I was recently asked to read the pages of Barry Schwartz and Kenneth Sharpe's book, Practical Wisdom: The Right Way to Do the Right Thing that are available free on Amazon via the site's Look Inside function
Review: An Exploration of Teacher Learning From an Educative Reform-Oriented Science Curriculum: Case Studies of Teacher Curriculum Use
An Exploration of Teacher Learning From an Educative Reform-Oriented Science Curriculum: Case Studies of Teacher Curriculum Use
Marco‐Bujosa, L. M., McNeill, K. L., González‐Howard, M., & Loper, S. (2017). An exploration of teacher learning from an educative reform‐oriented science curriculum: Case studies of teacher curriculum use. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 54(2), 141-168.
This study sought to examine the effective use of an educative curriculum - that is a curriculum designed to help teachers learn about their subject and pedagogy in addition to serving as the basis of classroom instruction. The study was a case study focusing on five middle school teachers with varying experiences with science teaching and educative curriculum. Grounded in the organizational theory of sensemaking, the methodology was mixed-method and included videos of teacher performance, interviews and a survey. The study concluded that an educative curriculum may be effective at increasing teacher learning, but varies dependent upon both professional development preparation and personal teacher attributes.
The research questions were explicitly described:
Intent of the Study:
The study was designed to explore to components of educative curriculum use: to develop understanding of how educators use an educative curriculum - one that is designed help teachers learn, as well as form the basis of classroom instruction, and to develop an understanding of the factors influencing that use.
Theory Used to Support the Research:
Organizational theory’s sense making was clearly identified as the framework for the research.
The literature review was moderately thorough. The review focused on three aspects: educative curriculum, scientific argumentation, and organizational theory’s conceptual framework of sensemaking. Of these three, sensemaking received the least attention, but this is perhaps because it is fairly well established. Nonetheless, it could have been more thoroughly elaborated. Both educative curriculum and scientific argumentation were described thoroughly and referenced with substantial literature.
Participants in the study included five middle school science teachers, across three schools, with varying experience levels and experience with the sort of educative-reform oriented curricula examined in the study. The participants were selected with primary thought to their proximity to the researchers, however they were intentionally selected to produce variation in education context and teacher experience.
The study was a mixed-methods approach relying on five case case studies to explore the varied ways in which science educators utilize a piece of science curriculum to conceptualize instruction. The study incorporate three forms of data collection: videos of teachers during instruction, interviews with teachers, and pre- and post- assessments. Qualitative data was obtained via videos, interviews and open-ended survey questions, and quantitative data was collected via multiple-choice responses on the pre- and post- assessments.
Video analysis was used to code teacher activities with alignment of the curriculum, and inter-rater reliability was assessed using a two-way mixed average-measures intraclass correlation. Interviews were analyzed and coded using three methods
The study had two primary conclusions: The first conclusion was that even given the opportunity to utilize a curriculum in which their own learning occurs, the teachers may instead only use the curriculum to support current student learning. This suggests that these teachers either willfully ignore the educative aspect of the curriculum or are unaware of it. Second, that educators who do actively engage in their own learning while modifying curriculum to suit the context of their classroom make learning gains.
The results of the study suggest that educative curriculum can be valuable to increase teacher - and consequently, student - learning, however certain needs must first be met. The authors suggest that teachers who are able and willing to engage with the educative curriculum need time to reflect and incorporate their learning into teaching practices, and that those educators who are not able and willing need further professional development to understand the value of educative curriculum in improving their practices. The results of the study suggest there are remaining questions about the viability of educative curriculum, and encourages further research into how appropriate professional development can best prepare teachers for its use.
This study aligns with my own Problem of Practice in three aspects. Firstly, the theoretical framework of the study is organizational theory’s sensemaking. At present, sensemaking is the theoretical framework that I’m intending to utilize in my action research study. Secondly, the context of the study is middle school science teachers, and their effective use of curriculum; my Problem of Practice is the effective implementation of the NGSS. Finally, the conclusion of the research suggests that appropriate teacher development practices are key the effective use of curriculum for the intended purposes.
