but also need to know how to present it effectively. Good teaching “begins
with an act of reason, continues with a process of reasoning, culminates in
performances of imparting, eliciting, involving, or enticing, and is then
thought about some more until the process begins again” (Shulman, 1987, p. 13).
Thus, to make effective pedagogical decisions about what to teach and how to
teach it, teachers should develop both their PCK and pedagogical reasoning
initial conceptualization of PCK, researchers have developed new forms and
components of PCK (e.g., Cochran, DeRuiter, & King, 1993; Grossman, 1990;
Marks, 1990; Magnusson, Borko, & Krajcik, 1994; Tamir, 1988). Some researchers while following Shulman’s original classification have
added new components (Grossman, 1990; Marks 1990; Fernandez-Balboa &
Stiehl, 1995), while others have developed different conceptions of PCK
and argued about the blurry borders between PCK and content knowledge (Cochran
et al., 1993). Building on Shulman’s groundbreaking work, these researchers
have generated a myriad of versions of PCK. In a recent review of the PCK
literature, Lee, Brown, Luft, and Roehrig
(2007) identified a consensus among researchers on the following two
components of PCK: (a) teachers’ knowledge of student learning to translate and
transform content to facilitate students’ understanding and (b) teachers’
knowledge of particular teaching strategies and representations (e.g.,
examples, explanations, analogies, and illustrations).
The first component,
knowledge of student learning and conceptions, includes the following elements:
students’ prior knowledge, variations in students’ approaches to learning, and
students’ misconceptions. This component of PCK refers to teachers’ knowledge
and understanding about students’ learning and their ideas about a particular
area or topic. This type of knowledge also refers to teachers’ understanding of
variations in students’ different approaches to learning. The second component
refers to teachers’ knowledge of specific instructional strategies and
representations that can be helpful for students to understand new concepts.
In recent years, many researchers in the
field of educational technology have been focused on the role of teacher knowledge
on technology integration (Hughes, 2005; Koehler & Mishra, 2005, 2008;
Mishra & Koehler, 2006; Niess, 2005). The term TPACK (also known as TPCK; Koehler
& Mishra, 2005) has emerged as a knowledge base needed by teachers to
incorporate technology into their teaching. Koehler and Mishra (2005) discussed
TPACK as a framework for teacher knowledge for technology integration. Their
TPACK framework is based upon Shulman’s conception of PCK. In Koehler and
Mishra’s model of TPACK, there are three main components of teacher knowledge:
content, technology, and pedagogy. They described TPACK as a combination of
these three knowledge bases. According to the authors, TPACK is the
effective teaching with technology and requires an understanding of the representation
of concepts using technologies; pedagogical techniques that use technologies in
constructive ways to teach content; knowledge of what makes concepts difficult
or easy to learn and how technology can help redress some of problems that
students face; knowledge of students’ prior knowledge and theories of
epistemology; and knowledge of how technologies can be used to build on
existing knowledge and to develop new epistemologies or strengthen old ones.
(Koehler & Mishra, 2008, p. 17-18)
Koehler and Mishra (2008) argued that
for effective technology integration all three knowledge elements (content,
pedagogy, and technology) should exist in a dynamic equilibrium. Niess (2005)
described TPACK as the “integration of the development of knowledge of subject
matter with the development of technology and of knowledge of teaching and
learning.” However, Niess (2008) argued that TPACK is a way of thinking rather
than a knowledge base. According
to Niess (2008) TPACK is
....a way of
thinking strategically while involved in planning, organizing,
critiquing, and abstracting, for specific content, specific student needs, and
specific classroom situations while concurrently considering the multitude of
twenty-first century technologies with the potential for supporting student
learning. (p. 224)
McCrory (2008) investigated science
teachers, TPACK, pointing out that four knowledge bases are vital to science
teachers’ development of TPACK: content, students, technology, and pedagogy.
According to McCrory, science teachers need to possess adequate knowledge of
science to help students develop understandings of various science concepts. In
order to address students’ particular needs, teachers should have deep
knowledge and understanding about student learning. Teachers’ knowledge about
students facilitates the development of strategies to address students’ prior
knowledge of particular science concepts and misconceptions in science
(McCrory, 2008). Having adequate pedagogical knowledge allows teachers to teach
effectively a particular science concept to a particular group of students. A
teacher with strong pedagogical knowledge employs effective teaching
strategies, creates well-designed lessons plans, applies successful classroom
management techniques, and develops an understanding about student learning
(Koehler & Mishra, 2008).
