Developing skills to explain scientific concepts during initial teacher education
: the role of peer assessment

  • Valeria Magally Cabello Gonzalez

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Initial teacher education is an area of weakness within the Chilean education system. Yet it is highlighted as a crucial aspect of educational success. Success in educational improvement depends mainly on the teachers (because they enact a reform by putting it into practice), and teacher thinking is likely to influence teacher decision-making. How teacher conceptions and practice change, and how to facilitate this change, was the focus of this study. It explored to what extent peer assessment could facilitate change in pre-service science teachers’ conceptions and practices regarding conceptual explanations in science teaching.

    In a quasi-experimental design, a ten-session peer assessment intervention was carried out with thirty seven pre-service science teachers in three Chilean universities, each with an experimental and control group. The intervention sought to develop changes in teachers’ conceptions about the quality of explanations and in their skill of explaining scientific concepts. Teachers' thoughts were obtained through a peer assessment questionnaire, feedback sessions, focus groups and interviews. The quality of their explanations was measured at pre, post and follow-up in their eventual first job via video-recorded microteaching episodes using observational analysis. Inter-rater reliability was calculated on 5% of all qualitative data and all the videos were rated by two researchers in a blind process. Qualitative analysis indicated how teachers transformed their conceptions about the quality of explanations from general pedagogical knowledge into pedagogical content knowledge. A quantitative instrument was created to evaluate student teachers’ explanations in practice. Its reliability enables the assessment the skill of explaining based on ten elements (Cronbach’s alpha=.77). Results showed pre-service teachers significantly improved their explanations of scientific concepts in some practical aspects, although not all of them were transferred into real teaching contexts. The changes in student teachers’ conceptions and practice were analysed to indicate how the process occurred, to what extent peer assessment had a role on it, and which elements facilitated or made difficult the transference of the skill of explaining into real teaching. These results indicated that peer assessment can play a noteworthy role in teacher education to develop skills. There are implications for policy and practice in this study, not only for teacher education but also for in-service teacher professional development, not only for Chile but also for other countries.
    Date of Award2013
    Original languageEnglish
    SponsorsComisión Nacional de Investigación Científica y Tecnológica
    SupervisorKeith Topping (Supervisor) & Norman Reid (Supervisor)


    • Peer assessment
    • Teacher education
    • Explain
    • Scientific concepts
    • Pre-service teachers
    • Assessment
    • Skills
    • Skill of explaining
    • Teaching

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