effective teaching, hence the necessity for PCK (Zeidler, 2002;
Groβschedl et al., 2015). PCK is knowledge of what makes subject
matter comprehensible to students (Groβschedl et al., 2015). PK
includes the foundation education disciplines such as philosophy,
sociology, history, and psychology of education.
Zeidler (2002) argues for a model of preservice teacher education
that integrates SMK, PCK, and PK. He states that philosophical
incompatibility between science faculty and education faculty preclude the possibility of achieving integration if teacher education is
co-located with science instruction. In other words, Zeidler appears
to argue against a science-content-only focus in preservice science
teacher education. Others disagree. For example, Groβschedl et al.
(2015) found a positive relationship between the SMK and PCK of
preservice biology teachers, in a program where SMK was developed
in the science department. Their study did not address the question
of whether good SMK and PCK scores translated into effective classroom teaching. Zeidler (2002) and Groβschedl et al. (2015) agree
that SMK, PK, and PCK must be included in teacher education
Considering Different Models of Teacher
As Matthews (2015) has pointed out, there is little agreement
among and within countries about how best to educate science
teachers. For instance, South Africa currently offers two models
of teacher education, both qualifying teachers to teach biology
at the senior secondary level. One model is a general three-year
Bachelor of Science ( B.Sc.) degree followed by a Postgraduate
Certificate in Education (PGCE). The second model is a four-year
Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.) degree. In the B.Sc. + postgraduate
certificate training model, SMK is developed in the Faculty of Science, and students have no exposure to PCK or PK until they
reach the PGCE. In the B.Ed. model, SMK, PCK, and PK are
taught simultaneously in the Faculty of Education.
In the United States, students with degrees in biology are increasingly encouraged to skip traditional teacher preparation, take a few
summer seminars, and move directly to the classroom. A similar trend
is evident in the United Kingdom, where the government encourages
graduates to move directly into schools, where they undergo an
apprenticeship mode of training (Matthews, 2015). It remains to be
seen whether this produces effective teachers or just more individuals
who serve briefly in teaching roles.
With such diversity of preservice programs in operation worldwide, there is ample scope for research on the relative effectiveness
of different programs for biology teacher preparation. Such research
will provide evidence that informs decision makers about the structure of preservice teacher education. Clearly, there is much work to
be done in the field of research into effective and efficient biology
A summary of potentially fruitful avenues for research in biology teacher education includes:
• Identification of criteria for evaluating teaching effectiveness.
• Identification of the necessary knowledge and skills related to
teaching effectiveness within different contexts and from different stakeholders’ perspectives. In turn, the answer to this quest
should inform the design of both preservice teacher education
and in-service teacher development.
• Determination of the form each of these components takes, and
how much of each component (SMK, PCK, and PK) makes an
effective biology teacher.
• Evaluation of a program of teacher education must include
evaluation of the classroom effectiveness of the teachers it produces. Such research will provide useful evidence informing the
curriculum for preservice teacher education.
Theoretical and Practical Approaches to
Make Biology Accessible to All Learners
Yeung Chung Lee, The Education University of Hong Kong
Making biology education accessible is a daunting quest. Chal-
lenges in teaching and learning biology have been studied extensively
in terms of the topics that students regard as difficult. Students’ interest
in biology in general along with gender- and age-related differences in
interest, and students’ understanding of the structure of the discipline
have also been investigated. Additional underlying factors that may con-
tribute to learning difficulties include the complications related to levels
of organization and the abstract concepts involved (Lazarowitz and
Penso, 1992). We must attend to the amount of content that students
may find overwhelming and difficult (Çimer, 2012), and the complicat-
ing factors associated with the requirement that students must switch
thought levels from tangible to molecular to symbolic or mathematical
( i.e., in genetics) (Bahar et al., 1999). Further impediments in learning
biology also include students’ interest in learning specific content. The
Relevance of Science Education or ROSE Project ( roseproject.no) has
revealed a lack of interest in biology topics particularly among males
in developed countries (Sjøberg and Schreiner, 2010), thus suggesting
a gender and cultural gap in biology learning. Students’ interest in
biology also appears to diminish with age (Prokop et al., 2007), which
may be linked to a perception of biology as a difficult subject (Çimer,
2012). Finally, we must content with students’ prior familiarity and
potential alternative understanding of biology concepts.
All these difficulties suggest a need to rethink biology education.
This reconsideration might be characterized from three perspectives:
epistemological, metacognitive, and motivational. Epistemologically,
if we accept biology learning as a personal construction rather than
a transmission process, and if we hope that students will “own”
the knowledge acquired, more active student-centered learning
approaches should be considered. At the same time, a more student-
centered approach must account for potential conflicts with teachers’
beliefs in a more traditional approach to teaching (Kinchin, 2001),
such as the conception that teaching biology should be based on lec-
tures (Subramaniam, 2014). Teachers’ conceptions about biology
and biology teaching are often intertwined with barriers such as time
and resource constraints, which are necessary if they are to guide stu-
dents through the knowledge construction process (Kinchin, 2001).
From a metacognitive perspective, research evidence shows that
learning could be improved by encouraging students to reflect on
how they learn and how effective their learning strategies are (Thomas,
2012). This would be helpful for students who perceive biology as dif-
ficult and hence lose interest. However, it is a tall order for teachers
who are preoccupied with cognition rather than metacognition.
The motivational perspective is also worth considering. Here
different strategies have been suggested including out-of-school