The effect of professional development in science and literacy
Bailey, Deanna Emberley
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Elementary teachers in Barre, Vermont must help their students achieve Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts (CCSSELA) to bolster student performance on statewide assessments used to determine adequate yearly progress (AYP). AYP is a measure used to secure each school's federal and state assistance. Vermont adopted the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in June of 2013 and Vermont teachers now must also direct their science instruction toward helping students achieve NGSS. To assist teachers with addressing both the CCSSELA and NGSS simultaneously, an 11-week Science and Literacy: A Natural Fit professional development (PD) course was conducted with 14 kindergarten through sixth-grade teachers of science in the Barre Supervisory Union. This PD course was designed to help teachers weave student talk and notebook writing strategies into science instruction to bolster students' conceptual reasoning about the natural phenomena they experience through science inquiry. This research study investigated whether or not this PD course led to changes in teachers' knowledge base and classroom implementation for teaching science using best practices that incorporate student dialogue and writing to bolster conceptual reasoning during science inquiry. Changes in teachers' self-efficacy for teaching science (sense of the effect their science teaching has on their students) were also measured at the start and finish of the course. Study participants completed a pre-course and post-course knowledge survey. Also, the Science Teaching Efficacy Belief Instrument (STEBI-B) was administered at the start and finish of the course to measure self-efficacy. Study participants were observed instructing science early and late in the course, and then the Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol was employed for analysis of the observation sessions. In addition, participant interviews and journals provided direct quotations about the changes that occurred for teachers throughout the course. The body of evidence gathered indicates that the Science and Literacy: A Natural Fit course taught in fall 2013 helped participating teachers increase significantly their knowledge and improve their classroom implementation for teaching science inquiry using student talk and notebook writing. Participants' self-efficacy for teaching science also improved through the course.