This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Elementary Preservice Teachers' Conceptions of Common Approaches to Teaching Science and Mathematics




Nunes-Bufford, Kimberly

Type of Degree



Curriculum and Teaching


This study investigated preservice teachers’ thinking about common approaches to math and science education for elementary children in grades K-6. Specifically, this study focused on preservice teachers' thinking on the interpretation of tools for conceptual development, consideration of processes for meaningful learning, and conceptions of pedagogical approaches between mathematics and science. The study occurred while elementary preservice teachers where in a jointly enrolled science and mathematics methods classes and subsequent internship. The learning cycle was a common approach used in the methods courses and used by elementary preservice teachers in the field. The nature of the students’ understandings was examined through several data sources: open-ended pre and post-course tests and weekly blogs. Results indicated varied conceptions of tools, processes, and approaches in science and math teaching at the beginning of the methods courses. Many of the participants initially thought of science and math as being approached in differing ways. Initial views of science ranged from preservice teachers thinking of science in terms of teaching out of the textbook, watching videos, or conducting experiments. Initial views of mathematics teaching ranged from teachers demonstrating and students practicing, teaching real-world mathematics, or teaching mathematics with hands-on learning. All of the participants expressed broadened ideas about teaching mathematics and science at the end of both methods courses. At the end of the semester 82 percent of preservice teachers recognized commonalities in teaching approaches for math and science, including use of inquiry-based teaching, as well as the use of the learning cycle. Follow-up observations were conducted from a portion of the participants during their student teaching experience. Case studies were presented of two of the preservice teachers’ conceptions of use of tools, processes, and approaches to mathematics while in their internship. Jane wanted students to understand mathematics beyond memorizing formulas. With some mentoring, Jane developed and implemented lessons that used tools for conceptual development, processes for reasoning, and a learning cycle approach. Kate believed that mathematics needed to be approached with real life mathematics, such as time and money, in order to keep students engaged. With mentoring, Kate also implemented a few lessons following standards based math curricula that involved tools to promote understanding and processes for reasoning. However, by the end of the observation time she reverted back to a style of teaching that focused on learning facts in isolation.