Furthermore, well-developed knowledge
of technology allows teachers to incorporate technologies into their classroom
instruction. Importantly, technology knowledge is much more than just knowing
about technology; a deep understanding of technology is needed to use
technology for effective classroom instruction, communication, problem solving,
and decision making (Koehler & Mishra, 2008). As emphasized by McCrory
(2008), these four knowledge bases―knowledge of, science, students,
pedagogy, and technology―work collaboratively “in knowing where [in
the curriculum] to use technology, what technology to use, and how to
teach with it” (McCrory, 2008, p. 195). In this study, we followed McCrory’s
(2008) conceptualization of TPACK for science teachers to investigate the
affects of TEC on science teachers’ development of TPACK.
TEC was designed to help secondary
science teachers develop necessary knowledge and skills for integrating
technology for science-as-inquiry teaching. TEC was a yearlong, intensive
program, which included a 2-week-long summer introductory course about inquiry
teaching and technology tools and follow-up group meetings throughout the
school year associated with an online course about teacher action research. A
LeMill community Web site was created at the beginning of the program. LeMill
is a “Web community for finding, authoring, and sharing learning resources” (http://lemill.net). Participant teachers created
accounts and joined the TEC community Web site. Through this Web site, teachers
interacted with the university researchers and their colleagues and were able
to share and discuss lesson resources.
Several instructional technologies were
presented in the summer course: concept mapping tools (CMap tools; Novak &
Gowin, 1984), VeeMaps (Roehrig, Luft, &
Edwards, 2001), probeware (e.g., pH, temperature, concentration of
solutions, blood pressure, and respiration rate), computer simulations, digital
images, and movies. Teachers engaged in inquiry-based activities while they
were learning these technology tools. For example, teachers implemented a
cookbook lab experiment about the greenhouse effect following the procedure
given by the university educators. Teachers then modified this activity to be
inquiry based. Through implementation, discussions, and reflections, teachers
developed their understanding of inquiry and effectiveness of technology tools
in student learning and inquiry. Throughout the entire program teachers were
encouraged to reflect on their classroom practices. Teachers each wrote about their
experiences with technology tools and inquiry in their blogs on the LeMill
community Web site.
After learning about technology tools,
teachers created lesson plans that included technology tools and loaded these
lesson plans onto the LeMill Web site. Furthermore, each teacher developed a
technology integration plan to follow in the subsequent school year. During the
school year, the teachers and the university educators met several times to discuss
the constraints teachers had experienced in the integration of technology to
practice reform-based science instruction. In addition, during the school year
teachers used the LeMill site to ask questions, share lesson plans and
curricula, and reflect on their teaching. In the online discussions and
face-to-face meetings, the members of the learning community, the teachers and
the university educators, engaged in numerous conversations about how to
overcome these barriers (e.g., lack of access to technology).
In spring 2008, the teachers were
formally engaged in teacher action research. They designed and conducted action
research studies to reflect upon their practices and learning about technology.
During this phase, university educators and teachers worked collaboratively. Teachers
each prepared a Google document with their action research report and shared it
with university educators and other teachers. The researchers provided
necessary theoretical knowledge for teachers to design their studies.
Conducting action research allowed teachers to see the effectiveness of using
technology tools in student learning. During this phase, the collaboration among
teachers and the university educators fostered the growth of the learning
The teachers in this study were the
participants in the TEC professional development program that focused on
technology integration in science classrooms. Eleven secondary science teachers
enrolled in the program. These teachers had varying levels of teaching
experience, ranging from 1 to 17 years. Five of them were experienced and 6 of
them were beginning secondary science teachers. Only beginning teachers were
invited to participate in the present study since they had more commonalities
with each other than with experienced teachers. For example, the beginning
teachers all graduated from the same teacher education program and were all
teaching their academic specialty. The teachers had recently completed
preservice coursework focused on inquiry-based teaching and implementing
science instruction with technology tools. Of the six beginning teacher participants in TEC, four – Jason,
Brenna, Matt, and Cassie – participated in this study. The other two beginning
teachers did not participate in the study, as they did not have enough time
to devote to the research study. More information about teachers can be found
in Table 1. Pseudonyms are used for all teacher participants.
Demographic Information About the Participating Teachers
Years of Teaching Experience[a]
Previous Knowledge and Skills About Technology
9th and 10th grade
Public school in a suburban area
Public school in a suburban area
and Life Science
Private school in an urban area
9th,10th,11th, and 12th grade Life Science
and Physical Science
Charter school in an urban area
|[a] Years of experience includes the current year of teaching.
Various data collection instruments were
used to investigate how TEC impacted teachers’ development of TPACK. These data
collection instruments included surveys, interviews, teachers’ technology
integration plans created at the end of the summer course, field notes from the
classroom observations of the teachers, and teachers’ action research reports.
In this study, triangulation was achieved through the various techniques of
data collection (as in Patton, 1987).
