Moving beyond Subject Matter Knowledge: Assessing Elementary Teachers’ Content Knowledge for Teaching Science

Jamie Mikeska (PI) & Geoffrey Phelps (Co-PI), Educational Testing Service

The goal of this project is to develop a better understanding about the key design features important for developing valid and reliable assessments of Content Knowledge for Teaching (CKT) science. The science education professional development landscape is full of a variety of learning opportunities to enhance K-12 science teachers’ abilities to effectively support their students’ learning. However, the field is hampered by a lack of valid and reliable assessments of science teachers’ knowledge that can be used for making decisions about which aspects of teachers’ knowledge should be the focus of these professional learning opportunities. This project will provide an important step towards building consensus in the field about the most productive approaches for developing assessments of elementary teachers’ knowledge in order to inform ongoing professional development efforts in science. This study is poised to support efforts to develop indicators that can be used to monitor and improve elementary science teachers’ learning in both teacher preparation and professional development settings.

The project is designed to build upon the robust evidentiary base for the importance of science teachers’ practice-based knowledge, which suggests that it is important for the field to have measures that can assess not only teachers’ subject matter knowledge, but also their knowledge about how to teach these subjects. This validation study concentrates on examining how two types of science measures — practice-based CKT items and subject matter knowledge items — assess distinct aspects of elementary teacher’s knowledge and how these measures relate to other indicators of teachers’ professional preparation and experience. This work directly addresses indicator 6 , teachers’ science and mathematics content knowledge for teaching, of the National Research Council report Monitoring Progress Toward Successful K-12 Education: A Nation Advancing? The project will assess 150 grades 3-6 teachers with items developed to measure science CKT, followed by cognitive interviews of 24 of these teachers to explore the content validity of the items and explore the relationship among science CKT and other measures of teacher quality such as years of experience teaching, self-efficacy, and self-reported confidence in teaching particular concepts.

See NSF award information.

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