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The use of critical incident vignettes to share a pre-service primary teacher's science learning journey

Christine Howitt
Science and Mathematics Education Centre
Curtin University of Technology
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Looking through one eye never did provide much depth of field. (Eisner, 1981, p. 9)

Case studies have been used widely as a means of presenting stories or narratives to describe and explore teachers' beliefs and experiences. Case studies of critical incidents provide another perspective to these stories, where teachers identify and describe significant turning points or changes.

This presentation describes a third perspective to the case study methodology, where critical incident vignettes are constructed by the researcher based on information provided by, and written in the voice of, the teacher. This approach, which I have called "dual perspective", provides a means of allowing the researcher to recreate the lived experiences of the teacher, and to step into those experiences and become part of the teachers' world. These vignettes move away from the decontextualised quotations that are selected to illustrate a specific argument, in an attempt to more readily reflect the teachers' language and their construction of reality.

The use of these "dual perspective" critical incident vignettes will be illustrated and interpreted through the science learning journey of one pre-service primary teacher.


Case studies have been used widely as a means of presenting stories or narratives to describe and explore teachers' beliefs, experiences, knowledge and understanding (Carter, 1993; Carter & Doyle, 1996; Doyle, 1997; Doyle & Carter, 2003). These case studies have tended to be presented using decontextualised quotes to support common themes that are identified through the lens of the researcher (Wallace & Louden, 2000). This has resulted in a discrete continuum being used to describe a continuous learning process. However, the process of learning is a very subtle and continuous one that can only become evident through a detailed analysis of individual information (Wideen, Mayer-Smith & Moon, 1998). In order to obtain a more complete and detailed picture of pre-service teachers' learning experiences, this paper presents a "dual perspective" methodology based on critical incident vignettes. This dual perspective method looks through the lenses of both the pre-service teacher and the teacher educator. The critical incident vignettes, how they were written, and the interpretation of them are illustrated through the science learning journey of one pre-service primary teacher.

Interpretive case study using critical incidents

Case studies of critical incidents provide an holistic means of describing and interpreting significant phenomena in context, from multiple perspectives (Merriam, 1998). This type of research is interpretive as it attempts to bring to life each story and recreate the lived experiences of the learner, while providing thick, rich descriptions of the context within which those experiences occur (Stake, 1995).

Critical incidents tend to mark significant turning points or changes in a person or in some social phenomenon (Tripp, 1993). Critical incidents are not characterised as being "critical" due to any drama or sensationalism attached to them. Rather, their criticality is based on the justification, significance, or meaning given to them by participants (Angelides, 2001). While incidents happen, critical incidents are produced by the way we view a given situation, hence a critical incident is an individual "interpretation of the significance of an event" (Tripp, 1993, p. 8). Typically, critical incidents are only recognised after the consequences of the incident are known (Angelides, 2001). Critical incidents are often unplanned, unanticipated, and uncontrolled (Woods, 1993).

Critical incident vignettes are short, personalised, narrative accounts of a particular event, that provide specific detailed information about the author. Since critical incidents are written by individuals about actions in their own lives, they are incontrovertible sources of data representing the learners' existential realities (Brookfield, 1990). Further, critical incidents stand alone as primary data sources giving insights into learners' assumptive worlds in the learners' own language and expression (Brookfield, 1990). In contrast to traditional case studies based on the synthesis of secondary source material, critical incident vignettes are raw, first-hand commentaries of real events affecting individuals (Macfarlane, 2003).

Within an educational context, critical incident vignettes have been used primarily in two ways: the study of cases of critical incidents, and the writing of personal critical incident vignettes. The former approach provides a teaching strategy to promote pedagogical reasoning, reflection and learning (Herman, 1998; Doyle & Carter, 2003; Preskill, 1996). The latter approach allows for the identification, description and analysis of particular phenomenon. Examples of the latter include the investigation of students' perceptions of teacher characteristics that support or inhibit help seeking (Le Mare & Sohbat, 2002), the analysis of the role of culture in school improvement (Angelides & Ainscow, 2000), the exploration of the dilemmas experienced by principals (Wildy, Louden & Robertson, 2000), and the identification of ethical dilemmas that confront front-line management as a tool in business ethics education (Macfarlane, 2003).

