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Article Review

The article under consideration by Lowery, Norene Vail is entitled “Construction of teacher knowledge in context: Preparing elementary teachers to teach mathematics and science” and deals with the present-day necessity of conducting reforms for changing the status of teacher in education and reconsidering the role of teacher as learner.

In the introduction the scholar formulates and further on thoroughly defines a research problem, he describes the research question and advances a hypothesis that discovery of learning venue, the meaning he later explains, and school-based experiences may afford “preservice teachers greater opportunities to focus on content and instructional strategies at deeper levels, address anxieties and become more confident and competent teachers” (Lowery). In the introductory part Lowery gives out strong purpose of the study that is to improve the understanding of how preservice teachers construct professional knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge of elementary mathematics and science in a school-based setting and to define the extent of knowledge construction. Then the scholar briefly describes the indispensability of carrying out the research and smoothly moves on to the relevant research questions that are placed in a separate paragraph of the article to draw proper attention to them. Then the scholar presents a brief overview of the interconnection of understanding teaching and learning how to teach that are crucial in understanding teacher knowledge and teacher thinking. Lowery considers learning and teaching in the social contexts; he by the way emphasizes the significance of knowledge construction in authentic learning contexts and learning in social context quoting the surveys of other prominent researchers in the field. Teacher knowledge is regarded as having seven domains: knowledge of the subject, pedagogical content knowledge, knowledge of other content, knowledge of learners and of the curriculum, knowledge of educational aims, general pedagogical knowledge.

The research was limited in elementary school mathematics and science. It was conducted in a school-based setting concentrating on the construction of teacher knowledge in preservice teachers in the field of elementary mathematics and science. Respondents were 31 junior and senior elementary education majors at a large university enrolled in a required methods course that fulfills certification for elementary mathematics and science instruction.

The next subsection “Research Methodology, Design and Procedures” represents an important part of the study as research methods choice is crucial for what conclusions are consequently made about the research problem. He observes the norms of qualitative methodology, the methods course is mainly content-specific with instruction in elementary mathematics and science. The site for methods instruction is situated on a suburban public elementary school campus in a central Texas school district, the campus being state rated with a student population as high performing and exemplary. The four team teachers’ goals are to be informed of national and state standards and become reflective practitioners. The university instructors give advice in field experience activities. The researcher uses both primary ad secondary data collection, though primary data collection dominates, such as questionnaires, reflective journals, in-depth individual and group interviews, methods course artifacts, school artifacts etc. The descriptive profile of data sources is by the way efficiently presented in Appendix A. The researcher applies to constructivist learning approach and authentic assessment to create and evaluate collaborative environment. Lowery uses a wide variety of data collection instruments that enable relatively objective and thorough data collection.

The next subsection deals with the analysis of data that is made visual in the data analysis chart (Appendix B). Lowery in turn discusses each stage of data analysis starting with the first one that is unitizing the data. The second stage of data analysis deals with sorting and the third sorts learning components into the learning categories. The analysis carried out in the fourth stage enables better understanding the knowledge construction by preservice teachers. Learning componenets are in their turn sorted into learning venues and the teachers’ knowledge is constructed through them.

In the subsection “Results” the scholar considers the elements interacting within the collaborative environment, singling out the two systems, the first being called the School System that comprised the elementary school campus, the in-service teachers, the elementary students and the principal, the second that is the University System comprised the preservice teachers, the methods course and the course instructors. The two mentioned systems merge in the school-based setting and create the third system “the Cohort of Learners System” that provides opportunities for situated learning. Within the system learning the following categories are singled out: learning from teachers, learning from children, learning from the methods course and instructors, learning from self, peers and others. The categories are confirmed and verified by the data analysis that in its turn confirmed that learning is “nurtured in situated learning context” (Lowery). Learning components are consequently identified in learning categories. However, it is reasonable to note that mere enumerating and characterizing the learning categories and components is not enough for achieving the purpose of the study.

The scholar goes on with data analysis in order to determine how preservice teachers construct the knowledge and define the extent of the construction. The research shows that preservice teachers learn about classroom management not only from the methods course and instructors but also from their elementary students, in-service teachers, themselves and their peers. The scholar introduces the term “learning venue” that represents an active state of learning. They are learning through collaboration, learning through reflection and exemplary models as well as learning through situated context. Moreover, further data analysis shows the interactive, vibrant nature of the learning venues.

