A comparison of inservice elementary teachers' conceptions and enactment of reform-based science teaching practices

Susan Ellen Gran, Purdue University


Because students' understanding is influenced by how they are taught, it is important for elementary teachers to be familiar with reform-based science practices so they can translate that understanding into instructional practice (NRC, 2007, 2008, 2012). This does not happen organically; teachers have to engage in the practices of science so that they understand them, but they also have to understand what it takes to facilitate the practices of science with their students. ^ The purpose of this study was to examine how elementary teachers conceptualized and implemented science in their classrooms. Three different groups of teachers were studied shortly after the adoption of new science curricula: 1) teachers participating in a statewide science initiative who received kit-based materials and ongoing professional development; 2) teachers whose districts adopted the same kit curricula but did not participate in the initiative; and 3) teachers whose districts adopted textbook-based materials. A multi-case study approach was utilized, and data were gathered via a survey, interview, and classroom observation. This study described the conceptions of the teachers with regard to reform-based science. Also described are the participants' methods for teaching science. Findings indicate that decades of science reform efforts have been successful in terms of teachers' conceptions of science teaching, but translating conceptions to practice is more elusive. The teachers who participated in the science initiative had truly aligned their teaching practice with their reform-based conceptions. The other two groups had varying degrees of alignment; teachers who used kit curricula but did not participate in the science initiative demonstrated more consistent alignment between conceptions and practice than those teachers who used textbook-based materials. These findings suggest that a science initiative coupling ongoing professional development with kit-based curricula is an effective means for aiding teachers in translating their understanding of reform-based science into practice. This study recommends that districts and administrators allow for the time and resources for site-based professional development in science. Also recommended is for professional development organizers to include an element of sustainability to their programs.^




Brenda Capobianco, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Education, Elementary|Education, Teacher Training|Education, Sciences

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