The effects of a professional development program on scientific inquiry on environmental educators' beliefs, self-efficacy, and instruction

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Montana State University - Bozeman, Graduate School


As educators are faced with the challenge of trying to reform their science teaching and incorporate the Next Generation Science Standards, training to support this change is needed. A professional development program, Understanding Newly Learned Environmental Science Skills (UNLESS), occurred over the course of the 2015-16 school year with a self-selected cohort of environmental educators. This action-research based study examined the question, What are the effects of a professional development program on scientific inquiry on educators' beliefs, self-efficacy, and instruction related to inquiry? These educators learned from science experts and through collaborative inquiry-based lessons shared by the cohort. The course of the program was directed by the interests of the educators. Methods to collect data included surveys, observations, concept maps, interviews, and the facilitator's journal notes. At the conclusion of the UNLESS program, the data showed an increase in participants' confidence, attitude, and instruction related to inquiry. Participants went from less than 20% of their programs including a student-driven investigation to 52%. Indicators of inquiry-orientation seen in observations also increased. While educators still described some ongoing challenges to doing inquiry with students at the conclusion of the program, other challenges were no longer reported. Suggestions for the future of this program are shared along with implications for how to support environmental educators in their pursuit to become more inquiry-based teachers.




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