Electronic surveys were sent to teachers
four times during the program. The first survey requested information about
teachers’ knowledge and skills about using technology tools in their
classrooms. The second survey was sent at the end of the summer course requesting
information about the effectiveness of the summer course on teachers’ learning
about technology tools. To find what, when, and how teachers used technology
tools and inquiry-based teaching during the fall semester, we sent a survey at
the end of the semester. Finally, after completing the online course, teachers
received another survey that included questions about their overall experience
in the program, what they learned, and how they applied their knowledge in
Interviews were conducted at the
beginning and end of the summer program. Questions included were (a) How do
your students learn science best? (b) How do you decide what to teach and what
not to teach? (c) What does it mean to you to teach science with technology
tools? (d) How often do you implement inquiry in your classroom? (e) Can you
give an example of your inquiry instruction? and (f) What did you consider
while planning this inquiry lesson?
Teachers were required to write a
technology integration plan at the end of the summer course. In their plans,
teachers explained in what ways, when, and how they could use technology tools
in their classrooms during the upcoming school year. In addition, in their
plans teachers talked about the constraints they might face while integrating
technology into their teaching and how they could overcome these obstacles.
Teachers were observed in their
classrooms at least two times during the 2007-2008 school year. Observations
were deliberately scheduled during a time when the teacher was using
technology. Detailed field notes about teachers’ practices, technology tools
being used, and student engagement were taken during the observations. Teacher
artifacts such as lesson plans and student handouts were also collected.
During spring 2008, each teacher
designed and conducted action research studies. Teachers reflected on their
practices by identifying their own questions, documenting their own practices,
analyzing their findings, and sharing their findings with university educators
and other teachers. A range of topics were addressed by the teachers. Many
teachers, for example, focused on impact of a particular technology tool (e.g.,
concept mapping, simulations, and online discussions) on student learning.
Each participant teacher’s set of
documents (interview transcript, observation notes, surveys, technology
integration plan, classroom artifacts, and action research reports) were
analyzed separately. The process of constant comparative analysis (Strauss
& Corbin, 1990) was used to analyze the data. First, each incident in a
teacher’s document was coded for a category. As the incidents were coded, we compared
them with the previous incidents that coded in the same category to find common
patterns, as well as differences in the data (as in Glaser, 1965).
in Merriam (1998), categories emerging from the data were exhaustive, mutually
exclusive, sensitizing, and conceptually congruent and reflected the purpose of
the study. For example, the following categories were created for participant
Cassie: misunderstanding of inquiry, lack of technological resources,
unwillingness to change, mixed beliefs about technology, feeling of isolation,
undeveloped conception of science, and weak teacher-student relationships.
After coding the categories, we compared categories for each
participating teacher and recorded “memos” (Glaser & Strauss,
1967). At this time, we wrote case studies for each teacher based on the most
salient categories that provided memos. The emergent salient categories were
previous experiences with technology; beliefs about teaching, learning, and
technology; the use of technology in classroom instruction; and the
implementation of inquiry-based teaching. Case studies were written as
recommended in Yin (1994). We then integrated diverse memos with other memos of
analysis to discern the impact of TEC on teachers’ development of TPACK. In the
last phase of the analysis, we defined major themes derived from the data.
At the end of the program, the
participant teachers of this study, Jason, Brenna, Matt, and Cassie met all the
requirements for completing the program. However, teachers were each found to
integrate technology into their teaching to various degrees. The cases of these
teachers describe the differences in their development of TPACK.
Jason was a first-year teacher at a
suburban high school. He taught 9th- and 10th-grade
biology. Before participating in the program, Jason had some experience
with technology tools. He felt comfortable using concept mapping tools
(CMap and Inspiration), temperature and pH probeware, and digital microscopes.
Jason believed that the purpose of using technology tools in science classrooms
is to “motivate students to answer their own questions and get more into the
process of inquiry.”
At the end of the summer course, Jason
designed a technology integration plan, in which he specifically explained
which technology tools he was planning to use during the school year. Jason was
excited to use VeeMaps and CMap tools in his classroom. He said that these
tools were a “very high priority to implement in [his] classroom. They are much
better at helping students clarify their previous knowledge, experimental
procedure and implications of their work.” Ultimately, however, Jason did not
employ VeeMaps in his classroom due to a “lack of familiarity” with them. As a
beginning teacher Jason could not make effective decisions about how and when
to use VeeMaps.
TEC had been his first experience with the concept of VeeMaps,
and he did not feel comfortable using them in his classroom. On the other hand,
Jason used CMaps once a month in his instruction. Furthermore, he also
conducted an action research study on the effectiveness of concept mapping on
his students’ retention and understanding of content knowledge. Results of this
study encouraged Jason to use this tool more frequently in the next teaching
year. In addition to these tools, Jason created a Web site on his school
server. He posted all his notes online for students to access. His students
submitted their homework electronically. Jason said that this helped him “to
get more organized.”
Since Jason had limited access to the
probeware in his school, he did not incorporate it into his teaching. Jason
believed that the limited number of probes would cause “disengagement and or
improper use…in small groups.” Jason was also reluctant to use simulations. He
expressed that “many of the simulations [he] has found online are informative
but have a great potential for students to become disengaged or ‘click happy.’”
