Preparing Pre-Service STEM Teachers to Teach Using Digital Modeling and Simulation Applications

Preparing Pre-Service STEM Teachers to Teach Using Digital Modeling and Simulation Applications

Mary C. Enderson (Old Dominion University, USA) and Ginger S. Watson (University of Virginia, USA)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 24
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7001-1.ch019


This chapter presents a case approach used for modeling and simulation applications in a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) teacher preparation program to assist in the development of technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK). In this digital age, many pre-service teachers use technological tools daily but do not have knowledge on how to use tools in ways to help develop understanding of STEM concepts. The authors present a framework that promotes learning by teaching to prepare STEM teachers with ways to use modeling and simulation tools in classroom instruction.
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Teacher preparation programs have a long history in progressing the work of Lee Shulman (1986, 1987) related to the intersections of content knowledge and pedagogical knowledge – referred to as pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) needed for teaching. This is especially true for the fields of mathematics and science as there is often a great divide between what teachers learn in content courses and what they learn in education courses (Ball, 2000; Ball & Bass, 2000). For many programs, the two shall never meet, which results in pre-service teachers having few opportunities to see the importance of different teaching styles for diverse learners. In several instances, content rises to the top of instruction with little regard for students’ needs to make sense of the content.

Technology as a tool for exploring concepts and ideas can help bridge the content and pedagogy so to provide an ideal learning environment for all. The dilemma lies in that technology is in a constant state of change, which presents challenges to teachers fully embracing such tools in classroom instruction. Teachers need learning experiences where they develop technological knowledge (TK) that will connect with content and pedagogical knowledge. “Understanding the impact of technology on the practices and knowledge of a given discipline is critical to developing appropriate technological tools for educational purposes” (Koehler & Mishra, 2009, p. 65). This technological knowledge is a component of TPACK, Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge, which is critical for today’s teachers to acquire. TPACK not only identifies one’s possession of content, pedagogical, and technological knowledge, but also the insight to know how these areas interact with and support each other. The authors believe digital tools that support modeling and simulations (M&S) in the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM, will help develop stronger TPACK in future teachers. These digital tools are a critical part of everyday life, but more importantly play a major role in applications used in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Preparation programs need to give due attention to promoting such tools in their programs so to advance the technological knowledge of content specific teachers.

This chapter presents the efforts of one undergraduate STEM teacher preparation program to make attempts at developing TPACK in secondary pre-service teachers. Specifically, cases involving the use of M&S applications are integrated into STEM education courses where science, technology education, and mathematics pre-service teachers explore content as learners and then transition into presenting content as teachers. There is little research on pre-service teacher development of TPACK (Jang & Chen, 2010; Niess, 2005) and even less on the integration of M&S tools to help in this process. This chapter addresses how technological cases are framed and accomplished, along with the successes and challenges one secondary program has confronted in preparing teachers for today’s STEM classrooms.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Modeling: Creation of a mathematical or logic representation of a phenomenon or process, otherwise known as a model.

Excelet: An interactive spreadsheet of a mathematical model or simulation created and accessed in Microsoft Excel. They allow the user to manipulate the values of variables in the underlying mathematical model and see resulting changes in output, typically in the form of graphs, values, dynamic formulas, and text overlays.

Simulation: A physical or digital model with an interface that allows a learner to interact, manipulate variables, observe processes, and visualize results.

Affordance: Specific features of a tool or technology that facilitate learning. Affordance of different educational technologies vary and may include features such as visualization, interaction, manipulation, calculation, or play, to name a few.

Inquiry-Based Learning: A form of active student learning often facilitated by the classroom teacher. The format for such learning involves posing questions, problems, or scenarios to students where they research, using various tools, to find answers/responses to the given situation.

Tools: A physical instrument or digital program that assists in completing a task or job. The effective and efficient use of tools involves the development of skills and proficiencies gained through extended use over time.

Reflection: A process of thinking about one’s teaching and components of instruction that went well and parts that did not go well. This process allows one to think more deeply about factors that may improve future instruction and/or have a greater impact on student learning.

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