Developing Kindergarten and Second Grade Teachers' Pedagogical Content Knowledge of Academic Science Vocabulary Instruction
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An extensive academic vocabulary in science is a critical component required for students' abilities to construct their own conceptual understandings about how things work in the natural and designed worlds. While science curriculum reformers use hands-on, minds-on scientific investigations to form the heart of science learning for young children, the acquisition of science vocabulary is also an essential part of the process of science learning. Words allow students to communicate their ideas to others and "make sense" of the world. Words are the representations of experiences and ideas about students' experiences within the world. Despite the importance of vocabulary acquisition, little research has been done on methods for teaching primary students academic science vocabulary. The purpose of this study was to explore how professional development alters primary grade teachers' abilities to incorporate vocabulary instruction during science lessons. The solution explored in this record of study was to develop and assess the effectiveness of a self-designed model for professional learning preparing teachers in primary grades to teach academic science vocabulary. This model included four and a half hours of professional learning, a pre- and post- vocabulary questionnaire, four classroom observations including instructional support and coaching, post-observation conversations, one interview per participant, and one group discussion. The study took place over a four-month period. Participants included three kindergarten teachers and three second-grade teachers, and took place in a rural public primary school near San Antonio, Texas. The researcher used a mixed methods approach to investigate teachers' subsequent use of vocabulary instruction methods in their own classes while teaching science. Quantitative data were collected from teachers' responses to the Science Vocabulary Questionnaire (SVQ). Additionally, the rating scale on the Science Classroom Observation Worksheet (SCOW) was used to generate a scaled score. Qualitative data included teachers' open-ended responses from the SVQ, observational notes entered on the Rationale for Rating section on the SCOW, teachers' responses to post-observation interview questions, and teachers' responses during the informal group discussion. Analyses of the data revealed five out of six teachers implemented suggested methods of teaching academic science vocabulary during their science lessons. Furthermore, four of the six teachers consistently improved their practices of teaching vocabulary instruction after each individual professional development sessions. In the teachers’ final remarks regarding their professional development experiences, five out of six teachers stated they believed the individualized model of professional support was more effective than whole group professional development. Results from this exploratory study provide preliminary evidence associating the professional development model the researcher developed with teachers' improved used of vocabulary instruction during science lessons.
Venegas, Annette Michèle (2014). Developing Kindergarten and Second Grade Teachers' Pedagogical Content Knowledge of Academic Science Vocabulary Instruction. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from