Even though he used two simulations when he taught about DNA during the fall
semester, he did not believe that these tools were effective in enhancing
Jason was an advocate of inquiry-based
teaching. He said that “since the beginning of the teacher education program,
inquiry-based instruction has been a significant priority in [his] classroom
lessons. Whether small guided activities or full inquiry labs, inquiry-based instruction
is important to implement in place of typical cookbook labs.” Prior to the
program, his biggest barrier to implementing inquiry lessons was modifying
step-by-step labs into inquiry activities. During the program, Jason learned
how to turn the cookbook labs into inquiry activities.
Jason had a rigid conception of inquiry.
For him, all inquiry lessons, technology integrated or not, should allow
ask their own
questions about a topic and taking the necessary steps to research and set up
an experiment to test their ideas. Student experiments should reduce their
investigation into a single variable. Students’ methods and experimental setup
should go through several reviews not only by a teacher but also be clear in
their instructions and testing the correct variable.
Jason’s understanding of inquiry was
mirrored in his classroom practices. In the observed inquiry lesson on
bacteria, students investigated antibacterial products on strains of bacterial
colonies. Students posed their own research questions; they set up experiments
and then tested variables such as detergent, soap, and toothpaste on bacterial
growth. Interviews with Jason revealed that he defined inquiry activities
exclusively as full or “open-ended,” in which students pose their own questions
and design their own experiment to test variables. The “bacteria inquiry”
lesson was the only observed inquiry activity (as defined by Jason) that he
implemented during the school year. This inquiry activity did not involve any
Brenna was a second-year
teacher at a suburban middle school. She taught eighth-grade Earth science.
Prior to participating in the program, Brenna did not have much previous
experience with many of the basic technology tools. She was not comfortable
with using computers for sharing and collaboration. However, she knew about
probeware, Google Earth, and CMap tools. Brenna’s biggest concern was
implementing basic troubleshooting techniques for technology tools. She had not
used many of the tools previously since she did not know how to solve
participating in the program, Brenna used only Powerpoint presentations and some
Google Earth demos in her teaching. After learning various tools in the
program, Brenna decided to create a 3-year technology integration plan. The
main goal of her teaching in the first year of this plan was to be able to
“check out computers as often as [she] would like and use concept maps,
VeeMaps, and clickers (classroom response systems).” Her second and third year
commitments included creating more laboratory activities that utilize probeware
and designing a personal Web page and maintain updates on this Web page.
During the school year, Brenna
frequently used CMap tools, VeeMaps, and clickers. For example, in an observed
lesson, Brenna asked her students to design their density lab in which they
compare the density of different materials of their choice. Brenna provided
many materials, such as vinegar, vegetable oil, and irregular shapes of solids
like pennies and rocks. The question students focused on was “How can we
compare the density of different things?” Brenna asked students to create
VeeMaps instead of writing traditional lab reports. In their VeeMaps students
wrote hypotheses, a list of new words, procedures, results, and conclusions of
Brenna was also observed while she used
clickers in her teaching. Clickers, also known as student response systems or
classroom response systems, help teachers create interactive classroom
environments. In her classroom, Brenna used clickers to get information about
student learning. At the end of each unit, Brenna asked multiple choice
questions to her students; students each submitted their answers using the
clicker, and Brenna’s computer gathered students’ answers. This approach
allowed Brenna to see student feedback in real time and address the areas where
students had difficulty understanding.
Brenna designed an action research study
to investigate the effectiveness of clickers on her students’ understanding of
new concepts. Brenna believed that “clickers are very effective in assessing
the students’ prior knowledge and current understanding.” However, Brenna
mostly used clickers as a “summative assessment at the end of units.” She
assigned each student to a particular clicker and tracked students’
understanding of various topics. For Brenna, clickers are effective tools since
they “provide immediate feedback for both students and [her].”
Even though Brenna integrated many of
the technology tools that she learned in the program, she felt that she still
needed more training with technology. She was not comfortable with using many
of the tools. For example, during one of the observed classes, Brenna used a PowerPoint
presentation when suddenly the computer screen turned black. Brenna could not
figure out how to solve the problem. Ten minutes later, she sent a student to
the administration office to find the technology teacher and asked him for
help. While waiting for the technology teacher to come and fix the problem, a
student offered Brenna help to figure out the problem. The student found that
the computer turned off since Brenna forgot to plug in the power cord. After
the 15-minute long chaos, Brenna fixed the problem and then continued her
lesson. Another concern that Brenna had was that she needed more time creating
technology-enhanced curriculum units. Brenna thought that collaboration among
her colleagues might help her to create technology-rich lesson plans because it
was time consuming otherwise.