When writing critical incident vignettes a number of approaches have been used. The most common technique is to have the participants themselves identify, write and reflect on the critical incident, usually in some form of reflective journal, as used in Macfarlane (2003). A second approach is for the researcher to discuss the phenomenon under study with the participant, and then the researcher identifies, writes and interprets the critical incident. This approach was used in Le Mare and Sohbat (2002) and in Angelides and Ainscow (2000). Wildy, Louden and Robertson (2000) introduced a third approach where critical incidents are identified by the participant, but written and interpreted by the researcher. This paper extends the third approach, where critical incidents are identified by the participant, written by the researcher, and interpreted by both the participant and researcher. This approach, which looks through the lenses of both the participant and the researcher, will be used to illustrate the science learning journey of one pre-service primary teacher.

Why a science learning journey?

Considerable research has been carried out on the problems fa ced by pre-service primary teachers in learning and teaching science. Most pre-service primary teachers see themselves as "non-science" people trying to become science students at university (Mulholland & Wallace, 2002). Pre-service primary teachers have poor science knowledge (Skamp, 1989), which tends to be limited in amount, narrow in perspective and characterised by a lack of understanding of the nature of science (Anderson & Mitchener, 1994). They tend to have poor attitudes and beliefs about science and their capacity to be effective teachers of science (Watters & Ginns, 2000). Those pre-service teachers who did study science at high school found it to be largely a negative experience designed for "intelligent" students (Palmer, 1995; Mulholland & Wallace, 2003). Further, based on at least 16 years as learners, pre-service primary teachers have well developed but often simplistic views of the science teaching and learning process (Gunstone, Slattery, Baird & Northfield, 1993). All these factors contribute to the lack of confidence that pre-service primary teachers have towards science and the teaching of science.

A substantial body of research exists on how best to improve pre-service teachers' science knowledge and attitudes towards science. The majority of this research has been directed at improving science content knowledge and science methods courses with the aim of improving the confidence of the pre-service teacher (Skamp, 1989; Riggs & Enoch, 1990; Hand & Peterson, 1995; Appleton, 1995, 2003; Cahill & Skamp, 2003). The influence of the science teacher educator in improving the confidence of the pre-service primary teacher by creating an effective science learning environment has also been examined to a lesser degree. General results indicate that learning environments need to be positive and supportive to minimise anxiety and encourage freedom to experiment and verbalise opinions. This should include a variety of authentic teaching methods that concentrate on student-centred learning experiences that make connections with prior knowledge, which are supported by constant feedback to allow for the development of science and pedagogy, and increased beliefs and attitudes to science and self (Hardy & Kirkwood, 1994; Mulholland & Wallace, 1994; Huinker & Madison, 1997; Watters & Ginns, 1997; Rice and Roychoudly, 2003)

To better understand how the pre-service teacher learns science and how to teach science, it was decided to describe the science learning journey of one pre-service primary teacher during a second year science unit. The approach taken was to follow and interpret the science learning experiences from the dual perspectives of the pre-service teacher and myself, the science teacher educator. By sharing the lived experiences of the pre-service teacher, it would then become possible to understand the processes by which this teacher comes to learn science and also learn how to teach science. Background to Study

This study focuses on the science learning experiences of one pre-service primary teacher, Sam (a pseudonym). It was conducted over a 12-week semester science education unit during the second year of a 4-year Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood Education) degree at an Australian University. The science education unit consisted of nine weeks of workshops followed by a three week practicum (supervised teaching practice). I was the science teacher educator of these workshops.

