Pre-Service K-8 Teachers’ Understanding of Big Ideas

Presented by Jane Rice Elementary and middle school teachers are responsible for 9 years of the science education of K-12 students.  At each grade level, these teachers must teach the basic concepts, or big ideas, of life science, Earth science, and physical science.  Yet, most of these teachers did not graduate with a science major let alone with academic training in integrating these concepts across science disciplines.  Many are lacking in understanding even the basic concept that the foundation of all life science is physical science - those basic principles of chemistry and physics that apply to all living things.  In our NSF-funded research project we focus on developing pre-service teachers’ understanding and use of foundational big ideas to solve real world problems in all science disciplines.  Our project first assesses these future teachers’ misconceptions and missing conceptions related to matter and energy interactions and conservation.  The second focus is on developing and implementing just-in-time hands-on, inquiry-based instructional activities that address inaccurate conceptions in these foundational big ideas.