Author

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Education

Major

Teaching-Learning Processes

Date of Defense

4-16-2015

Graduate Advisor

E. Wendy Saul, PhD

Committee

Franzel, Aaron

Ralph Cordova

Angela Kohnen

Alan Newman

Abstract

This qualitative, multiple case study examines five teachers’ experiences with a National Science Foundation-funded professional development (PD) program focused on science literacy. Using a three dimensional conceptual framework combining transformative learning theory, communities of practice, and sociocultural conceptions of identity it explores: the ways the “Science Literacy through Science Journalism” (SciJourn) project built professional community and influenced teacher learning; the influence of the project on participating science teachers’ professional identities, knowledge, and classroom practices; and the ways teachers were or were not transformed by participation in the project. To this end, data from surveys and phenomenological interviews were analyzed through qualitative textual analysis and narrative analysis. Four of the teachers experienced a change in their stories to live by, aka, an identity shift. Three predominant themes emerged across these cases. These included a changed conceptualization of science literacy, the importance of student engagement and authenticity, and the value of SciJourn's professional development and community. The changed conceptualization of science literacy was particularly salient as it challenged these teachers' assumptions, led them to rethink how they teach science literacy, and also influenced them to re-evaluate their teaching priorities beyond the PD. Consequently, this study concludes that PD efforts should focus as much, or more, on influencing teachers’ ideas regarding what and how they teach and less on teaching strategies. A close comparison between two teachers' diverging experiences with the program showed that student engagement played a significant role in teachers’ perceptions of the value of project, suggesting that whether or not teachers sustain a new practice is closely tied to their students’ feedback. Additionally, this analysis showed that a teacher's individualized needs and sense of efficacy in implementing a specific reform effort are of consequence. Thus, in order to be influential, PD must somehow speak to a teacher’s individualized needs, whether or not these needs are specifically stated at the program’s onset. Aside from wanting to implement a project, a teacher also needs to believe that he or she is capable of successfully doing so. In considering transformative learning theory as a conceptual framework, the research presented here gives evidence that certain phases of transformation may be more significant than others, and phase two (self-examination with feelings of fear, anger, guilt, or shame) should be expanded to include a wider range of emotions.

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