Brenna implemented a few inquiry
activities in her classroom. According to her, she took the ordinary labs that
she implemented before and changed parts of them to be more inquiry based. To
modify the labs to more inquiry, Brenna “offered more choices of materials that
the students could choose from.” The observed “density inquiry” lesson was an
example of this strategy.
Brenna believed that in an inquiry
activity “students should come up with their own questions and procedure.”
However, the classroom observations show that Brenna often provided the
research questions and she provided little opportunity for students to design
their own procedure. In addition, during the inquiry activities rather than
facilitating students Brenna was mostly directing them on what to do and what
not to do.
Matt was a third-year science teacher in
a private middle school. He taught eighth-grade physical science and life science.
Prior to participating in the program, Matt had previous knowledge and
experience with many technology tools. He frequently used simulations and
Google Earth and Celestia “to facilitate concept demonstration.” However, Matt
did not use any kind of probeware in his instruction. Matt believed that technology
tools have a “very strong potential to greatly assist the students in their
At the end of the summer course, Matt
expressed in an interview that he had “decided that concept mapping fits very
well with his beliefs about the way that ideas and concepts are best
described.” Thus, Matt made “plans on using concept mapping in his class
regularly to assess his students’ understanding as well as to help learn them
the connections between terms and concepts as they move through instruction.”
The classroom observations demonstrated that Matt incorporated concept mapping
into his teaching. As Matt put it,
I taught in a
method that used shared CMaps to elicit student understandings about concepts I
was teaching about. After engaging students in activities that challenged their
understandings we had a class discussion that built a class consensus around
the results of the activity. The activities included: examining the variables
that affect elastic interaction, how a constant force affects a low friction
car, and what affect added mass has to acceleration.
Matt uploaded many of these maps to his
class Web site. In the spring semester, Matt’s students posted online
discussion to the class Web site. In his action research study, Matt investigated
how online discussions influence his students’ learning. Matt valued online
discussions since he believed that they encourage students to participate in and
more deeply analyze the course materials. Matt provided topics such as water quality or guiding questions,
such as “What forms the boundary of a watershed?” and “How should we take our
knowledge (that we have already and will continue to acquire) to help our
society and our environment?” and asked
students to write individual postings and respond to at least two of their
In addition to concept mapping and
online student discussion boards, Matt also implemented probeware several times
in his teaching after he participated in the program. He used motion detector
probes in his physical science classroom when he taught about Newton’s laws,
and pH and temperature probeware in his life science classroom. Students were
involved in a multiday environmental study at a local creek, and they made
quick measurements of temperature and pH using probeware. In their
investigations students focused on the research question, “What is the
water quality of our creek?” Based on their measurements and observations,
students wrote research reports about the water quality in the creek.
that Matt gave priority to in his teaching was simulation. Matt expressed that
he used “technology to help [his] presentation of concepts to the students.”
According to him, “animations and simulations give the students a wide array of
pathways towards understanding.” Simulations that he used while he taught
mitosis and meiosis and velocity and acceleration helped his students build a
conceptual understanding of these abstract concepts.
Even though Matt was “excited about the
potential demonstrated by the VeeMaps and would like to move towards them as
[his] means of assessment and presentation of lab reports,” he did not use them
during the school year. Matt felt “somewhat uncertain,” and he thought he
“needed to spend more time thinking about them before he is ready to turn to
them as an organizing feature of [his] teaching.”
Matt was a proponent of inquiry-based
teaching. He believed that students learn science best while they are doing it.
Thus, he frequently used inquiry activities in his classroom. Although some of
these activities were long term science projects such as testing water quality
in the creek, others were one-class-period-long inquiry activities. At the
beginning of the spring semester, Matt taught students about organisms, and
students conducted various directed inquiry activities about cabbage white butterflies,
Wisconsin fast plants, and wow bugs. Matt provided the research question on all
these activities, and students made observations to answer his questions. For
example, students did a long-term project to investigate how cabbage white
Cassie was a second-year teacher in an
urban charter school that served only immigrant students. She taught 9th-,
10th-, 11th-, and 12th- grade Earth science, physical
science, and life science. Before she participated in the program she had basic
computer skills (e.g., using word processing, Excel, and PowerPoint
applications). In her teaching, Cassie did not use many of the tools such as
probeware and simulations that she learned in the teacher education program,
since she did not feel comfortable using them in her classroom. For Cassie,
“using technology has always been difficult. “She would rather do things the
old fashioned way.” However, she believed that she should integrate technology
into her classroom instruction since “the world is becoming more technology
Cassie was the only teacher who
expressed that the summer course was less helpful for her than she expected.
Cassie stressed that she “learned a lot about technology and how to integrate
it into the classroom, but we did not really do it a lot [during] the summer.”
She wanted more “structure and specific expectations.” Cassie struggled with
learning how to use many of the technology tools since the university educators
in TEC used an inquiry-based approach rather than giving teachers step-by-step
procedures that Cassie wanted to follow to learn about the technology tools.
