Science Education and the Construction of Professional Knowledge

Currently, I am pursuing two major lines of inquiry within a research program devoted to understanding how knowledge of science and knowledge of teaching science is constructed:

Reflective Practice and Science Teacher Education

Maker Pedagogy

This research project is currently funded by a SSHRC Insight Development Grant. The project seeks to interrupt traditional approaches to science teacher education by foregrounding principles of Maker thinking  (hack, adapt, design, create) in a teacher education program and in the early years of a teaching career. Teacher candidates participating in the study engage in a number of technology-focused projects in a small group environment throughout their pre-service program. For more details on this research, please visit our website.

Learning from experiences during practicum placements

This research project is currently funded by a SSHRC Standard Research Grant, obtained in conjunction with four other researchers at four institutions (Queen’s University, SFU, McGill University, and Université de Sherbrooke). The purpose of this project is to understand how teacher candidates learn during practicum (field) experiences in a teacher education program. Case-study methodology (individual surveys, semi-structured individual interviews, focus groups, lesson observations and researchers’ field notes) is being used to document existing patterns of interaction among those involved in candidates’ practicum learning.

Self-study and science teacher education

This research project is devoted to understanding how teacher educators (i.e., those who are responsible for teaching future science teachers) construct professional knowledge of practice. As the back matter to my recently co-edited book on this topic reads: “A dilemma . . . arises in science teacher education of how to shift perspectives among student teachers from reductionist to more inclusive attitudes that are open to the mercurial realities of teaching.” I am currently interested in the role that the acculturating effects of undergraduate training in science and engineering play in how future science teachers perceive their professional identities and responsibilities, and how teacher educators respond to issues around identity formation in science teacher candidates.

2. History and Philosophy of Science Education

The Professional Education of Engineers in Canada: 1945-1965

This project is particularly interested in the role played by professional organizations such as the Engineering Institute of Canada (EIC) in the continuing education of engineers post graduation during the first two decades of the Cold War. This history is inextricably linked to the engineering profession’s continual search for increased status in both the academy and in society and reveals an ongoing tension between the academic education of engineers in undergraduate programs and the continuing, professional education of working engineers. This tension both informs and is informed by the changing socio-cultural context of North America in the twentieth century, as engineers were alternately called upon to both solve the challenges of the post-war era through the application of scientific and technological knowledge, and roundly criticised for adopting technocratic approaches to problem-solving. The continuing professional education of engineers was seen as a place to address perceived shortcomings of initial engineering education by local professional development courses, sometimes (though not always) supported by a local university and large engineering firms. These continuing education courses might also been seen as a political strategy by professional engineering associations to bolster the popular image of the engineer and to continue to develop strong professional ties within the engineering community. This research is being conducted using archival sources.

Sir Oliver Lodge: Physicist and Public Educationist

Sir Oliver Lodge was a prominent member of the Maxwellians, a group of physicists who set about the task of describing and interpreting Maxwell’s Treatise in the late Victorian Era. Lodge was also a thoughtful pedagogue who became what we might call an educationist – someone who is publically called upon to speak about matters of science education and the structure and purpose of education more generally. In this project I seek to understand how Lodge’s approach to pedagogy and his views on education were informed by his work and identity as a physicist, a physics professor and University Principal, and his long affiliation with the Society for Psychical Research. Currently, I am focused on Lodge’s career as an educationist following his election as first Professor of Physics at the University of Liverpool in 1881 through his term as the first Principal of the newly formed University of Birmingham in 1900.