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Implementation of Constructivist Pedagogy in a Geoscience Course Designed for Pre-Service K-6 Teachers: Progress, Pitfalls, and Lessons Learned
The constructivist approach to science education is recognized as being valuable for building deep student understanding of scientific content and inquiry. This article describes a study in which researchers introduced a constructivist approach in two teacher-training courses and assessed their resulting content knowledge with examination-based assessments. Contrary to expectations, the change in teaching style led to a dramatic decrease in student performance. Revisions of the course in the subsequent semester based on analysis of test responses and student comments led to a new curriculum with reduced content breadth and greater emphasis on scaffolded, inquiry-based exercises which built understanding gradually and with reinforcement. These changes resulted in modest performance gains. The researchers concluded that the implementation of constructivist teaching must allow enough time to address prior conceptions and facilitate students' incorporation of new ideas, limit the breadth of content taught, explicitly introduce students unfamiliar with scientific inquiry to methods they will use to learn the content, and take steps to avoid the common pitfalls of group work.
Intended for grade levels:
  • Graduate / Professional
Type of resource:
  • Text:
    • Journal article
  • Educational theory and practice
Technical requirements:
Adobe Acrobat reader
Cost / Copyright:
No cost
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DLESE Catalog ID: EVAL-TLKT-000-000-000-106
Resource contact / Creator / Publisher:
Publisher: National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT)
Journal of Geoscience Education (JGE)

Author: Eric M. Riggs
Center for Research in Mathematics and Science Education
San Diego State University

Author: David L. Kimbrough
Department of Geological Sciences
San Diego State University