During a classroom observation in fall 2008, Cassie expressed that she had already
forgotten how to use CMap tools that she learned two months prior in the summer
After participating in the summer
program, Cassie expressed that her commitment for the following year was “to
introduce VeeMaps as an alternative to traditional lab reports, and to
incorporate one aspect of inquiry into each of [her] biology units.” She
continued, “Introducing VeeMaps makes me a little nervous, and I am not sure
how I will approach it.” During the school year, Cassie’s concerns prevented
her from using VeeMaps in her instruction. She did not feel comfortable using
them with her minority students who had limited English skills.
Cassie did not incorporate any of the
technology tools that she learned in the program into her teaching. In an
interview, she expressed that she had limited access to these tools, and she
taught in a school environment that did not give her many choices but
lecturing. Most of her students came to the U.S. just before the school
started. In addition to limited language skills, her students had a conception
of science different than Western science. For example, in an observed class,
Cassie taught students about cell organelles in an animal cell. Since she did
not even have an overhead projector in her classroom, Cassie gave her students photocopied
papers that showed the organelles of an animal cell. After explaining the role
of each organelle Cassie asked her students to make cells using plastic plates,
candies, and jelly. Cassie was surprised when her students did not show any
interest in making cells. Students could not understand this cell analogy
Cassie stated “Science is not fact and
science is not just memorizing. Inquiry is the true scientific method and it is
important to teach students how to think critically because inquiry can be
applied anywhere in their lives.” For Cassie, inquiry is “a student-centered
activity where students explore something first and then they maybe get an
introduction to it and then they apply it.” In an inquiry activity, Cassie wanted
her students to “drive the most part of the work. The students are, hopefully, in
theory investigating something that they are interested in first and then learn
something and apply it. For me this is ideally and I never do it…open inquiry”
[laughs]. According to Cassie it is difficult to implement the inquiry
emphasized in the NSES and literature. Cassie said that to be able to do reform
based teaching, a science teacher needs to have “enough science supplies and
science space [own classroom].” In the following quote, Cassie talked about her
constraints in implementing inquiry-based teaching.
I try to create
a student centered environment but it exhausted me. I have to focus on how to
teach people who do not speak English very well about science without any books.
I do not have any books that really work and I do not have my own classroom.
Cassie attempted “to increase the amount
of inquiry within each biology unit.” At the beginning of the school year,
Cassie had many concerns. She did not know “how inquiry will work within the
school structure.” Also, she did not
have many science supplies with which to work. Thus, she hoped to start small
and train the students to think more in-depth about science, but more
importantly about their world. However, having so many barriers prevented
Cassie from implementing any inquiry lessons during the school year.
The Influence of TEC on Science
Teachers’ Development of TPACK
As emphasized earlier, in this study
McCrory’s (2008) conceptualization of TPACK was employed as a theoretical
framework. In the present study, the four components of TPACK–knowledge of
science, of students, of pedagogy, and of technology – were investigated to find
science teachers’ development of TPACK. TEC was found to have a varying impact
on each participant teacher’s development of TPACK. In the following section,
each component of TPACK and how TEC impacted these components are discussed. In
addition, the school context and teachers’ reasoning skills are discussed as
critical influences on teachers’ development of TPACK.
Knowledge of Science. To teach science
effectively, science teachers need to have an adequate level of knowledge of
science. Thus, science teachers should refresh their knowledge of science to
maximize their students’ learning. Teachers in TEC were provided with
opportunities to review and update their knowledge about science. The summer
course readings helped teachers broaden their knowledge construction. For
example, when teachers practiced with pH and temperature probes in performing
experiments on greenhouse gases, they also improved their knowledge on this
topic. The university educators assigned teachers to read articles about greenhouse
gases before participating in the activities. Prior to conducting experiments
about greenhouse gases, the university educators and the teachers discussed the
topic. Through these readings and classroom discussions teachers improved their
understanding of greenhouse gases. According to Brenna, this strategy really
helped her to increase her understanding of the topic and to figure out various
ways to design an inquiry lab activity on greenhouse gases for her Earth
TEC did not specifically target improving teachers' content knowledge. As participants taught in different science subject areas, it was difficult to target growth in content knowledge. Thus, TEC specifically focused on helping teachers to rethink science and their representation of science in their teaching. In TEC, teachers frequently engaged in classroom discussions on what science is and what inquiry is, and these discussions helped teachers understand how scientific knowledge is generated and justified. All the teachers found these discussions “intensive.”
Knowledge of Pedagogy. Most beginning
science teachers struggle with developing effective lesson plans. In order to
create lesson plans that meet all students’ needs, teachers need to have a deep
understanding about student learning and strategies that help students
construct knowledge and improve skills and abilities. In TEC, teachers learned
how to create technology-supported, inquiry-based lesson plans. In the summer
course, teachers wrote lesson plans and shared them with other teachers in the
community Web site. The university educators provided suggestions to improve
lesson plans if needed. The community Web site now has several lesson plans
that teachers can use in their classrooms.
