Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Dr. Claudia T. Melear

Committee Members

Dr. Russell L. French, Dr. Donald J. Dessart, Dr. Leslie G. Hickok


This study continued research previously conducted by a nine-university collaborative, the Salish I Research Project, by exploring science teachers’ beliefs and actions with regard to inquiry instruction. Science education reform efforts require that students learn science via inquiry. The purpose of this study was to determine and classify espoused teaching beliefs and observable teaching style. Reported are linkages between the teachers’ beliefs and styles, influential coursework from College of Education and College of Liberal Arts, and outcomes of increased classroom teaching experience. Eight participants were chosen from three separate preservice science education cohorts.

An implied assumption is that teachers are able to instruct utilizing inquiry methods. Inquiry efforts require a student-centered environment as opposed to the traditional teacher-centered environment. According to the 1997 Salish I Research Collaborative, beginning teachers displayed a stark contrast between their student-centered beliefs to their teacher-centered actions. The limitations of this study were as follows: 1) the participants had completed the authentic research-based inquiry science course,

Knowing and Teaching Science: Just Do It 2) the participants were currently teaching science at the secondary level 3) the selected instruments were used in the Salish I Research Collaborative Study, and 4) instrument validity and reliability data were not available. Selected questions from the Teacher Pedagogical Philosophy Interview (TPPI) instrument provided insight into beliefs concerning teacher action, student action, and teacher philosophy. Observational data using the Secondary Science Teacher Analysis Matrix (STAM) provided information regarding content, teacher’s actions and assessment, student’s actions, resources, and environment. The qualitative interview and observational data were statistically compiled via concept maps and matrices, and then the data were represented on an ordinal scale.

Interview results indicated that 87.5% of the participants professed a teacher-centered style with regard to teacher and student’s actions. Observational results indicated that 56% of the participants displayed a teacher-centered style with regard to content, teacher’s actions and assessment, student’s actions, resources, and environment. Additionally, 36% of the participants displayed a conceptual style during classroom observations. The conceptual style, located on the observational matrix between teacher-centered and student-centered domains, has characteristics of both domains. Linkages between the interview and observational data were unexpected due to the fact that participants professed a slightly greater teacher-centered style along the inquiry instruction continuum than what they actually practiced in their classrooms. This study reported congruity between what the participants believed and what they practiced. A slight but negligible change of inquiry beliefs and instruction was discovered among the three cohorts as years of teaching experience increased.

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