Trying to Change the Science Conversation in Schools
This dissertation focuses on how the MAT program in Earth Science at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH MAT), a one-of-a-kind, museum-based urban teacher residency, conceptualized and enacted the project of learning to teach science for urban school contexts. The AMNH MAT is situated within the two nested contexts. The first context is its emergence as one of a number of new, state-approved graduate schools of education that offer teacher preparation, endorse teachers for certification, and grant master’s degrees but are not part of or connected to universities. The larger study of which this case study is part termed this phenomenon “new graduate schools of education,” or nGSEs. The second context is the program’s mission of preparing teachers for urban schools, a goal that is shared by other teacher preparation programs within the domain of nGSEs. This descriptive, interpretive case study analysis poses two major questions: How and to what extent does the American Museum of Natural History infuse its long-standing beliefs about science learning and public service into a teacher preparation program? How and to what extent does the museum conceptualize and enact science teacher preparation for the specific context of urban high needs public secondary schools? Analysis of multiple data sources revealed that theAMNH’s mission of disseminating science knowledge in service of a more science-literate public was instantiated in a teacher preparation program that centralized and continually reinforced a vision of preparing science teachers but had a less central and more limited approach to preparing urban teachers. This case study analysis of an innovative teacher preparation program in one of our nation’s largest cities has important implications for urban science teacher education research and practice. First, the AMNH MAT’s model of science teacher preparation offered two key features that are useful for the field. The first feature was its coherence around the developmentof a science teacher identity that included deep science content knowledge and a commitment to bringing informal science teaching and learning practices into schools. The second model feature was the MAT program’s required four-residency structure, which essentially reinvented the “field” in teacher preparation fieldwork. At the same time, the project of learning to teach at the AMNH MAT, like that of many other urban teacher preparation programs, revealed the difficulties and dilemmas involved in preparing teachers for urban contexts, particularly the responsibility of developing a new generation of antiracist educators.