Date of Award

Spring 5-9-2014

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Middle and Secondary Education

First Advisor

Anton Puvirajah

Second Advisor

Lisa Martin-Hansen

Third Advisor

Olga Jarrett

Fourth Advisor

Christine Thomas

Abstract

Elementary teachers face many constraints when teaching science including limited time, content knowledge, confidence, and experience with reform-oriented instructional practices (Lee & Houseal, 2003; Davis, Petish & Smithey, 2006; Appleton, 2007; Metz, 2009; Wilson & Kittleson, 2011). The scope of this study was to (a) explore the influence of a K-5 science endorsement on the dimensions of professional knowledge of elementary science teachers and (b) to explore how those knowledge bases inform a teacher’s Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK). Within the consensus definition of PCK, PCK is defined as “knowledge of, reasoning behind, and planning for teaching a particular topic in a particular way for a particular purpose to particular students for enhanced student outcomes” (Gess-Newsome & Carlson, 2013).

Fifty four elementary teachers that had completed a K-5 science endorsement participated in the study. A mixed methods study was conducted to explore the influence of the endorsement on the dimensions of knowledge of elementary teacher. Content pre/post assessments on life, earth, and physical science content; and a retrospective pre/post self-efficacy and background survey were administered to all participants. A cross-case analysis of six participants was conducted to explore the professional knowledge bases of these participants following the endorsement. Observations, interviews, and document analysis were the qualitative data analyzed.

The teachers began the endorsement with a higher efficacy for pedagogical knowledge and a lower efficacy for reform-oriented instructional practices. Quantitative and qualitative data suggest a shift towards more reform-oriented practices following the endorsement. Pre/post content assessments and a retrospective pre/post self-efficacy survey showed statistically significant increases in content knowledge and self-efficacy following the endorsement. Observations and interviews provided support for emerging orientations towards the use of reform-based instructional strategies. Findings suggest the important role of an elementary teacher’s beginning pedagogical knowledge in the shift toward a reform-orientation. Multiple regression analyses provide an exploratory model for understanding the interactions of an elementary teacher’s professional knowledge bases following a reform-oriented professional development. This study provides insight to how elementary teachers navigate reform-oriented pedagogy in science.

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