Mark Enfield

bridging the natural world
and learning to teach about the natural world

Teaching Philosophy

Mark Enfield, Ph.D.

Teaching and learning dialogically engage participants in a process of iterative redefinitions of one another and conceptual ideas of the linguistic, social, and natural world. Therefore, it involves the ways that participants come to know one another, co-construct meaning, and apply knowledge to new and familiar contexts. This framework of teaching and learning guides my actions as an elementary science teacher educator.

I think it is important that learning occur in a social context that values tensions between critical thinking and acceptance of multiple perspectives, inquiry and prior knowledge, active and contemplative engagement, as well as talking and listening. Therefore, at all levels of teaching I strive to model and support the development of a community that has explicitly shared norms, values, and practices. Thus similar to many elementary science educators describing a scientific community, I seek to create a science community that avoids bias, contentiousness, and hegemonic practices.

However, learning only occurs when the norms, values, practices, and participants offer meaningful and useful insight into science teaching and learning. Therefore both the activities and content in my courses attempt to understand the intrinsic motivation of prospective teachers, using this to establish engagement in learning about elementary science teaching. Similar to novice science learners, prospective teachers (novice science teachers) are most interested in learning to control classroom phenomena. Therefore, scaffolded lesson planning, classroom management, accessing resources and materials, and other seemingly mundane aspects of elementary science teaching, serve as contexts for learning about the theoretical, pedagogical, and subject matter knowledge aspects of elementary science teaching.

Each of these aspects is contextualized in the on-going national reform of science education. I situate prospective teachers’ learning in developing images of effective elementary science teachers in the context of this reform movement. Most prominently, science literacy is an important goal for all Americans. This raises issues of specification of science benchmarks and standards, access and equity, effective teaching practices, and the short-comings of materials to support elementary science teaching. My goal is that through dialogic engagement with elementary science teaching and learning, that knowledge of the important issues of the current reform are situated in the practice of teaching science to elementary students.