Wonder as a tool to engage preservice elementary teachers in science learning and teaching

Andrew Gilbert of George Mason University
Christie Byers of George Mason University

This exploratory project considers the use of wonder as a pedagogical tool with preservice elementary teachers (PSETs). An ongoing vexation facing science teacher educators is helping future elementary teachers overcome anxiety and negative associations with science due to their own school science experiences, while simultaneously encouraging innovative and ambitious teaching practice. Utilizing wonder as a pedagogical tool for emotional and aesthetic engagement with science holds promise as an entry point to connect future teachers with meaningful science content and practice. The link between wonder and science is well-articulated by successful scientists throughout history, and yet is rarely employed explicitly within elementary or teacher education science learning contexts. Forging a pedagogy of wonder demands connection to the emotive embodiment of science as a uniquely human process that nurtures our intense need to know. This qualitative case study is an effort to better understand if utilizing pedagogy intentionally focused on wonder could impact PSETs’ perceptions of science and scientific thinking. This paper describes the key findings that emerged while utilizing pedagogy steeped in wonder with PSETs, and the degree to which engaging with wonder impacted their perceptions of science and their future science teaching. This research supports the critical role that wonder could play in changing PSETs’ relationship with science and assisting them in the development of the pedagogical courage necessary to envision possibilities beyond their past experiences.