- Year 2019
- NSF Noyce Award # 1540797
- First Name Elizabeth
- Last Name Lewis
- Discipline Biology, Chemistry, Geosciences, Other: Science Education, Physics
Lyrica Lucas, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, firstname.lastname@example.org;
Amy Tankersley, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, email@example.com; Elizabeth Hasseler, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, firstname.lastname@example.org; Brandon Helding, Boulder Learning, Inc., email@example.com
With new national science education standards (NGSS Lead States, 2013), it is critical to understand how to educate and support science teachers who are capable of advancing science education reform priorities. The Next General Science Standards (NGSS) require science teachers to be fluid in their selection, development, and implementation of curriculum within three dimensions of science learning. The NGSS three dimensions of science learning articulate aspects of science content knowledge, scientific methods, and the nature of science in an integrated approach to learning science. All dimensions require that science teachers have a strong understanding of science themselves and effective ways of teaching that are grounded in learning theory. In the first national science education standards ([NSES] NRC, 1996) the way to enact reformed-based science teaching was referred to as inquiry-based instruction. Models of inquiry-based instruction have been around for decades, but have been difficult to achieve in practice (Cuban, 1992). To help meet scientific literacy goals the NGSS learning objectives are more explicit and fine-grained than the NSES and leverage three-dimensional learning as a means for teachers to achieve success. This multifaceted study was specifically designed to investigate the inquiry-based teaching practices of beginning science teachers with a range of in-field content knowledge. Two teacher preparation programs were used as comparative contexts, one at the master’s level (MAT) and one at the undergraduate level. Only those teachers who completed their teacher preparation via the MAT program were supported with NSF Noyce stipends. This research responds to the gap in the research between teacher preparation programs and effective science teaching as it identifies specific mediating factors that can predict reform-based teaching practices.
In a 3-year longitudinal study we adopted a multi-method approach to investigate beginning science teachers’ instructional practices. Preservice teacher education, even robust preparation, cannot immediately prepare teachers to be effective teachers, but some preparation designs are better than others, but which ones? How much preparation, time and practice goes into becoming effective teachers? At some point the effects of teacher preparation programs attenuate, but when?
Conceptual framework. In our work we developed a growth model of teachers’ learning and mediating factors that may support or impede teachers’ enactment of inquiry-based teaching. The components of the teacher preparation program are subject matter knowledge and pedagogical knowledge in the context of out-of-field to in-field teaching as teachers gain experience and engage in professional development. Along this spectrum teachers should improve their knowledge of learners with attention to students’ cognitive and social development, and understand how equity issues and cultural diversity can affect students’ learning. The internal mediating factors in this model are teachers’ beliefs, self-efficacy, and attitudes. These elements of the teacher preparation program – program components, context, and knowledge of learners – along with the mediating factors could lead to reformed-based science teaching practices. Rationale. To diagnose challenges in teacher education we must first understand how teachers enact inquiry-based instruction and the relationship to their preparation as preservice teachers. In the NGSS, inquiry-based teaching integrates scientific practices with disciplinary core ideas. Multiple factors are involved in teachers’ use of scientific practices and with only a few prior studies, there is still little information on how students engage in such practices in the classroom. Many studies have been done using a lesson plan analysis, and there have been small-scale studies with few teachers with more in-depth analysis, but there is a real need to analyze large scale lesson data to determine which practices are being used in the secondary science classroom and the factors that influence the teachers’ use of those practices. Methods. We adopted a multi-method approach to investigate beginning science teachers’ instructional practices. We analyzed transcripts, administered a teaching self-efficacy survey, observed science lessons, and documented weeks of lessons. Using this large, longitudinal dataset, we posed research questions about the use of NGSS scientific practices in teachers’ science lessons and teacher- and student-level characteristics as it relates to teachers’ use of inquiry in the classroom. In order to expand our coding capability of science teaching data for use in our structural equation modelling efforts, we also completed an initial validation of a classroom observation instrument (the Discourse in Inquiry Science Classrooms [DiISC]) by describing validity aspects with factor analyses, correlations with another instrument (the Electronic Quality of Inquiry Protocol), and think-aloud and semi-structured interviews with DiISC raters. Finally, we used multivariate growth Structural Equations Modeling (SEM) based upon a 3-year longitudinal dataset with 660 classroom observations. Follow-up MANOVAs were conducted and focused on significant variables that predicted teacher inquiry-based instruction. Specifically, we examined teaching experience, school level or type (e.g., middle or high school), in- and out-of-field teaching (e.g., a biology teacher teaching biology or physics, respectively), and potential interactions between school level and in- and out-of-field teaching.