Lowery considers each learning venue category separately, the first being “Learning through Collaboration”. By means of this venue teachers learn with, about and from children, they get to know that children have a great deal to offer and share. The scholar cites teachers-participants and gives several examples showing how the collaborative efforts assisted in solving routine teaching-learning issues. The researcher in this case is merely a coordinator and a mediator of the process. He traces the way many teachers appreciate the research and identify knowledge growth as well as many other benefits cited in Lowery’s survey. One of the teachers claims: “…Not only have I learned a lot from and about the children while learning math and science, but I have also learned with them”. Therefore, the method applied is efficient and can be regarded as a massive source of learning for preservice teachers in the Cohort Learning System.

As for the next subsection that is another venue: “Learning through Reflection”, it presupposes reflective process of professional growth and successful teaching, as Lowery’s colleagues justly note. Reflective process in terms of the research is accomplished though the instruments like daily journal entries, informal evaluations and other course artifacts. That enables teachers find out what the most important aspects about science and mathematics teaching are. The school-based setting make teachers feel confident and competent not only during the course but also “during the rest if the teaching careers”. The approach proves to give a chance to teach subjects though discovery and exploration connecting mathematics and science to the real world. The data collection procedures such as observation and documentation verify and support the hypothesis.

Another learning venue is “Learning through Exemplary Models”, it demonstrats professional development, lesson planning, discipline management, assessment etc. The scholar conducts the research documented in interviews, portfolios and various observations that reveal new ways of teaching and learning mathematics and science through exemplary models venue.

However, Lowery has to describe one more venue that is “Learning through Situated Context”, giving teachers more opportunities to transfer learning “through authentic learning experiences”. This venue again allows teachers to trace the interrelation of teaching and daily living and collaboration development through the situated context venue.

In the “Summary” subsection Lowery reveals the relationship between learning components and categories, summarizes the data analysis testing the hypothesis. The research conducted facilitates preservice teachers’ learning and uses authentic assessment to promote new ways of teaching and learning. It is realized due to the phased and consistent data analysis that in its turn allows to produce the described results and to provide better understanding the knowledge construction by preservice teachers. Constructivist learning approach, authentic assessment and a great number of data collection and analysis instruments that are properly used lead to the formation of the relevant results and drawing the conclusions on the extent of knowledge construction in preservice teachers. The data analysis tools enabled the creation of the third system out of the existing two. The data analysis, results and conclusions of the research are closely interrelated as inaccuracy at any stage invariably leads to erroneous conclusions that nulls and voids the significance of any study.

Lowery introduces “learning venue” to describe the construction of knowledge and classified them. They provide the means for the teachers to acquire the teacher knowledge and PCK of elementary mathematics and science. The methods used and data gathered prove that school-based methods are closely connected with real life and provide the best experience for preservice teachers. Lowery concludes that the described “content-specific, school-based experiences may afford preservice teachers greater opportunities to focus on content and instructional strategies at deeper levels; to address anxieties typically associated with the teaching of elementary mathematics and science; and to become more confident and competent teachers” (Lowery).

In the final section of the article Lowery refers back to the study’s research problem and clearly periphrases the key points of the study proving the hypothesis. The conclusions are drawn based on validity and reliability of research findings. The scholar presents readers a substantial generalization and outlines possible application in the real world. He briefly enumerates the plans and provides recommendations for future research and outlines perspectives for further development of study in the field. However, he hardly acknowledges definite limitations without which no research is possible, as no study can be methodologically perfect. The scholar provides sufficient number of relevant references and thereby gives readers a chance to go on studying the issue if they get involved. The study considered is of significant value in the field and of great interest for students and researchers concerned as it shows a new way of constructing teachers’ knowledge in school-based environment in the filed of elementary mathematics and science. It fits with the contemporary demands of pedagogical research in the field and successfully attempts at solving one of its issues by providing better opportunities for learning and teaching as well as draws new inspiring horizons closer to the routine process of education.

References

Lowery, N.V. (2002). Construction of teacher knowledge in context: Preparing elementary teachers to teach mathematics and science. School Science and Mathematics. Retrieved from
http://www.ssma.org/