Developing teacher pedagogical content knowledge is an important goal of teacher education. This study drew on content representation (CoRe) design (Hume and Berry, 2013) and the Science Learning Hub (Hume, 2013) to achieve this. The student teachers participating in the study learned about a range of pedagogical approaches aligned with inquiry-based science learning and a variety of resources including the SLH.

The framework for inquiry learning in science aimed to co-ordinate the learning of science concepts and practices simultaneously with students: engaging in scientifically oriented questions; gathering, organising and analysing data; formulating explanations from evidence to address scientifically oriented questions; evaluating explanations in light of alternative explanations; and communicating and justifying explanations (National Research Council, 2007).

Students first worked collaboratively in groups producing CoRes on science topics found on the SLH, such as Life in the sea, Fire and A Fizzy Rock. Then, as individuals, they produced their own CoRe on a new topic, again from the SLH.


Some student teacher comments on the use of CoRe design, the SLH and a range of other resources follow.

Developing understanding about the selected science topic through identifying the big ideas and the underpinning key concepts and the confidence for teaching:

“I further found the process of developing a CoRe helpful because it provided a focus for what content I wanted to teach within my unit through requiring me to create big ideas. Furthermore, this use of big ideas also provided a focus for my research and assisted me in selecting what content to include from the Science Learning Hub website. I feel that this process will be extremely helpful in the future … I will know what information to look for.” (Harriet)

“I like learning about science but often find it hard to comprehend, therefore I was always apprehensive to teach it. However, this process has allowed me to change my viewpoint and orientation towards science teaching. I feel a lot more capable as it allowed me to seize the most relevant and worthwhile big ideas from something that consists of so much information – such as the Science Learning Hub contexts. While doing this, it allowed me an easier way of developing my teacher knowledge on what I am going to teach and how I am going to teach it.” (Katie)

Identifying appropriate teaching and learning strategies:

“It also provided teaching experiences and ideas to inspire and get you started for teaching a context. By having information on scientists and experts, students and teachers are able to learn more about the topic and make real-life connections.” (Dianne)

Considering assessment opportunities as well as potential difficulties when teaching the topic:

“The good thing about this way of planning is that, as you think deeper and deeper about how you will teach the context, it becomes clearer what will be too hard and what the students will be able to grasp and what will be very easy. This allows me to begin to form my pedagogical content knowledge.” (Susan)

The particular focus of the SLH also helped to reinforce the purposes for teaching specific concepts, such as relevance and promoting citizenship.

For example, in his CoRe on marine systems, Simon commented:

“New Zealand is surrounded by water, and therefore it is important for students to have knowledge about what marine organisms are present in New Zealand waters. Students need to be aware that their actions can determine in the future whether or not New Zealand has a healthy marine environment.”

Conclusions and implications

This study offers strong evidence for the value of student teachers using the SLH to develop a CoRe for a science topic of their choosing. Through the CoRe prompts, student teachers’ awareness was drawn to the complex nature of planning an effective science programme in ways that built their feelings of self-efficacy.

Since the student teachers were required to use the SLH as the basis for their CoRe development, they also became familiar with a significant web-based resource and reported that it supported their own conceptual understandings of the science. This increased understanding, in conjunction with creating the CoRe, was another factor impacting positively on their self-efficacy. Even student teachers who had previously felt very apprehensive about teaching science reported feeling far more confident about the prospect after completing the CoRe assignment.

See related article: A productive process for school science curriculum design.


Hume, A. (2013). Student teachers as future agents of change in New Zealand primary science. Journal of Educational Leadership, Policy and Practice: Special Educational Edition in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths Education, 28(2), 3–14.

Hume, A. and Berry, A. (2013). Enhancing the practicum experience for pre-service chemistry teachers through collaborative CoRe design with mentor teachers  Research in Science Education. DOI: 10.1007/s11165-012-9346-6.

National Research Council. (2007). Taking science to school: Learning and teaching science in grades K-8. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.


    Published 9 February 2015