Hypotheses & Research Questions
- Science learning can be detected and improved in students if teachers’ practices are aligned with the inquiry standards in the NSES.
- Teachers can use inquiry appropriately and effectively if their beliefs about teaching and learning are aligned with those underlying the inquiry standards.
- PD can markedly affect practice when it strictly adheres to proven practices, provides experiences that shape beliefs about scientific inquiry and inquiry instruction, and gives teachers the opportunity to adapt, implement, and study curriculum materials in classroom contexts.
- Long-term PD is essential for real instructional reform.
- How do the three TI core experiences (RET, MA, and AR) influence in-service HS science teachers’
- understanding of the nature of science; (ii) attitudes and beliefs about inquiry instruction; and
- classroom instructional methods in the derivatives of the TI model?
- How does teacher participation in TI affect students’ process skills (scientific reasoning and metacognition) and conceptual understanding of science in the derivatives of the TI model?
- What are the challenges and solutions related to implementing TI in science disciplines beyond chemistry and in other regions?
The TI model was designed based on best practices for science education PD. During the pilot at GVSU, the TI implementation was tailored to meet the needs of high school chemistry teachers in western Michigan. The two TI derivatives in our proposal require the implementation features to be slightly different. Exploring the nature of those differences is the charge in Research Question #3 and is based on hypothesis statement (3). This statement acknowledges work from the past 25 years based on Shulman’s (1986) original ideas about pedagogical content knowledge (PCK). In a recent review of articles focusing on studies grounded in the PCK framework, published in a special issue of the International Journal of Science Education, Abell (2008) noted the work described four important components of PCK: (1) PCK involves discrete categories of knowledge applied synergistically to instructional practice; (2) PCK is not static, but constantly changing based on experience; (3) content knowledge (specific to a particular domain or topic) is central to PCK; and (4) PCK involves the transformation of other types of knowledge. As such, we acknowledge teachers from different school environments (including different States) and different science disciplines may require different experiences to shape their beliefs about scientific inquiry and inquiry instruction along with different types of support in adapting, implementing, and studying these curriculum materials. Consequently, noting the design challenges and solutions in expanding and implementing the TI program at different institutions and in different science disciplines will be important in informing more large scale dissemination of TI.
In general, our hypotheses are grounded in the literature on teaching and learning and effective professional development providing the foundation for the TI model. The literature tells us that inquiry instructional methods have a positive effect on student outcomes (both content and process skills). As a central goal of TI is to improve inquiry instruction in science classes, we expect that if teachers demonstrate an increased use of inquiry instruction that we should also see effects on student outcomes. Thus, part of Research Question #1 focuses on changes in teaching practices as teachers progress through the program, and Research Question #2 focuses on changes in student outcomes as teachers progress through the TI program.
The research also tells us that teachers’ beliefs and knowledge about teaching and learning as well as their understanding of the nature of science (NOS) have a substantial influence on instructional decisions and their motivations and abilities to effectively use inquiry instructional practices. Therefore, we want to look at what effects the TI program has on teachers’ understanding of NOS as well as their beliefs and understanding of inquiry instruction as indicated in Research Question #1. Combining quantitative measures with qualitative data (interviews, journal, class artifacts, etc.) will help us not only detect changes (positive, negative, or neutral) in these areas but also help us determine how the TI experiences work synergistically to bring about these changes.
Finally, data are collected throughout the program as the literature tells us that substantial change requires not only meaningful experiences, but also adequate time. Data from the TI pilot indicated that some teachers demonstrated notable changes in beliefs and/or instructional practices after the first year of the program and again after the second year of the program, while other teachers did not demonstrate notable changes until after the second year of the program. Collection of data throughout the program will allow us to identify key characteristics of the TI experiences and the teachers that drive these changes. Additionally, if changes are not observed then this will allow for appropriate program modifications of the TI derivatives.
Abell, S. K. (2008). Twenty years later: Does pedagogical content knowledge remain a useful idea? International Journal of Science Education, 30(10), 1405-1416.
Lewis, S. E., & Lewis, J. E. (2005). The same or not the same: Equivalence as an issue in educational research. Journal of Chemical Education, 82(9), 1408-1412.
Shulman, L. S. (1986). Those who understand: Knowledge growth in teaching. Educational Researcher, 15(2), 4–14.
Yezierski, E. J., & Herrington, D. G. (2011). Improving practice with Target Inquiry: High school chemistry teacher professional development that works,Chemistry Education Research and Practice, 12, 344-354.