The purpose of the workshops was to provide students with a range of holistic science learning experiences that focused on developing students' pedagogical content knowledge, through the modeling of science teaching methods and strategies, the development of a positive learning environment, and enhanced reflection. All learning experiences emphasised placing science into a relevant context. The workshops were delivered using a constructivist referent for teaching and learning. Emphasis in the workshops was on participation and reflection. In terms of participation, students were encouraged to be actively involved in all investigations and to ask questions to their peers and the science teacher educator. To encourage this involvement, students were not expected to take notes during the workshops unless they wanted to. Rather, detailed notes covering both content and pedagogy were handed out to the students at the end of the workshops. The last 15 minutes of each workshop was dedicated to reflection, where students were encouraged to discuss such issues as what they had learnt during the lesson, what had happened in class to encourage this learning, what the role of the teacher had been during the lesson, and how this information could be applied when they are teaching.

Methodology of dual perspective critical incidents

A constructivist-interpretative (Cohen, Manion, & Morrison, 2000) research paradigm was adopted in this study, with case study (Stake, 1995) as its organising perspective. Interpretative analysis was used since the aim of this study was to understand the complexities of how pre-service primary teachers learn science and learn to teach science.

Semi-structured interviews were used throughout the study. The initial interview with Sam concentrated on her previous experiences with science, her current attitudes to science, and how she would like to teach science to her future students. Subsequent interviews were held after each of the workshops. In these interviews Sam was asked to identify, describe and explain a significant event or critical incident during the workshop which influenced her in regards to learning science or learning to teach science. Such critical incidents could relate to science content, pedagogy, epistemology, learning environment, teacher educator, or a combination of these. The influence of the event could be positive or negative. Written notes were taken during these interviews.

Short narrative vignettes were constructed by myself from these interviews, each containing the critical incident identified by Sam. Each vignette incorporated enough local detail to provide authenticity, and enough structure to identify the critical incident. Each vignette is then a constructed narrative account, based on actual events and written in the voice of Sam. However, these accounts are not intended to be mirrors to reality (Schwandt, 1994), but rather expressive reconstitutions of the experiences from which they originated (Eisner, 1991). Both "artistic reconstruction" and "distillation" (Eisner, 1985, p. 229) were used in writing the vignettes, in order to capture the action and interactions in a vivid and life-like manner (Wildy, 1999).

In constructing these vignettes, I was attempting to live and feel the experiences, and identify the challenges, facing the pre-service science teacher through their very eyes. Not only was I trying to recreate the lived experiences of the student for others to read, but also step into those experiences and become part of the student's world. Eisner (1981) used the term "indwelling" to describe the process of imaginatively participating in the experiences of another. However, I have chosen to use the term "dual perspective" in this report as it more appropriately describes the process. These vignettes move away from the decontextualised quotations that are selected to illustrate a specific argument (Wallace & Louden, 2000) in an attempt to more readily reflect Sam's language and her construction of reality. As suggested by Wallace and Louden (2000), rather than being caught up in the reality of the world of the science teacher educator, I have chosen to move to the reality of the pre-service teacher.

The checking of the vignettes for authenticity and interpretation was achieved through cycles of reflection (Wallace & Louden, 2000) from both Sam and myself. Initially, Sam checked each vignette for authenticity, and changes were made to reflect any feedback. Once a vignette was considered representative of Sam's significant event, I then interpreted the vignette from the perspective of Sam's growth as a science learner and teacher. Sam was the n given the opportunity to read and reflect upon these interpretations, and suggest changes. This iterative process allowed Sam to become a silent author in this research, and to take some ownership of the process. But more importantly, in retelling the original story both Sam and I were allowed an opportunity for increased reflection, growth and change in the way we perceived our practice (Clandinin & Connelly, 1994).

