Primary trainee teachers’ talk with primary school science coordinators
: Two case studies of primary trainees learning to teach science

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis concerned the potential influence of talk on learning to teach primary science and was based on two case studies involving primary science trainee teachers and primary school science coordinators. The overall question for the thesis was: how may ‘talk’ with a primary school science coordinator influence a trainee learning to teach science during a placement?

This study adopted a lens that acknowledged the importance of people and contexts for learning to teach. Extant research on science coordinators’ responsibilities, talk features and mentoring literature, as well as my own background as a science teacher and teacher educator informed and framed the study. A collective instrumental case study provided a methodological context for gathering qualitative data from interactions between two primary school trainee teachers and two science coordinators in primary schools. These participants were in two primary schools where the trainees were placed during the second year of a Bachelor of Education degree at a university in the Midlands, England. A participant observation strategy combined with a semi-structured interview protocol and participants’ reflective diaries were employed as research instruments. Three linguistic features of talk were analysed: topics in sequences of utterances, types of utterances spoken by the science coordinator and ‘we-statements’ spoken by trainees and science coordinators. Eight common topics emerged with science coordinators giving more information than instructions or questions and employing the use of ‘we- statements’ more than trainees. Trainees’ ‘I-statements’ altered during the placement. Factors influencing linguistic features included science coordinators’ prior experiences of ITT mentoring, school practices in teaching science, and topics of talk.

The study findings suggest three main ways in which talk may influence a trainee learning to teach science in a primary school. Firstly, talk may influence trainees ‘thinking and doing’ science; secondly, talk may influence trainees’ perceptions about their ‘achievements’ and thirdly, talk may influence trainees’ feelings about science teaching.

In making explicit how trainee teachers and science coordinators talk, this study helps to inform how talk may influence learning to teach primary science. From the findings, a new analogy emerged to support an understanding of ‘scaffolded’ learning for trainees through their zone of proximal development (ZPD) (Vygotsky, 1978): ‘talk molecules’. ‘Talk molecules’ visualise linguistic features of talk for a particular topic such that multiple ‘talk molecules’ create a ‘talk space’ which may act as stimuli for learning. This new analogy contributes new knowledge to an understanding of how talk may influence a trainee learning to teach science.
Date of AwardOct 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Northampton
SupervisorJane Murray (Supervisor) & Cristina Devecchi (Supervisor)


  • teaching
  • primary science
  • linguistics

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