Several key outcomes will be discussed. First, teachers’ use of the NGSS science and engineering practices were influenced by program, subject matter and socioeconomic status. Teachers who graduated from the MAT program, physics teachers, and teachers in higher socioeconomic status schools used scientific practices significantly more often than other groups of teachers. Second, in an analysis of 650 lesson observations we found that while diversity of the students was not correlated with use of inquiry in the classroom, the membership in the teacher preparation program was a significant factor. In other words, teachers with a more robust science subject matter knowledge (i.e., an undergraduate degree in science prior to completing the MAT program to become a science teacher), used more inquiry-based instruction in the classroom. This finding points to the importance of subject matter knowledge and purposeful in-field student teaching placement in preparing teachers to implement inquiry in the secondary science classroom. Third, the DiISC is an instrument that enhances the way were are able to capture finer-grained details about inquiry-based teacher practices, academic language development, and learning principles. We established a strong body of evidence for the validity of the DiISC across standards aspects of the modern validity argument by adding structural and external validity and substantive validity to content validity that was already completed by the test developer. Using and exploratory structural equation models (SEM) with follow up anovas we were able to predict significant variables that predict teacher inquiry-based instruction. Finally, in our model-building efforts, we found that the MAT teacher were highly correlated with inquiry-based instructional practices. Specific to our research questions, the MAT teachers’ practices were highly correlated with inquiry-based instructional practices. Similarly, the program participation improved those teachers’ reported self-efficacy and ongoing professional development helped teachers persist in their use of inquiry-based instruction. Follow-up analyses indicated that teacher experience, school type (middle vs. high school) and in- and out-of-field teaching predict inquiry-based instruction as well.
As states work to implement the Next Generation Science Standards, either adopted or adapted, they must also carefully consider if their state science teacher certification policies are supporting robust science teacher preparation. When state policymakers only require a general science base for their science teachers that renders them out-of-field in multiple areas, they risk undermining science education reform. Our primary conclusion from our research is that both high quality teacher preparation and ongoing professional development are critical to inquiry-based instruction. Importantly, however, they are best when combined together, and intertwined in the same models of teacher learning. This is limited by several elements of the analysis, but also will lead us in several interesting directions for future research. These future, targeted investigations will be important because with such a large SEM, it was difficult to identify specific hypotheses within the omnibus fit statistics. For example, we used factor scores as raw variables in the model building process. If the factor structure changes, we may have to revert to raw scores on the original measures. This has implications for the measurement of teacher behavior and is a fertile area for future investigations. The next steps of our research include performing a hierarchical linear model on our data to predict the use of science practice by the secondary science teachers in our study, using qualitative analysis to analyze researcher observations and teacher interviews to better understand not only what practices are being used and by whom, but also how those practices are used in the secondary science classroom. We also aim to expand the analysis to see how diversity in the classroom relates to the implementation of science and engineering practices. Further analyses will also examine the specific, relative contributions of the teacher preparation program and ongoing professional development. The goal will be to determine tipping points at which either teacher preparation or teacher professional development are more effective for teachers’ inquiry-based instruction. Similarly, we will examine the type of professional development as that will certainly covary with a ROI examination of teacher programs and professional development. The ultimate hope for this work is to find gaps in teachers’ understanding and use of the practice and develop professional develop that will help teachers use all of the science practices consistently and effectively.