Award Date

8-1-2015

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Teaching and Learning

First Committee Member

Hasan Deniz

Second Committee Member

Kendall Hartley

Third Committee Member

Daniele B. Brown

Fourth Committee Member

Matthew Bernacki

Number of Pages

352

Abstract

This qualitative study aimed to explore the changes in elementary science teachers’ conceptions of nature of science (NOS) and their beliefs about the developmental appropriateness and importance of NOS after participating in an academic, year-long professional development program (PDP) as well as the factors facilitating these changes. The PDP consisted of two phases. In the first phase, the participants received NOS training designed with an explicit-reflective instructional approach. In the second phase, the participants implemented several NOS training activities in their classrooms. Four elementary science teachers who volunteered and completed all components of the PDP (i.e., the NOS training and the NOS teaching) comprised the participants of the present study.

A multiple-embedded case study design was employed to explore the changes in the elementary science teachers’ conceptions of NOS and their beliefs about the developmental appropriateness and importance of NOS. The study data were collected from multiple sources. The primary data sources included (a) Views of Nature of Science Elementary School Version 2 (VNOS-D2) questionnaire (Lederman & Khishfe, 2002), (b) Ideas about Science for Early Elementary (K-4) Students questionnaire (Sweeney, 2010), and (c) follow-up semi-structured interviews. The secondary data sources included videotaping of meetings with teachers, reflective field notes, and artifacts produced by teachers and their students. Data were analyzed using Yin’s (1994, 2003) analytic tactics of pattern matching, explanation building, and cross-case synthesis.

The findings of the study revealed that the elementary science teachers showed gradual, but substantial changes in their conceptions, and beliefs about the developmental appropriateness and importance of the NOS aspects over the course of participation in the PDP. Moreover, the participants identified nine components in the PDP that facilitated these changes in their conceptions, and beliefs about the developmental appropriateness and importance of the NOS aspects. These components were (a) specific focus on the NOS content, (b) participation in hands-on activities on NOS, (c) educational readings on NOS, (d) multiple types/ formats of reflection, (e) multiple exposure to the NOS content, (f) structural consistency in the presentation of the NOS content, (g) the evaluation of secondary student data, (h) the analysis of national and state science standards in terms of NOS, and (i) the implementation of the NOS activities in the classroom. Based on the findings of this study, it may be concluded that explicit-reflective NOS instruction coupled with NOS teaching is sufficient to evolve and crystallize teachers’ conceptions and beliefs about the developmental appropriateness and importance of the NOS aspects.

Keywords

Elementary teachers; Nature of Science; Professional Development Program; Teacher Beliefs

Disciplines

Philosophy of Science | Science and Mathematics Education | Teacher Education and Professional Development

Language

English