Creating classroom management and
organization is one of the biggest challenges for beginning science teachers (Roehrig & Luft, 2004). These challenges
become more complicated when integrating technology into teaching. Given the
preponderance of beginning teachers in TEC, the university educators provided
extensive guidance for teachers in helping them overcome the classroom
management issues they faced during their instruction. In classroom
discussions, face-to-face meetings, and online discussion boards teachers
shared their experiences and constraints, while university educators and
colleagues provided possible solutions. However, all the teachers were found to
struggle with management issues during the school year. Brenna, for example,
had a hard time managing her classroom when she faced problems with her
computer. Since she was not able to troubleshoot the computer-related problem,
she panicked and could not establish classroom order.
Matt also struggled with introducing
technology tools to his students. In his instruction, Matt used various tools
and showed great enthusiasm for these technology tools. He wanted all his
students engaged in technology tools. However, students did not show high
interest in the technology tools every time Matt used them in his
instruction. Although students engaged in using CMap tools, they showed low
engagement when they used the digital microscope. Matt still needed to find
effective strategies to keep each student involved in technology-rich lessons.
Knowledge of Technology. The main goal of
TEC was to help teachers integrate technology tools into their classrooms.
As discussed previously, Jason, Matt, and Brenna integrated technology in their
teaching in various degrees. On the other hand, Cassie could not incorporate
technology tools into her classroom. One possible explanation was the
difference in teachers’ previous experiences with technology tools. When Jason
and Matt started the program, they were more comfortable using many of the
technology tools in their teaching than Cassie and Brenna were. In her first
and second teaching year, Brenna attempted to use some of the tools that she
learned during the teacher preparation program. However, in her first teaching
year, Cassie did not use any of the tools that she learned in the teacher
preparation program. Thus, Cassie was the only teacher who had limited
knowledge and skills required to teach science with technology.
Jason and Matt were “technology
enthusiasts” and they focused on learning and also integrating as many
technology tools as possible. They actively searched for opportunities to
improve their technology knowledge. Both these teachers used other tools such
as digital microscopes and interactive white boards that were not presented in
the summer course. Moreover, these teachers took leadership roles in their
schools. Jason taught his colleagues how to use CMaps. Matt attempted to help
his colleagues to use online student discussions as a new strategy to assess
Knowledge of Students. Jason, Matt,
Brenna, and Cassie all believed that students learn science best when they are
“engaged in science.” As such, all these teachers were advocates of
inquiry-based teaching. During the program, teachers learned how to turn
cookbook labs into inquiry activities. In science classrooms, teachers commonly
use cookbook lab activities in which students follow a given procedure.
However, according to Brenna students do not “retain too much” through cookbook
lab activities. Allowing students to “write their own procedure” helps students
learn better. Before participating in the program, Brenna’s concern was how much
help she should provide students in an inquiry activity. In the summer program,
teachers performed the inquiry activities as students. Teachers were
facilitated but not directed by the university educators. Participating in
these activities helped Brenna understand a teacher’s role in an inquiry
The classroom discussions on effective
science teaching also allowed teachers to have a better understanding of what good
science teaching and learning look like. In addition, university educators shared
their previous experiences with teachers in classroom discussions and online
discussions. They shared their knowledge about common student misconceptions
and difficulties in learning science.
The Critical Factors Influencing
Teachers’ Development of TPACK
The school context and teachers’
pedagogical reasoning were found to have notable impact on teachers’
development of TPACK. We found
that contextual constraints such as availability of technology tools and
characteristics of student population had large impacts on the teachers’
development of TPACK, as previously suggested by Koehler and Mishra (2005,
2008) and McCrory (2008). Furthermore, detailed analysis revealed that
teachers’ development of TPACK was closely related to their pedagogical
reasoning (Shulman, 1987). It was found that teachers’ pedagogical reasoning
skills influence teachers’ use of knowledge bases that are necessary to develop
TPACK. Thus, it is possible that a relationship exists between teachers’
development of TPACK and their pedagogical reasoning skills.
School Context. Jason, Matt, and
Brenna all had access to technology tools in their schools, and their school
community encouraged them to teach with technology. This continuous support
from the school community allowed these teachers to reform their practices. As
emphasized earlier, in TEC, university educators and participating teachers
build a learning community to support teachers to integrate technology into their
teaching. However, as previous research suggested, communities are not quickly
formed (Grossman et al., 2001). Not all teachers are equally interested in
entering the community, as in the case of Cassie.
At the end of the program, Cassie was not
comfortable with using many of the technology tools in her science classroom.
