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Theses Doctoral

De-Marginalizing Science in the Early Elementary Classroom: Fostering Reform-Based Teacher Change through Professional Development, Accountability, and Addressing Teachers' Dilemmas

Berg, Alissa Bethany

To develop a scientifically literate populace, students must acquire the motivation and foundational skills for success in science beginning at an early age. Unfortunately, science instruction is often marginalized in elementary schools for reasons including teachers' lack of confidence in teaching science and an overemphasis on literacy and mathematics. This study employed a case study design to examine the impact of teachers' dilemmas, career stage, coaching, and other forms of support on elementary teachers' abilities to teach science more often and in more reform-based ways. The conceptual lenses used to guide this dissertation include the theory related to teacher change, dilemmas, reform-oriented science teaching, and the professional learning continuum. Findings suggest that teachers' dilemmas must be addressed in order for them to move toward more reform-based science teaching practices. It was found that how teachers reconcile their dilemmas is due in part to their career stage, level of readiness, and access to a more knowledgeable other who can assist them in learning and enacting reform-based instruction. Moreover, the likelihood and extent of teacher change appears to be related to teachers recognizing a need to change their practice, developing the capacity to change, feeling accountable to change, and possessing the motivation to change. Implications for teacher educators, professional development providers, and curriculum developers are presented. It is argued that teachers require support the length of their career and, to be effective, this support must be personalized to their diverse and changing needs and responsive to the context in which they teach.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Science Education
Thesis Advisors
Mensah, Felicia
Degree
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
June 6, 2012
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