Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education


Date of this Version



Lewis, E. B., Lucas, L., Tankersley, A., and Hasseler, L. (2023). Why domain-specific science knowledge matters in teacher certification: Focusing on evidence for effective science teaching, revised version, November 2023. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Copyright 2023, the authors. Used by permission.


The landscape of teacher preparation is complex. From a research perspective, how to prepare teachers presents as a multilevel, multivariable puzzle. For decades, federal and state policymakers, educational researchers, and administrators, along with teacher education institutions, school districts, and other stakeholders have tried to determine and measure the key malleable factors that result in effective teaching (NRC, 2010).

Periodically, state departments of education review secondary science teaching endorsement policy guidelines. As revisions occur, teacher educators in higher education and district administrators need to engage in a multidisciplinary discussion about:

1. the ways in which strong domain-specific science content knowledge contributes to better opportunities for students to learn science,

2. why robust secondary teacher certification standards are vital for achieving not only K-12 scientific literacy, but also better preparation of career and college-ready students, and

3. the problems caused by underprepared secondary science teachers who have only minimal, introductory-level college science coursework via general science endorsements.

A recent study by Nixon et al. (2017) showed that only about one-third of science teachers in their first five years are assigned to teach in-field. They also reported that about 20% of teaching assignments were entirely out-of-field and about 43% of assignments were some combination of in-field and out-of-field.

Informational brochure on science teacher certification and subject matter knowledge expertise produced for school administrators, teacher educators, and other stakeholders.