Improving a Large-Scale Science Professional Development through A Design-Based Research Approach
Authors: Doron Zinger, Elizabeth A. van Es, Brad Hughes
Presented at 2017 AERA
Abstract: Emphasis on high-quality science instruction and the continued inequity in science learning opportunities for diverse students have highlighted the importance of improving science teacher PD. Despite this, PD continues to have mixed results for achieving this goal (Guskey & Yoon, 2009). Our study examines how a DBR approach, an alternative to evaluative approaches, helped change a week-long summer institute PD from its first to second iteration. This study was part of a larger three-year project designed to prepare 118 elementary school teachers to use two approaches to teach science to diverse students: inquiry science and arts-based approaches. This study sought to examine how DBR could change the structure of the PD and opportunities for teachers to learn to teach science in the PD. Additionally, we wanted to examine how teacher feedback helped inform the design changes. The first iteration of the PD followed many features for effective PD (Desimone, 2009). We adopted a DBR approach after the first summer institute to investigate how these features supported teacher learning. Following the initial PD, we engaged teachers in the design process for the second year’s PD by collecting data from several sources: 1) end of PD surveys; 2) first year implementation logs for three inquiry lessons; 3) classroom observation of two focal teachers; 4) semi-structured interviews with the focal teachers; and 5) teacher surveys of their conceptions of inquiry. These data were then analyzed and fed back into the design of the year two PD. To understand the structure and teacher learning opportunities of the PD and change between PD iterations, we collected and analyzed: 1) each summer PD’s three inquiry based instructional session; 2) agendas of each PD; and 3) an interview with one of the PD designers after the initial summer PD. Results suggest that despite generally positive initial feedback, the first PD design and instructional affordances did not address a number of critical teacher learning and practice needs, centrally, teacher understanding of inquiry-based instruction. Additionally, the first PD offered teachers limited opportunities to provide immediate PD feedback and had few affordances to address teacher concerns during the week-long PD. The second PD iteration responded to teachers’ feedback through structural changes and changes in teacher learning opportunities. Multiple feedback loops were introduced into the second PD cycle. These included daily teacher feedback opportunities that promoted teacher voicing of ideas and concerns that were addressed each subsequent morning. Additionally, PD instructors and designers debriefed, reviewed, and modified inquiry sessions at the end of each day to promote teachers’ opportunities to learn. In examining teacher feedback, we found that no single source of data provided a complete picture of teacher PD experience, sentiment, or implications for teacher instructional practice. Indeed, changes in the PD were informed through the combination of all sources of teacher feedback. This highlights the importance of obtaining multiple sources of teacher feedback data to inform PD design.
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