Browsing Theses and Dissertations by Subject "University Teaching"
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The transformation of science and mathematics content knowledge into teaching content by university facultyUniversity science and mathematics education today is no longer solely focused on training the small fraction of students who will become tomorrow's science and mathematics researchers, but is required to engage and create scientifically/mathematically literate American citizens (Ball, 2000; Dean, 2009; Kind, 2009a; Mooney & Kirshenbaum, 2009; Olsen, 2009). University professors are typically content experts not trained in pedagogy. This creates unique teaching issues in transforming complex content material. Expert content mastery of a subject can blind faculty to potential student difficulties (Ben-Peretz, 2011; Nathan, Koedinger, & Alibali, 2001). This, combined with limited pedagogical training and curricular constraints, can create teaching difficulties, contributing to high levels of student attrition (Bhattacharya, 2012; Feldon, Timmerman, Stowe, & Showman, 2010). Considerable research has been conducted on best teaching practices and the central role that content knowledge plays in teaching, yet little evidence is found to illuminate the processes by which subject matter content experts (faculty) unpack their expertise for use in teaching (Ball, 2000; Bouwma-Gearhart, 2012; French, 2005; Weiman, Perkins, & Gilbert, 2010). Much of the research literature defines deconstructing and unpacking content knowledge as the complex processes by which experts transform content knowledge into knowledge used for teaching (Abell, 2008; Ball & Bass, 2000; Hashweh, 2005; Shulman, 1986, 1987). According to the well accepted educational construct known as pedagogical content knowledge (PCK), teachers possess unique and distinct sets of knowledge domains that enable them to transform their content into teachable knowledge (Shulman, 1986, 1987). Much of the literature agrees that strong foundational content knowledge is required in order to develop PCK (Hill, Rowen, & Ball, 2005; Lowenberg-Ball, Hoover-Thames, & Phelps, 2008; Padilla, Ponce-de-Leon, Rembado, & Garritz, 2008). If limited content is a major restriction in the development of PCK, how does this process proceed when content is strong, as in the case of university faculty? This study looked at the processes that occur as content experts (faculty) focus on the deconstruction process in order to develop lessons and teach. The study focused on the components or paths of the transformation process in an attempt to identify the development of the knowledge base that content experts use in order to teach. This study developed a survey from the existing literature in an attempt to illuminate the processes, tools, insights, and events that allow university science and mathematics content experts (Ph.D.'s) unpack their expertise in order to teach develop and teach undergraduate students. A pilot study was conducted at an urban university in order to refine the survey. The study consisted of 72 science or mathematics Ph.D. faculty members that teach at a research-based urban university. Follow-up interviews were conducted with 21 volunteer faculty to further explore their methods and tools for developing and implementing teaching within their discipline. Statistical analysis of the data revealed: faculty that taught while obtaining their Ph.D. were less confident in their ability to teach successful and faculty that received training in teaching believed that students have difficult to change misconceptions and do not commit enough time to their course. Student centered textbooks ranked the highest among tools used to gain teaching strategies followed by grading of exams and assignments for gaining insights into student knowledge and difficulties. Science and mathematics education literature and university provided education session ranked the lowest in rating scale for providing strategies for teaching. The open-ended survey questions were sub-divided and analyzed by the number of years of experience to identify the development of teaching knowledge over time and revealed that teaching became more interactive, less lecture based, and more engaging. As faculty matured and gained experience they became more aware of student misconceptions and difficulties often changing their teaching to eliminate such issues. As confidence levels increase their teaching included more technology-based tools, became more interactive, incorporated problem based activities, and became more flexible. This change occurred when and if faculty members altered their thinking about their knowledge from an expert centered perspective to a student centric view. Follow-up interviews of twenty faculty yielded a wide variety of insights into the complicated method of deconstructing expert science and mathematics content. The interviews revealed a major disconnect between education research and researchers and the science and mathematics content experts who teach. There is a pervasive disregard for science and mathematics education and training. Faculty members find little to no support for teaching. Though 81% obtained their Ph.D. with the intent to enter an academic setting, pedagogical training was non-existent or limited, both prior to and after obtaining faculty positions. Experience alone did not account for confidence or ability to successfully teach. Faculty that were able to `think like a student' and view their material from a student's perspective' seemed to be the most confident and flexible in their teaching methods. Grading and having an open and interactive teaching style, being on the `side of the students' also seemed to allow faculty to connect more deeply with the students and learn about common misconceptions and difficulties. Though most faculty claimed to not teach as they were taught and not recall having specific content difficulties, this essential interaction with many students facilitated a shift in thinking about their content. This shift allowed for a reversal from teacher centered classrooms to student centered. Multiple issues arise when teaching at a traditional larger lecture style found in the majority of universities science and mathematics courses that constrain and provide unique teaching challenges. Many faculty have developed unique tools to incorporate successful teaching strategies, such as daily pre-quizzes and smart-phone questioning as well as small group work, computer posted guides, strategic class breaks, and limiting lecture style in favor of a more active engaged classroom.