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Stefan Sorge

Teachers are key members of the education system, as they are the ones responsible for designing quality teaching. On the way from being a first-year student to becoming a teacher who designs instruction that fosters learning and motivates students, teacher training plays a central role, since it is precisely here that the theoretical foundations are laid for a career in the teaching profession. Once prospective teachers have mastered the transition from their own school days to university, they have the opportunity to develop their professional knowledge in formal learning opportunities during their studies. The use of these learning opportunities depends on the interplay of students' cognitive abilities and motivational attitudes. The aim of the study presented in the following was therefore to gain insights into possible influencing factors for a positive development in physics teacher training.

Academic success at the beginning of studies

In the transition from school to university, first-year students are confronted with the demands and learning environment of the university for the first time. This leads to a comparison with their own expectations of the subject, their studies and their own role as students. This comparison is made more difficult by the fact that introductory courses in physics are open to students from various study groups (e.g. majoring students and teacher training students). Only after the entrance phase ("gatekeeper courses") has been successfully completed can further development take place in the course of studies. In order to be successful in this phase, students not only require social and personal prerequisites, but also cognitive skills and prior content knowledge. In a study with N = 158 first semester physics students, predominantly cognitive skills were found important to pass the introductory course. The level of prior content knowledge at the beginning of the studies has no additional influence on whether or not the introductory course is successfully completed. A more detailed analysis of successful students, however, showed that prior content knowledge is essential to optimally pass the introductory session.

Development over the course of teacher training

In the course of their teacher training, prospective teachers attend various learning opportunities to develop the central aspects of professional knowledge: content knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge and pedagogical knowledge. Only through the combined use of all three knowledge facets are teachers able to plan, enact and reflect on high-quality teaching. In order to capture these three central aspects of professional knowledge, the project "Measuring the professional knowledge of preservice mathematics and science teachers" (German acronym: KiL) at the IPN has developed corresponding test instruments for biology, chemistry, mathematics and physics. A cross-sectional study with N = 200 prospective physics teachers, showed that content, pedagogical content and pedagogical knowledge develop successively during the course of teacher training. In addition to lectures and seminars, classroom observations also have a significant effect on the level of existing professional knowledge.

Interaction of achievement and motivation

To optimally foster the motivation of their students, teachers not only need adequate professional knowledge, but also supportive motivational attitudes. When designing learning opportunities in university teacher education, one should therefore consider both the fostering of knowledge and the positive development of motivational attitudes such as self-concept or interest. However, joint fostering is challenging because achievement and motivation influence each other in their development. Teacher training students, for example, determine their own self-concept in an external frame of reference by comparing their performance with that of their fellow students (social comparisons). On the other hand, achievement in different domains are compared with each other in an internal frame of reference (dimensional comparisons). We found indications showing that prospective physics teachers carry out social comparisons both in their content knowledge and in their pedagogical content knowledge. In addition, physics teacher students use their pedagogical content knowledge to contrast it with their self-concept in the content area.

Experimenting in a teaching-learning laboratory

The German teacher education system is based on a two-fold approach, in which the theoretical foundations are first acquired during university teacher education and then refined and applied during the introduction phase. There have, however, been efforts previously to offer more practical phases during the university phase. As an additional practical experience, so-called teaching-learning laboratories are proposed to allow a purposefully combination of theoretical considerations with the reduced complexity of practical experience with school students in a out-of-school laboratory. The interdisciplinary Master's course at Kiel University, which combines theoretical and practice-oriented aspects of teacher training, was developed and established in collaboration between the subjects of biology, chemistry and physics and the Kieler Forschungswerkstatt. Students are additionally supported in their reflection processes in the teaching-learning laboratory focusing on certain predetermined theories of science education and using an adapted reflection sheet, so that they are further prepared for their future work as teachers through this additional learning opportunity.

" The complex interplay of entry characteristics, learning opportunities attended and motivational orientations should be given greater consideration in order to optimally develop the professional knowledge of prospective physics teachers. «