Even though she learned about these tools in her teacher education program and
TEC, Cassie still wanted to have more time and training to learn to use
technology tools. Perhaps issues related with Cassie’s school environment also
impacted her decision to keep teaching without using any technology tools. Her
ESL students had almost no background with science or technology. Cassie
mostly focused on finding ways to help these students learn about science, but she
did not put effort into implementing inquiry activities and finding technology
tools to incorporate that may have fostered her students’ learning
of science. However, many research studies have shown the effectiveness of using inquiry
as well as technology tools with ESL students (Mistler-Jackson & Songer,
Teachers’ Pedagogical Reasoning. Similar to
previous studies (Shulman, 1987), it was found that teachers’ pedagogical
reasoning mirrored their pedagogical actions. Teachers’ reasons for their
decisions about classroom instruction closely related to their conceptions of
science, effective science teaching and instructional strategies, purposes of
science teaching, and student understanding. For example, Matt said that
technology scaffolds students’ learning of science, and students can learn
science best when they are actively engaged in science. Matt was found to
transform his ideas into his teaching. He decided to use instructional
strategies such as inquiry-based teaching, representations such as concept
mapping tools, and simulations after participating TEC. Based on his students’
characteristics, he adapted many of the strategies he learned in the program.
During his instruction, he clearly expressed his expectations to his students.
He wanted all his students to be active learners. In some of the lessons,
however, students did not show the interest Matt expected. Thus, he decided to
use different classroom management strategies in the next teaching year. This
process of reflection was a part of his pedagogical reasoning and guided his
In TEC, teachers were encouraged to be
reflective about their teaching. The classroom and online discussions helped
teachers restructure their ideas about effective science teaching. Teachers
found opportunities to analyze their pedagogical reasons behind their actions.
Jason, Matt, and Brenna thought about how they teach and how they wanted to
teach in the future. They reflected on their practices and then reformed their
practices. Thus, it seems that the development of TPACK closely related to
teachers’ pedagogical reasoning and TEC encouraged teachers critically to analyze
their pedagogical reasoning and pedagogical actions.
The findings of this study provide suggestions for designers of professional development programs that aim to improve science teachers’ development of TPACK. Well-developed programs that provide opportunities for participating teachers to build and sustain “learning communities” seem to have positive impacts on science teachers’ technology integration. Continuous support is necessary to help teachers overcome the constraints in incorporating technology. With models such as Loucks-Horsley et al., (2003) and Bell and Gilbert’s (2004), which focus on collaboration among teachers, effective professional development programs can be designed for science teachers to reform their practices. It is important to note that in the summer course we were limited in our ability to address certain aspects of TPACK (content knowledge) and broader, related issues such as school context. The follow-up activities and action research were critical in addressing and developing individual teachers’ classroom practices. In particular, it was found to be necessary to provide teachers follow-up assistance during the time when they were designing and implementing their technology-enriched lessons and action research projects.
The findings of this study also suggest
that teachers should reflect on their classroom practices in order to
incorporate technology and inquiry into their teaching more effectively.
Conducting action research projects and keeping reflective blogs (or journals)
in which teachers analyze their experiences and reflect on their practices
allowed them to see the effectiveness of technology on students’ learning and
to reflect on and modify their practices. As emphasized by other researchers,
reflective practice can help teachers improve their knowledge of pedagogy and
knowledge of students (Cochran-Smith & Lytle, 1993). Thus, professional
development programs focusing on technology integration should provide teachers
opportunities to reflect on their teaching and share their experiences both
with professional development leaders and their peers.
Based on the results of this study it is
evident that further research needs to be conducted in some areas. Regarding
science teachers’ development of TPACK, it is clear that more data needs to be
collected from experienced science teachers who have already incorporated
technology into their teaching. Experienced science teachers with
well-developed TPACK may help us to gain a better understanding of the nature
and development of TPACK. In addition, the comparison studies between beginning
and experienced science teachers’ TPACK may allow us to create better teacher
education and professional development programs that focus on improving
In this study, participating teachers
were followed for one year. Technology integration takes time and requires
commitment. Thus, there is a need to conduct long-term research studies to
track teachers’ development for a long period of time. In addition, at the end
of the program, the university researchers and the participating teachers
decided to sustain the learning community that they built during the program.
Further research is needed to find the effects of participating in a learning
community during and after the professional development program in teachers’
development of TPACK.
for this project were provided by a grant from the federal Teacher Quality
Program of the No Child Left Behind Act administered by the Minnesota Office of
Higher Education. This project was financed by $49,753.00 in federal funds. The
position expressed herein represents the point of view of the authors and not
necessarily the view of personnel affiliated with the Minnesota of Higher
Education. The authors thank David Gross and Joel Donna for their contributions
for the design and implementation of the program.
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S. Selcen Guzey
University of Minnesota
Gillian H. Roehrig
University of Minnesota