Exploring Pedagogical Content Knowledge of Biology Graduate Teaching Assistants Through Their Participation in Lesson Study

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Lampley, Sandra Ann
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Middle Tennessee State University
Graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) are responsible for teaching the majority of biology undergraduate laboratory sections, although many have not received training in the aspects of effective teaching. One type of professional development, called lesson study, has played a key role in improving student achievement in secondary education in both Japan and the United States. Key features of lesson study, including research, collaboration, observation, and reflection, are believed to create changes in teachers’ knowledge and beliefs, which can inform the development of pedagogical content knowledge (PCK). PCK is an integration of both content knowledge and pedagogical knowledge and involves teachers’ understanding of the best ways to help students comprehend the specific subject matter using multiple instructional strategies, examples, and explanations. The present study examined the potential that lesson study holds for advancing GTAs’ PCK while teaching an introductory biology laboratory course.
The participants in the study included four GTAs who taught the laboratory sections of a general biology course for students majoring in Biology. The participants had diverse backgrounds, both in terms of their teaching experience and their teacher training. Collectively, the group met for 10 weeks during the fall 2014 semester in order to complete two cycles of lesson study. Using a qualitative methodology, this study found that two aspects of PCK emerged during the lesson study process. The researcher also noticed a disconnect between the participants’ intent and practice. This disconnect could be attributed to the awkwardness of implementation of new strategies, the duration of the lesson study, and the inexperience of the participants in the study.
Graduate teaching assistants, GTAs, Lesson study, PCK, Pedagogical content knowledge, Professional development