teachers’ and students’ conceptions of good science teaching

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  • This article was downloaded by: [Wilfrid Laurier University]On: 13 September 2013, At: 19:59Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

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    Teachers and Students Conceptions ofGood Science TeachingBenny Hin Wai Yung a , Yan Zhu a , Siu Ling Wong a , Man WaiCheng a & Fei Yin Lo aa Faculty of Education , The University of Hong Kong , PokfulamRoad, Hong Kong , SAR, People's Republic of ChinaPublished online: 27 Oct 2011.

    To cite this article: Benny Hin Wai Yung , Yan Zhu , Siu Ling Wong , Man Wai Cheng & Fei Yin Lo(2013) Teachers and Students Conceptions of Good Science Teaching, International Journal ofScience Education, 35:14, 2435-2461, DOI: 10.1080/09500693.2011.629375

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09500693.2011.629375


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  • Teachers and Students Conceptions

    of Good Science Teaching

    Benny Hin Wai Yung, Yan Zhu, Siu Ling Wong,Man Wai Cheng and Fei Yin LoFaculty of Education, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam Road, Hong Kong,

    SAR, Peoples Republic of China

    Capitalizing on the comments made by teachers on videos of exemplary science teaching, a video-

    based survey instrument on the topic of Density was developed and used to investigate the

    conceptions of good science teaching held by 110 teachers and 4,024 year 7 students in

    Hong Kong. Six dimensions of good science teaching are identified from the 55-item

    questionnaire, namely, focussing on science learning, facilitating students understanding,

    encouraging students involvement, creating conducive environment, encouraging active

    experimentation and preparing students for exam (PSE). Significant gaps between teachers

    and students conceptions on certain dimensions have been revealed. The inconsistency on the

    dimension PSE is particularly evident and possible reasons for the phenomenon are suggested.

    This study raises the important questions of how the gap can be addressed, and who is to change

    in order to close the gaps. Answers to these questions have huge implications for teacher

    education and teacher professional development.

    Keywords: Good Science Teaching; Teacher Conception; Student Conception


    Over the last few decades, many studies have described the disappointing state of

    science teaching at all school levels across many countries (e.g. Brown, 1974;

    Goodrum, Hackling, & Rennie, 2001; Harlen, 1998; Tobin & Fraser, 1988; Yager,

    Hidayat, & Penick, 1988). It is suggested that one way to improve such situations is

    through identifying and describing the behavior of exemplary science teachers

    (e.g. Tobin & Fraser, 1988; Treagust, 1991; Tyler, 2003; Waldrip, Fisher, &

    International Journal of Science Education, 2013

    Vol. 35, No. 14, 24352461, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09500693.2011.629375

    Corresponding author: Faculty of Education, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam Road,Hong Kong, SAR, Peoples Republic of China. Email: hwyung@hkucc.hku.hk

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  • Dorman, 2009). The descriptions of what such teachers do could provide guidance

    for the design of teacher education programs at both pre-service and in-service

    levels and will, eventually, lead to enhanced learning of science in school.

    With the rise of cognitive psychology in the early 1980s, teacher educators began to

    focus more on the ways in which teachers think rather than the ways they behave

    (Calderhead, 1996). Research over the last few decades has suggested that teaching

    is a process that involves teachers cognition instead of teachers behaviors alone. In

    their influential review of research on teacher thinking, Clark and Peterson (1986,

    p. 255) suggested that teachers thought processes, theories and beliefs substantially

    influenced and even determined their classroom practices. Indeed, this realization

    has led to increasing interest in studying teacher cognition, in particular, the beliefs

    and conceptions underlying their classroom practices (e.g. Mellado, 1998; Yerrick,

    Parke, & Nugent, 1997; Yung, 2006).

    Early studies in the domain of conceptions of teaching were concerned about teach-

    ing in general (Kember, 1997). More recently, on the premise that there are critical

    features specific to the teaching of particular disciplines, there have been more

    studies of teaching conceptions pertaining to specific disciplines. For instance, in

    science education, it is found that the type and amount of inquiry instruction per-

    formed by teachers in their classrooms are guided by their core conceptions including:

    conceptions of science, their students, effective teaching practices and the purpose of

    education (e.g. Lotter, Harwood, & Bonner, 2007; Luft, Roehrig, & Patterson, 2003;

    Wallace & Kang, 2004).

    However, these and most other studies of conceptions of teaching at school levels

    have been conducted in Western cultural contexts (e.g. Boulton-Lewis, Smith,

    McCrindle, Burnett, & Campbell, 2001; Porlan & del Pozo, 2004) and very few in

    Chinese cultural contexts (see for exception, Gao & Watkins, 2002). Yet, it has

    been shown that there are tangible differences both in the practices of teaching

    (e.g. Stiger & Hiebert, 1999) and in the notions of good teachers and students

    (Jin & Cortazzi, 1998). Our study thus attempts to shed light on these issues by

    exploring teaching conceptions among Hong Kong teachers, where teachers are

    exposed to Western educational philosophies in their professional training while

    being required to teach in sociocultural contexts that are overwhelmingly Chinese

    in origin. Indeed, Watkins and Biggs (2001) characterize the system as one that is

    driven by vernacular Confucianism, with students (and teachers) under constant

    pressure of relentless norm-referenced assessment. These pressures, together with

    other deep-rooted cultural beliefs in relation to social status, student ability and

    effort, will intuitively have a bearing on Hong Kong teachers conceptions of what

    exactly is good teaching in science.

    Previous research in teachers conceptions of teaching has focussed on university

    lecturers or teachers teaching higher forms (Kember, 1997). This present study,

    however, looks at science teachers at the junior secondary level for two reasons.

    First, it will provide evidence to support or refute the view that some aspects of teach-

    ing conceptions may vary according to subject area or level of schooling (Prosser &

    Trigwell, 1998). Second, at this level of schooling, Hong Kong students experience

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  • their first formal science curriculum, with the provision of practical work in the

    science laboratory. By all accounts, this is a critical stage during which students inter-

    est in science can be turned on or diminished depending on how science is taught

    (Darby, 2005; Logan & Skamp, 2008; Speering & Rennie, 1996); and that, in turn,

    may be related to the teaching conceptions possessed by the teachers concerned.

    Hence, this study can provide valuable information on how teacher preparation

    courses should be structured to take into account these influences on classroom


    Theoretical Underpinnings

    Conceptions of Teaching

    Despite the widespread acknowledgement of the importance of teachers thinking and

    their beliefs, confusion exists among researchers about the definitions of beliefs

    (Pajares, 1992). On one hand, some researchers, like Ponte (1994), argue that both

    beliefs and conceptions are part of knowledge, but they are of different nature: the

    former being prepositional and the latter m


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