Theses Doctoral

Teachers’ Transition From Teacher-Centered to Learner-Centered Classrooms Using the Next Generation Science Standards as a Tool

Cole-Onaifo, Karen Althea

This is a study of teachers transition after a professional development (PD). The purpose was to document and characterize the teachers’ experiences as they transitioned toward use of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and more learner-centered teacher practices. The teachers participated in a PD workshop that provided information on the use of the NGSS (NGSS Lead States, 2013). Following the PD workshop, the teachers’ experiences as they transitioned in their classroom teaching practices were documented and analyzed. This study used a mixed-methods (qualitative and quantitative evidence) design and emphasized two of the eight science practices: Asking questions and Engaging in argument from evidence.

To examine the teachers’ transition to learner-centeredness, Webb’s depth of knowledge chart and learner-centered rubric and the Survey of Science Instructional Practices were used. Four high school science teachers volunteered to participate in this study and were observed, audio-recorded, and interviewed over 9 weeks to document and analyze their transition toward a more learner-centered classroom. Classroom observations started after the teachers participated in a full-day PD workshop. Classroom observations, recordings, and interviews were used to note the frequency with which the participants and their students engaged in the target science practices over the 9 weeks of the study and to identify factors that facilitated or inhibited the teachers’ transition toward learner-centered instruction.

The teachers demonstrated a mostly transitional approach over the 9-week observational period. The results showed that during the first through the final classroom observation, the teachers’ practices became more learner centered, but the pattern of progress varied. There was no linear progression from the first through the last observation. The teachers provided a rich and informative narrative about the factors that facilitated or inhibited their transition from a traditional- to a student-centered learning environment. For example, all of the participants stated that the PD was integral in helping them implement the target practices but that they did not receive enough support from colleagues and administrators to fully transition to learner-centered instruction. In addition, the New York State Regents Examinations in June 2019 seemed incompatible with the new science and engineering practices of the NGSS.

This study provides insight into teachers’ challenges as they adopt the NGSS and implement the NGSS science and engineering practices in their classrooms. The research is particularly beneficial to teachers who have been textbook-oriented and seek a shift to a learner-centered classroom using the science practices of Asking questions and Engaging in argument from evidence.

Geographic Areas


  • thumnail for ColeOnaifo_columbia_0054D_17164.pdf ColeOnaifo_columbia_0054D_17164.pdf application/pdf 1.53 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Science Education
Thesis Advisors
Emdin, Christopher
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
April 20, 2022