Implementation of Constructivist Pedagogy in a Geoscience Course Designed for Pre-Service K-6 Teachers: Progress, Pitfalls, and Lessons Learned Academic Article uri icon


  • The constructivist approach to science education is recognized as a valuable approach for building deep student understanding of scientific content and inquiry. Implementation of constructivist teaching practices in specialized courses in geoscience for pre-service K-6 teachers is especially critical to model good pedagogy and familiarize future teachers with an inquiry-based model of teaching and learning. We introduced a constructivist approach in two teacher-training courses in the Spring 2000 semester and assessed their resulting content knowledge with examination-based assessmentts. Contrary to expectations, the change in teaching style led to a dramatic decrease in student performance. Further revision of the course in the subsequent semester based on analysis of test responses and student comments led to a new curriculum with reduced content breadth and greater emphasis on scaffolded, inquiry-based exercises which built understanding gradually and with reinforcement. These changes resulted in modest performance gains in Fall 2000 sections. We conclude that the implementation of constructivist teaching must 1) allow enough time to address prior conceptions and facilitate students' incorporation of new ideas, 2) limit the breadth of content taught, 3) explicity introduce students unfamiliar with scientific inquiry to methods they will use to learn the content, and 4) take steps to avoid the common pitfalls of group work.

published proceedings

  • Journal of Geoscience Education

author list (cited authors)

  • Riggs, E. M., & Kimbrough, D. L.

citation count

  • 9

complete list of authors

  • Riggs, Eric M||Kimbrough, David L

publication date

  • January 2002