Date of Award

12-2013

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Education

Major Professor

Vena M. Long

Committee Members

Mehmet Aydeniz, Stuart Elston, Barry Golden

Abstract

Novice science teachers face a multitude of instructional, curricular, and institutional constraints that affect their classroom decisions. Emphases from their teacher training programs interact with and compete against the realities of professional teaching. This qualitative comparative case study attempts to look at the interactions of novice science teachers with the reform-based practice of nature of science (NOS) instruction. Teacher training programs teach their pre-service science teachers about NOS and try to emphasize the importance of NOS understanding on student scientific literacy, but little is known about how science teachers view and approach NOS once they are free from the constraints of their teacher training programs and are instead faced with the constraints of a real science classroom, administrators, state curricula, and other factors. This study examined seven novice science teachers over one school year in order to investigate how NOS instruction occurred and what factors affected that instruction. Interviews, classroom observations, and questionnaires were utilized in order to create rich descriptions and discussions concerning NOS. Motivational Systems Theory (Ford, 1992) provided a theoretical framework to describe the goal creation, motivation, and goal achievement concerning NOS for each novice science teacher and for cross-case analysis. Findings revealed complex interactions between many factors. Context beliefs concerning mandated state curriculum standards and high-stakes testing proved to have a great effect on NOS goal setting and NOS instruction, but overall positive capability beliefs, context beliefs, and emotional connection to NOS were demonstrated as requirements for appropriate NOS goal setting and motivation. A relationship between viewing NOS as a part of mandated science curriculum standards as opposed to an external institutional goal and increased NOS classroom instruction was noticed. Skill-related factors also affected NOS instruction, though their impact went largely unnoticed by participants. Views of NOS deduced from rubricated leading questions were shown to vary significantly from verbally articulated NOS understandings, suggesting the importance of discussion and explanation in NOS training. The vocalized understandings of NOS presented by the participants, which were often diminished, invented, and conflated, significantly affected the instruction of consensus NOS tenets. Implications and suggestions for further research are described.

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