Science Teacher Educators’ Engagement with Pedagogical Content Knowledge and Scientific Inquiry in Predominantly Paper-Based Distance Learning Programs

William J. FRASER

This article focuses on the dilemmas science educators face when having to introduce Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) to science student teachers in a predominantly paper-based distance learning environment. It draws on the premise that science education is bound by the Nature of Science (NOS), and by the Nature of Scientific Inquiry (NOSI). Furthermore, science educators’ own PCK, and the limitations of a predominantly paper-based distance education (DE) model of delivery are challenges that they have to face when introducing PCK and authentic inquiry-based learning experiences. It deprives them and their students from optimal engagement in a science-oriented community of practice, and leaves little opportunity to establish flourishing communities of inquiry. This study carried out a contextual analysis of the tutorial material to assess the PCK that the student teachers had been exposed to. This comprised the ideas of a community of inquiry, a community of science, the conceptualization of PCK, scientific inquiry, and the 5E Instructional Model of the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study. The analysis confirmed that the lecturers had a good understanding of NOS, NOSI and science process skills, but found it difficult to design interventions to optimize the PCK development of students through communities of inquiry. Paper-based tutorials are ideal to share theory, policies and practices, but fail to monitor the engagement of learners in communities of inquiry. The article concludes with a number of suggestions to address the apparent lack of impact power of the paper-based mode of delivery, specifically in relation to inquiry-based teaching and learning (IBTL).

KEYWORDS: Pedagogical content knowledge, nature of science, nature of scientific inquiry, community of inquiry, inquiry-based teaching and learning.

DOI : 10.17718/tojde.340375