Sam's science learning journey

Three dual perspective critical incident vignettes have been selected to illustrate part of Sam's science learning journey. Each vignette reflects a very different learning experience. These vignettes have been placed under three general headings that describe the content of each workshop: Oobleck, Bubbles and Sound. Within each of these headings there is a general introduction to the workshop, stating the purpose and the emphasis of each workshop. Following this is the vignette, with its own title. How each vignette was written is briefly discussed. Lastly, there is an interpretation of each vignette.



The purpose of this workshop was to introduce the preservice teachers to the use of process skills in science teaching. The emphasis in the workshop was on observation and communication, by describing an object with the five senses. The students were told a story about oobleck (cornflour mixed with coloured water) and were then given the opportunity to explore and describe oobleck in groups. The lesson was directed by six main questions:

Vignette 1: This isn't science, this is literacy!

Our teacher started with a story. It was about Queen M (I can't remember her name but it did begin with an M). Queen M and her people were in the middle of a drought, so Queen M summoned her fairies to make it rain. Instead of rain the fairies produced some green stuff called oobleck. Strange word that! After the story we had to describe the oobleck we had been given. There was a lot of discussion and laughing in our group about the oobleck. We came up with some great descriptions of oobleck - green, icky, oozy, slimy, alien's blood, squishy, smooth, runny, and shiny. The class then shared their ideas. There were even better descriptions used by the class. Such as tacky, pasty, rubbery, green icing sugar, a green marshmallow that you have sucked on and spat out, snot (oh gross!!), wet and dry at the same time, Gumby (that animated plastic character on children's TV that can change shape), and lazy playdough. We then had to draw a picture of our oobleck and write some words around the picture to describe it. We were encouraged to colour the picture. I used a green highlighter, and decided to put eyes on my oobleck to make it come alive, because it moved as though it was alive.

This was a great literacy lesson that I can see young children enjoying immensely. Strange that we were doing it in science!

How this vignette was written

Of all the vignettes, this was the easiest to write. At the end of the workshop Sam made a comment which reflected her critical incident, and ultimately became the title of the vignette: "This isn't science, this is literacy". It was from Sam's comment, and asking her why she made that comment, that the vignette very quickly came together. The description of the workshop was based on general class comments, making it authentic for all the students. What makes this vignette specific to Sam are the last two lines, and the relationship to literacy.

Interpretation of Vignette 1

This narrative shows a realisation to Sam of what science can be, and how science can be taught at a young age.

Sam's strengths and confidence lie in literacy. Sam was comfortable in this lesson because of the continual use and discussion of the "descriptive words" of oobleck. Sam admitted it is "easier to move into the literacy side as opposed to the science side". However, this lesson provided an opportunity for Sam to realise the connection between science and literacy.

Starting a unit with a simple, enjoyable and fun science investigation, disguised as literacy, provided an opportunity for those students who lacked self confidence in science to participate wholly and experience success in science. Even better if Sam chose not to call this lesson science. Sam was making connections through what she was comfortable with - literacy.

Starting with scientific literacy also provided an opportunity to perceive science from a very different perspective to the traditional views of abstract and analytical high school science. This lesson challenged Sam's existing views of science. The simplicity of the lesson, along with the "fun" component, was in stark contrast to her high school memories. For Sam, science had been taken off its pedestal of professors, theories and formulas, and made accessible to her. That accessibility had come about through simplicity.

This lesson also demonstrated to Sam how science could be taught to young children. Science should be kept simple, fun and very concrete so that all can participate and experience success. Further, the materials required for science should also be highly accessible items.

While this one lesson would not be enough to change Sam's fear of science, it provided an opportunity for her to look at science with fresh eyes.



The purpose of this workshop was to reinforce the process skills that were introduced the previous week. The emphasis in the workshop was on investigation, observation and communication. The students were given the opportunity to make wands from pipe cleaners and then blow bubbles. Each group of students was then given a different question to investigate.