I feel the study has one significant weakness in that the case study utilizes a small sample size (n=5), that is not representative, and so consequently the results are not as generalizable as would be preferable. It should be noted that the authors describe an effort to diversify the sample, but the selection was still limited to a fairly small geographic region. Additionally, the two teachers who demonstrated the least enactment of the curriculum were also the two teachers with the least amount of experience in science and/or in science teaching - generally. The paper, I feel, does not adequately address this correlation which may bear significantly on the results.
The strength of the study is that it does demonstrate a variety of factors which influence the effectiveness of an educative curriculum. That the research is based on case studies allows for a more descriptive and nuances understanding of those factors. Additionally, the study has brought forward the understanding that teacher learning goals should be more explicit, and professional development aligned with better use of educative curriculum may prove valuable and worthy of additional research.
Firstly, Mertens piece is one of the general nature of paradigms, and they aspects of those paradigms which we might consider. For each of the four paradigms presented, Mertens identifies and describes the epistemological, ontological, axiological and methodological roots. These terms represent the nature of knowledge, reality, ethics, and procedural components of the paradigms. While he explains in some detail each of these four characteristics, I appreciate particularly the table he has provided which concisely summarizes each. In a very generalized way, one is lead to feel that as one shifts from positivism, to constructivism, to transformative and them pragmatic, there is a gradual shift away from the paradigms and methods of what would be known as the ‘hard sciences’. This is to say that post-positivism takes a stance more similar to that of the hard science (and Mertens alludes to this with a discussion of aristotle and others) where all of reality can be known and defined precisely, whereas transformative positions itself such that reality is mostly relativistic.
The second takeaway from the reading was way each aspect of the paradigms were intrinsically connected. That is to say, one could not take the ontology of postpositivism and interchange it with that of the pragmatic paradigm, for in doing so each of the other aspects epistemology, methodology, etc. would also change. Consequently, a research is pressed to understand the paradigm through with they are pursuing their study because it will have an affect on nearly all aspects of their research.
The third key point was, specifically, the importance placed on ethical considerations in each of the research paradigms. Though the paradigms themselves may approach the ethical considerations in slightly different ways, it’s clear that the ethical considerations have a significant impact on the research design in each of the paradigms. Mertens describes this specifically, but also alludes to the ethical nature or implications throughout the discussion on paradigms.
The Quora website is essentially a question and answer forum, which allows individuals to customize their inquiries and seek answers from the larger community. The site also allows individuals to add personal credentials, which one would assume is intended to lend credibility to answers that they provide. No verification of credentials appears to be made, however.
The content of the site is almost entirely composed of user-generated questions and user-generated answers, with an individual user’s personalized feed curated using a computer generated algorithm based on user-defined variables such as people of interest and topics of interest.
The most direct beneficiaries of the educational activities are the users. In posing questions they are interested in, and being able to receive feedback from community ‘experts’ (which occasionally, may actually be true experts) the users are able to engage directly in useful and productive dialogue. On a wider scale, the site has enabled an ability to download or view questions and responses in a printable format, as well as embed or copy links to the site’s version of the questions. This functionality allows much wider dissemination to a broader community.
As would be expected in today’s social-media centric age, the site also allows for sharing of the questions and responses through popular sites such as Facebook, and Twitter, further increasing the audience available.
The site has an integrated login with a Google (or facebook) account, which allows for seamless integration with educational institutions that are utilizing a Google Apps environment.
A significant concern in the moment of ‘fake-news’ concern, is the potential abuse of what the site calls “upvoting” to answers that are deemed as most appropriate or most favorited for particular questions that have been published. This process of upvoting theoretically leads to answers which are increasingly factual however I suspect that it could also be easily abused, or even lead to upvoting of answers that are written by individuals who are particularly popular for insignificant reasons, or of a particular political bent that is popular.