Discipline-Based Education Research Group


Date of this Version


Document Type



DBER Group Discussion on 2014‐09‐11


Copyright (c) 2014 Jaime Sabel & Cory Forbes.


Pre‐service elementary teachers should learn essential science concepts, how to apply those concepts to practice in elementary science learning environments, and how to effectively connect students’ ideas to appropriate instructional strategies. In order to effectively engage students in scientific practices and connect students’ ideas about science to appropriate instructional strategies, teachers should learn to engage in high‐leverage instructional practices, such as formative assessment. However, teachers may not understand formative assessment or possess enough science content knowledge to effectively engage in related instructional practices. To address these needs, we developed an innovative course for elementary pre‐service teachers built upon two pillars—life science disciplinary content and formative assessment. Students learned biological science content and how to connect disciplinary ideas to essential concepts in the K‐12 science standards. The focus on formative assessment allowed pre‐service teachers to utilize content knowledge to identify and respond to students’ ideas. We included an embedded mixed methods study designed to evaluate the effect of this intervention on pre‐service teachers’ content knowledge and ability to engage in formative assessment practices for science. We found that increased content knowledge over the semester helped pre‐service teachers to engage more productively in anticipating and evaluating student ideas, but not in choosing next instructional steps based on those ideas. Here we will present details of the course design and results of the embedded study.