Vignette 2: The power of questions

I played with bubbles today, and learnt about bubbles at the same time.
As a means of investigating bubbles, each group in the class was given different questions to investigate. These were: Our group started investigating our problem, which was the first one. While doing this we were asking each other questions, more like thinking out load. What shape bubble will we get if we have a diamond shape bubble maker? Or a star shape? What if we blow slow? What if we blow quickly? I even asked a question: Why can't we get a square shaped bubble from a square shaped bubble maker? I thought this was a good question, because no one in my group could answer it.

While investigating our problem, the teacher checked on our progress. She asked us questions to check we understood the problem. She asked us questions to help us explore our problem. She asked us questions to help us explain what we had found. She asked us questions to make us think.

At the end of the lesson each group had the opportunity to share their investigation with the rest of the class, and to answer any questions from the class.

Each group had conducted a simple investigation on the properties of bubbles. Yet when we combined our results we had an informative study of bubbles that was the consequence of some well-chosen questions.

I played with bubbles today and learnt about the importance of focus questions and the power of questioning in science.

How this vignette was written

This vignette was the hardest to write and went through multiple drafts and checks with Sam before it reflected her critical incident. Two things influenced Sam in this workshop: questioning , and being allowed to feel like a kid again. The original vignette that I wrote reflected the second point. However, Sam insisted that her main critical incident during the workshop was the use of questioning. Hence, a second different vignette was written, which Sam checked numerous times for authenticity.

Once again, the majority of this vignette reflected what Sam's group experienced during the workshop. However, it became personalised by the specific question that Sam asked her group on square shaped bubbles. Sam's realisation of the importance of questions in this workshop is reflected through the italicised sentences at the beginning and end of the vignette.

Interpretation of Vignette 2

This narrative relates to questioning in the science classroom and Sam's anxiety with science questions.

Initially, this narrative illustrates to Sam the importance of questioning in science. Through this lesson Sam has discovered that having appropriate focus questions, and letting students question each other and the teacher, are all effective science teaching strategies.

However, Sam's main attention was on the focus questions themselves. Sam found that these focus questions provided the direction for the lesson and the boundaries for the investigations. For Sam, these focus questions helped to create order from disorder, and provided her with a life-line to learning about science. These life-lines could be considered as Sam's connections between literacy and science. This science lesson further built on Sam's strength in the literacy area as a means of developing her confidence in science.

Science questions are a source of anxiety for Sam, both in her learning and teaching. This narrative shows that Sam is afraid to ask questions in class, for fear of the question being classed as a "stupid" question. This highlights Sam's lack of confidence in herself during science lessons through her limited knowledge of science. However, she was quite proud of herself for coming up with such a good question. This experience, as a student teacher, is similar to how many young children feel in their science classroom. It has allowed Sam to perceive being both a student and a teacher, and illustrated the importance of establishing a positive learning classroom environment where all questions and comments are valued. Sam's limited science content knowledge is also a source of anxiety during her teaching. Sam stated that not being able to answer a pupil's science question, or not being able to further question a pupil appropriately about a science topic, was a major contribution to her lack of confidence in teaching science.



The purpose of this workshop was to introduce the pre-service teacher to the science of sound, using a guided discovery model of teaching/learning. The emphasis in the workshop was on groups of students moving through five stations; each station providing a different investigation to illustrate that sound travels by vibrations, and that sound can travel through different mediums. Each station had a worksheet which gave instructions on how to complete the activity, as well as questions that had to be answered. The last questions on each worksheet asked for a generalised relationship based on what had been investigated at that station.

Vignette 3: Many dots, but no connections!

I am looking at the ceiling of the room. I know I should be listening to the teacher, but I cannot take my gaze away from the ceiling. It is a cream ceiling made up of many large, rectangular panels. Each panel is covered in small circular holes. Or that is what it looks like. I am sure they are not true holes, but rather recessed holes. The holes are about 1 cm in diameter. There are so many holes in each rectangular panel. Even more holes in the entire ceiling.

