Theses Doctoral

Multi-compartment Network Model of Science Teacher Education Based on Social Constructivist Principles: Proposing an Analytic Model for Understanding Science Teacher Education Practices

Tobgye, Sonam

The introduction of Science Education Standards for the K-12 education system of the United States and those of Bhutan is aimed at providing students with equitable access to quality science instruction and to promote a scientifically literate society. These reforms in education systems require teachers who are well prepared to translate the reform documents, (i.e., Science Standards and curriculum goals) into effective daily classroom instruction. Reform efforts by the states or the federal government involve significant investment of financial and other resources.

But all too often the teachers are not prepared to implement reforms in their classroom professional practices due to lack of proper (and timely) professional development and necessary support. To design professional development and educative materials to enable teachers’ implementation of these reform ideas, we need research into the current practices and challenges in implementing reform ideas by pre-service science teachers and in-service science teachers. Science education programs and research has increasingly placed emphasis on the need for sound theoretical models to support educational program development and implementation.

This is a case study based on a multi-compartment network model designed to examine aspects of current practices in implementing reform ideas, and furthermore to identify areas of best practices and areas of improvement (e.g., professional practices and interpretation of theories of teaching and learning). The core of the model is grounded in the principles of social constructivism, and the relevant theories and practices guiding teacher education forms the multi-compartments of a network box model that focuses on how the components interact with each other in a teacher education program. It is intended to provide a holistic picture of how the teacher education practices and reform implementation goals interact. This model was initially applied in an investigation of practices of a cohort of pre-service science teachers in a teacher education program in the U.S. This constituted phase one of this research.

Subsequently, it also was applied to a pre-service science teacher education in Bhutan. There, the course involved translation of reform ideas into the pre-service teacher’s professional practices, in this latter case science Standards (referred to as Bhutan Goals of Science Education) in Bhutan. In parallel to the U.S.-based study, a cohort of pre-service science teachers in a science education course and relevant expert science teacher educators participated in the Bhutan study. The study was carried out in two separate case studies with distinct contextual characteristics. The U.S. case study part one was designed in some ways to pilot the analytical model. The Bhutan case study part two is an extension of the first study.

In both the U.S. and Bhutan study, the pre-service science teachers and expert science teacher educators showed strong degree of coherence in terms of their ranking of the science Standards and their rationale behind the ranking, indicating a certain degree of evidence for a community of practice. However, further inquiry revealed that pre-service science teachers struggled to effectively incorporate Standards in their lesson plans. Furthermore, the findings from the two-part study provide some insights into how this analytical model can be applied to science teacher education engaged in reform implementation, across different institutional and cultural contexts. Both quantitative and qualitative evidence were obtained and analyzed using descriptive statistical analysis methods and qualitative data analysis techniques.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Science Education
Thesis Advisors
Anderson, O. Roger
Mensah, Felicia
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
February 21, 2024