Public Release: 

Training for science teachers should focus on learning, not teaching strategies

University of Arizona

Three different professions need to be involved in training our secondary-school science teachers, but it's a rare program that does that, says Debra Tomanek.

Moreover, folks in those professions -- science teachers, science-teacher educators, and university science faculty members -- need to think differently about how to train science teachers and about how to teach science.

Tomanek says all three professions must shift their focus from strategies for teaching to understanding how and why students learn.

"I wish we asked 'How do my students learn?' as often as we ask 'What is the best way to teach?'" says Tomanek, an associate professor of molecular and cellular biology at the University of Arizona in Tucson. She believes that all those involved in preparing science teachers must become more curious about how people learn.

Tomanek will present her ideas on how to prepare good science teachers at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday, February 15 in at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Seattle. Her presentation, part of the panel "Preparation of Science and Mathematics Teachers: Three Cultures, One Goal?" will be in Rm. 619/620 of the Washington State Convention and Trade Center, 800 Convention Place, Seattle.

Recruiting talented undergraduate science majors as science teachers is a significant step in improving the preparation of science teachers, says Tomanek, the director of the innovative science-teacher training program run by the University of Arizona's College of Science.

"Having secondary-school science-teacher prep take up residence in a college of science is a good move," she says.

Tomanek, who calls herself a "science-teacher educator," has experience in all three professions that she wants to change: she has been a high-school science teacher, a college of education faculty member and is now a faculty member in a college of science.

Another change she advocates is one that the UA program has already incorporated: having science teachers help develop and run the teacher-training program.

"The science teachers I work with say they are rarely asked by anyone how incoming teachers should be prepared," she says.


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