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:
- How did teacher PCK for scientific argumentation vary by curriculum use and enactment?
- How did teachers use and enact a reform oriented educative science curriculum supporting the practice of scientific argumentation?
- What influenced teachers’ sensemaking about argumentation based upon their instructional decisions and their use of curriculum?
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.