I am looking at the holes in the ceiling, trying to make patterns with them. Like a "join-the-dots" game. There are so many holes, but I cannot find a pattern. I cannot find any way to connect all these holes. I know there has to be a pattern, but why can't I find one? Is it me? Why can't I make any connections?

The teacher is talking to the class. I can hear a noise in the background, but it has no meaning to me. I cannot pull my eyes away from the holes in the ceiling panels. I have to make some connections!

All the students are moving to do an activity. I can hear them calling to me to join them, but I cannot move. I can hear them moving chairs, talking to each other, manipulating objects, but it has no meaning to me. I cannot pull my eyes away from those holes. So many holes. So many sounds. But no connections!

How this vignette was written

This vignette came to me while looking at the ceiling of a conference room, and reflecting on Sam's comments on the importance of making connections with prior knowledge. Hence, the association with the ceiling in the first paragraph, and the use of the word connections in the title. Once I had seen the ceiling, it became very easy to write this vignette. Sam found that this vignette truly reflected her disconnectedness during the workshop. So much so, that the vignette was hardly modified from the original version.

Interpretation of Vignette 3

This narrative attempts to reflect the negative feelings that Sam experienced during the sound workshop.

Sam's disconnectedness with the content of the lesson is directly related to the abstract nature of sound. While the activities provided in the workshop were an attempt to illustrate the physical nature of sound, Sam required even more concrete information. Even the analogy of a slinky as a sound wave was not concrete enough for Sam. She needed to "see" sound waves in order to understand them, before investigating what happens as a consequence of moving sound waves. This highlights the difficulty of teaching abstract concepts, even through analogy.

By using the guided discovery model of learning, Sam found she had no foundation on which to build her sound knowledge. Consequently, each of the activities had no connections and no understanding for Sam, and was completed simply because it had to be and because she was drawn along by her fellow group members. Based on these experiences, Sam was critical of this model, and originally stated that she would be unlikely to use it in her teaching. Upon further reflection, Sam commented that she could see the merits of the guided discovery model, especially as an assessment tool.

Sam readily admitted to being off task in this lesson, even describing herself as being "distracted and somewhat disruptive". This was directly attributable to her not understanding the lesson, and therefore not being interested in it.

Sam used this negative experience to reflect upon science teaching and learning in early childhood. This lesson allowed her to not only experience science through the eyes of a child, but a disinterested child. Sam experienced first hand how easily it is to become distracted and disruptive in a classroom. From a teaching perspective, this lesson demonstrated to Sam how important it is to use concrete experiences for young children, and to modify teaching methods if it becomes apparent that students are not understanding the content. Sam further made the statement that "if children become disconnected from science in the early years they may form negative images/attitudes of science in their latter years in and out of school". This statement clearly shows Sam's growing maturity and understanding of the importance of attitude in science education, as well as across the whole curricula, and the correspondingly important role the teacher plays in changing (hopefully improving) that attitude.

Evaluation of dual perspective critical incident vignettes

While only three critical incident vignettes are presented in this paper, they have provided an effective means of describing how pre-service teachers learn science and how to teach science. These vign ettes have highlighted personal, concrete and contextually specific aspects of the pre-service teacher's science learning experiences. Taken over a full semester, the vignettes can provide a detailed analysis of Sam's learning process, and enhance the interpretation of this case study.

The use of dual perspective provides more than just imaginatively participating in the experiences of others (Eisner, 1981). Through dual perspective I have had the unique opportunity to be part of Sam's lived experiences, and to observe, describe and interpret these experiences from her perspective. This alternative perspective allows me a valuable insight into Sam's learning process, and an opportunity to truly share in her learning journey.

