Theses Doctoral

“I found a science family!” Elementary Teachers: Structures and Agency in Vertical Science Professional Learning Community, Moving Beyond Silos

Peltier, Leana Ann

It is critical to provide inservice elementary teachers the opportunity to advance their science instruction, which in turn can positively impact not only their practice but also their perceptions towards science teaching and learning. Too often, science-specific professional development (PD) programs are scarcely provided as a result of an emphasis on English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics. Other hurdles include elementary teachers themselves having poor or little positive science experiences that lead to hesitancy or avoidance of science teaching. One way to dismantle these obstacles is for elementary teachers to engage in science learning and teaching. It has been noted that teachers can make positive changes to their practice by participating in ongoing professional development.

This study uses a multiple case study approach to understand how three elementary teachers experience a science professional learning community (PLC) composed of middle school and high school science teachers and the affordances this structure provides them. Recognizing that learning is a fundamentally social phenomenon, this study utilizes situated learning and legitimate peripheral participation, communities of practice, and structure-agency dialectic as theoretical frameworks. Data from teacher reflections, audio recordings, lesson observations, researcher field notes, lesson plans, and semi-structured interviews were used to highlight the affordances of the structures of the PLC. Findings from this study suggest the vertical PLC space can greatly influence elementary teachers’ professional growth and agency development. Likewise, because of their equitable contributions in this space, the elementary teachers contributed to the secondary teachers’ professional growth. This study has implications for the design and designing and implementing professional development for inservice elementary teachers.

Keywords: science professional development, elementary science teacher, professional learning community, vertically aligned professional learning community, social structures, agency


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Science Education
Thesis Advisors
Mensah, Felicia
Emdin, Christopher
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 24, 2023