Indiana high school science teachers' beliefs about the intended and actual impacts of standards-based reforms

Joseph W Shane, Purdue University


Teachers' beliefs about educational policy are essential components of successful, local implementation. Policies not accounting for teachers' beliefs about learning, instruction, and effective reform risk being ignored or ineffectually implemented. In this research, I characterize the beliefs that science teachers from three high schools in Indiana have about general aspects of standards-based reforms and about the Indiana Academic Standards for Science (IASS). On-site focus group interviews were the primary method of data collection. An amalgam of Gadamer's philosophical hermeneutics and narrative representation of qualitative data guided the inquiry by defining the researcher as the voice of the 23 participating teachers, locating the teachers' beliefs in their specific historical contexts, and displaying the results in a storied form unified by plots. I synthesized the data sources into a single narrative organized around the participants' personal teaching philosophies, their perceptions of students and administration, and their visions of standards beyond their own beliefs and school contexts. Based on the narrative, I concluded that (a) teachers with affective or preparative beliefs had neutral stances toward the IASS, (b) scientifically-oriented teachers believed the IASS contradicted their work, (c) less experienced teachers and those with affective-preparative philosophies were willing to compromise their autonomy and curricular depth to implement the IASS, (d) a continuum of administrative oversight existed across the three schools, (e) teachers at the urban high school adapted the standards to their students' personal needs and future plans, and (f) teachers almost universally recommended broader, flexible standards to allow more autonomy in making curricular decisions, to better reflect scientific inquiry in their classrooms, and to promote continuity across the high school science curriculum.




Bodner, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Curricula|Teaching|Science education

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