The relationship between the teacher educator and the pre-service teacher is paramount when implementing dual perspective in order to gain access to pre-service teachers' perspectives. Due to the nature of the science workshops, where I was the facilitator and the constructor of the learning environment, and the small class sizes (approximately 20), it was possible to develop close professional working relationships with the pre-service teachers. It is this positive relationship that leads to sharing of information, and this sharing then leads to insight into pre-service teachers' learning. Such sharing and insight is not possible when interpreting quotes from reflective journals at some time interval after their entry into the journal, or when an "outsider" comes into a classroom to interpret some educational phenomenon.

Advantages and limitations of methodology

As with all methodological approaches, there are advantages and limitations attached to the use of dual perspective in creating critical incident vignettes. These are discussed below.


The major advantage of the dual perspective methodology is that it allows both the voices of the pre-service teacher and the teacher educator to be heard. Because this approach involves a collaborative inquiry process, the teacher educator and the pre-service teacher work closely together to generate meaning from relevant data. As a consequence of this, dual perspective also allows for deeper levels of interpretation.

Another advantage to using the dual perspective methodology is what I call the "here and now" factor. As the teacher educator of the workshops, I am a part of all learning experiences. Being an integral part of this process makes context and interpretation much easier than having to rely on any "third party" reports or descriptions. Another aspect of the "here and now" factor is that critical incident vignettes can be written and interpreted immediately after discussing them with the pre-service teacher. Hence, they provide a means of quickly gathering rich, qualitative data and obtaining information on a particular phenomena (Angelides, 2001).

The use of dual perspective methodology, over a period of time, allows for a synthesis of the learning process. This is in contrast to the common use of decontextualised quotes which support common themes that are identified through the lens of the researcher (Wallace & Louden, 2000). By looking through the pre-service teacher's perspective over the semester, it is possible to identify change and growth, and to start describing the subtle but continuous learning process that is occurring.

As a teacher educator, dual perspective readily allows for the linking of critical incidents, reflection and inquiry (Angelides, 2001). By sharing Sam's science learning journey I have heightened my own critical interest of reflection, forcing me to question taken-for-granted thoughts, feelings and actions (Schon, 1987). Such reflections after each workshop encouraged me to adjust both my teaching methods and the science learning experiences I was providing: a form of teaching as praxis.


The vignettes reported in this paper, and any meaning and interpretations attached to them, have several limitations. Firstly, the vignettes were constructed with a particular purpose in mind: to understand how pre-service primary teachers learn science and learn to teach science. As such, these vignettes are reflections of both Sam's and my own experiences. We have created meaning from these experiences based on our own preconceptions, interests and research frames (Wallace & Louden, 1997). Secondly, these vignettes represent a detailed description and interpretation of Sam's science learning journey over one semester in an attempt to describe a subtle but continuous learning process. While they are not a complete record of how Sam comes to learn, they do provide a unique insight into that process. Thirdly, these vignettes represent only Sam's science learning journey. Other pre-service primary teachers may have different views and interpretations of similar events in the science workshops. Further research is required to provide a comparison of science learning journeys between pre-service primary teachers. Finally, as these vignettes were constructed through the lenses of both the pre-service teacher and the science teacher educator, the question of truth and triangulation arises. However, since a constructivist-interpretative paradigm was adopted in this research, there is no reality out there whose truth has to be captured (Wildy, 1999). Rather, the reality is constructed as both Sam and I attempt to make sense of our experiences.


In order to truly understand any phenomena, it is necessary to examine it from different angles, different perspectives and different points of view (Angelides, 2001). This paper has described and illustrated the use of dual perspective critical incident vignettes as a means of observing phenomena through the lenses of both the participant and the researcher. This methodology has proven to be holistic, contextual, interpretive, reflective, allowing for synthesis and the sharing of lived experiences. It has allowed me to observe how others interpret my ideas and reality, so that I can better understand and appreciate their reality.


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Please cite as: Howitt, C. (2004). The use of critical incident vignettes to share a pre-service primary teacher's science learning journey. Proceedings Western Australian Institute for Educational Research Forum 2004. http://www.waier.org.au/forums/2004/howitt.html

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