Standards for the Education of Science Teachers: Professional Practice
Examples of Indicators
Rationale and Discussion
Recommendations of the National Science Teachers Association
|Schematic of Contents||Introduction to This Paper Set|
|Proposed Introduction to the NSTA Standards for Science Teacher Preparation||Content and Pedagogy: Intersection in the NSTA Standards for Science Teacher Education|
Map of Links to and from Professional Practice
The NSTA Standards for Education of Teachers of Science were not written by the authors of this paper set, but are included in their entirety within the article. All standards are shown with a light blue background. Text by the authors of this article is on white and grey backgrounds.
Each of the ten standards was written collaboratively. This standard,Professional Practice, was developed under the leadership of Ron Bonnstetter.
The program prepares candidates to participate in the professional community, improving practice through their personal actions, education and development. Professional practice refers to:
Teaching becomes a profession when teachers practice with a common knowledge base and apply their knowledge to effective practice (Wise & Leibbrand, 1993). Professional practice, based on an accepted knowledge base and state of the art pedagogy, lies at the heart of educational reform. Professional teachers must ". . . be capable of profound reflection on practice, competent to enter into dialogue of the practice they know and the theory or literature they read; able to engage in . . . interpretation and critique with colleagues and with children; and able to observe, document, and analyze their own practice and experience, and take that analysis into the white-hot cauldron of public forums and public accountability" (Socketed, 1996, p.26). To achieve the status of a true profession, we must move forward common vision that identifies quality practices and ensures that unprepared candidates and teachers are either counseled out of teaching or provided with remediation.
The contemporary literature provides numerous insights into the major components of professional practice that go beyond the stereotypic notions of professional practice based only on objective notions of skills, expertise, and knowledge. Avis (1994) asserts that professional practice, as it is traditionally defined, "fails to address the critique voiced against professionalism in the '60s and '70s and in particular those that focused on the generation of class and gender inequalities in the school system . . . It is only by moving beyond the limitations of traditional professionalism that we can hope to develop an education that is potentially transformative and that engages seriously with the issues of society" (p. 66).
Society increasingly expects more than skilled technical labor from recognized professionals. Sergiovanni (1992) points out that these competencies must be linked to a set of professional virtues. Truly professional teachers must be committed to practicing in an exemplary way, moving toward valued social ends and an ethic of caring--toward meeting the needs of the professional community rather than just one's own needs.
Commitment to exemplary practice means staying abreast of the latest research in practice, examining one's own teaching, experimenting with new approaches, and sharing insights--in other words, becoming a reflective practitioner. Roychoudhury, Roth & Ebbing (1993) state that the process of becoming a reflective practitioner is facilitated by numerous opportunities to develop the skills of reflection in the context of real life experiences. By working with multiple variables and their interactions, teachers develop increasing skills in decision-making. The ultimate goal of professional practice is for teachers to move toward empowerment and accept responsibility for their own professional growth.
The teacher's commitment to valued social ends stems from the recognition that there is an important relationship between teaching and the greater social good. Professionalism, at least in teaching, is founded on an ideal of service. Labaree (1994) stresses the need for schools and teachers to prepare students to function independently as citizens in a democratic society by expanding their critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Achieving this goal offers education transformative power by engaging students in the study of issues now facing society.
The ethic of caring requires a shift away from mechanistic, generalized and impersonal professional techniques based on a sterile philosophy of objectivity. Too often, Sergiovanni (1992) points out, administrators and teachers view unique students as cases to treat rather than individuals to serve. More attention is given now than in the past to understanding student differences and developing strategies to address a diversity of learning styles. Because positive relationships generally lead to more positive outcomes, professional teachers must build a caring environment in which learning can take place.
A commitment to practice beyond the level of one's own needs is fundamental to professional development. At the heart of this commitment is a willingness to acknowledge the need for trust and collegiality, and the value of sharing through a community of learners. As a school develops into a community of learners, the practice of teaching becomes less individual and more collaborative. At its best, the concept of collegiality is a state of common commitment to learning that encompasses teachers, students, administrators, and the professional community. It does occur automatically through shared work assignments, but instead appears to develop from shared purpose. A key element is trust. Mann (1995) found that teachers can be their own best resource for improvement when their ideas are trusted and supported. He describes a program in which the school culture values and supports so-called soft interventions - change from within - thus creating a school climate expecting and celebrating professional practice.
However, professional practice may result in internal conflict. Dipaola & Hoy (1994) found that conflict was greatest in schools with more professionally oriented teachers and concluded that professionalization was a militant process. Sence (1990) refers to a state of "creative tension" in professionalized climates: True professionals have learned the art of disagreeing without being disagreeable and realize that professional growth requires taking risks.
Intrinsic motivation is imperative if teachers are to move toward collaborative practice. Lortie (1975) describes extrinsic rewards as factors that are independent of the employee who fills the position, such as salary, prestige, and power. Intrinsic rewards, on the other hand, are determined by the individual, based on personal values and beliefs. The literature is replete with studies affirming the central role played by intrinsic motivation in facilitating professional development (Bookhart and Freeman, 1992; Green & Weaver, 1992; Espinet, Simmons & Atwater, 1992; Serow, 1994; Rogers, Bond, & Nottingham, 1997).
These components of professional practice, and the supporting research base behind them, challenge us to form a vision and create a path toward personal professional growth. The traditional model in which individuals are left alone to teach is rapidly being supplanted by a more comprehensive model emphasizing the development of communities of learners. The commitment of teachers to the goal of improvement is fundamental to the success of efforts to professionalize.
Professional practice generally denotes a commitment to a set of governing principles that are in the best interests both of the profession and the clients they serve. At the top of the list in most professions is a commitment to the quality standards agreed upon by the community of practitioners.
Prospective teachers should be strongly encouraged, early in the program, to engage in professional activities beyond classroom work, such as seminars and workshops, professional conferences and conventions of local, state and national science teachers associations. Students who accept leadership roles should be given appropriate credit and recognition. Students should formulate a definition of professionalism and use that definition to build in their portfolios a record of professional accomplishments.
Teacher candidates should always exhibit dedication to the highest ideals of honesty, integrity and service. They should understand and acknowledge their role as an individual in a collaborative endeavor, and should recognize the need for positive interactions with others in the system, including administrators, colleagues, faculty, staff, parents, and students. They should always treat students with respect, even when addressing disciplinary problems that might arise. They should support the profession and seek to address problems within the system first.
The best programs in teacher preparation have written standards for professional behavior and clearly expect new teachers to develop a record professional development beyond the program. They provide regular opportunities for engagement in activities or associations in science education and encourage and recognize leadership in many areas. They develop a community of learners in science dedicated to quality enhancement, encouraging cooperation, collaboration and mutual enhancement. These programs actively promote professional behavior and take steps to encourage a professional orientation whenever possible.
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