Date of Award

5-16-2008

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Middle-Secondary Education and Instructional Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Lisa Martin-Hansen - Chair

Second Advisor

Dr. Christine Thomas

Third Advisor

Dr. Mike Dias

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Geeta Verma

Abstract

Professional development for educators has been defined as the process or processes by which teachers achieve higher levels of professional competence and expand their understanding of self, role, context and career (Duke and Stiggins, 1990). Currently, there is limited research literature that examines the effect a professional development course, which uses David Kolb’s experiential learning model, has on the professional growth and teaching practice of middle school science teachers. The purpose of this interpretive case study is to investigate how three science teachers who participated in the Rivers to Reef professional development course interpreted the learning experience and integrated the experience into their teaching practice. The questions guiding this research are 1. What is the relationship between a professional development course that uses an experiential learning model and science teaching practice? 2. How do the Rivers to Reef participants reflect on and describe the course as a professional growth experience? The creation of the professional development course and the framework for the study were established using David Kolb’s (1975) experiential learning theory and the reflection process model designed by David Boud (1985). The participants in the study are three middle school science teachers from schools representing varied settings and socioeconomic levels in the southeastern United States. Data collected used the three-interview series interview format designed by Dolbere and Schuman (Seidman, 1998). Data was analyzed for the identification of common categories related to impact on science teaching practice and professional growth. The major finding of this study indicates the years of teaching experience of middle school science teachers significantly influences how they approach professional development, what and how they learn from the experience, and the ways in which the experience influences their teaching practices.

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